By Dale Gribow
Senior vets, who have put their lives in harm’s way to protect America, are often the victims of elder abuse and fraud. This is especially true in the CV where we have more elderly, who are the most gullible to SCAMS. Though this is not my area of law I have over the years felt compelled to alert Seniors. This could be happening to you, your parents or grandparents… so read on.
There have been lawsuits which hopefully will be a huge step towards protecting seniors from potential “Nationwide” financial scams…per a consumer’s advocacy group. Hopefully, it will stop those that refer to themselves as “veteran advocates” from preying upon seniors. Hopefully it will punish these “advocates”, and others, from engaging in egregious fraudulent conduct against the senior vets.
“One filed case arose from a widespread nationwide scheme of inducing elderly residents of retirement homes, and assisted living facilities, to reposition their assets earning 7-10%, in order to apply for the free Aid and Attendance pension benefits offered by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Unwitting senior veterans are sold unsuitable annuities that generate .06%. However, they generate handsome commissions and profits for the insurance agent and insurance company.
The Chicago Tribune said, the insurance “advocate agents” set up a “free lunch or dinner Educational Presentation” at retirement homes and assisted living facilities that are ostensibly to “educate senior vets on benefits available to them”. However, they do not disclose, as mandated by California Insurance Code 785 et seq, that they are insurance agents. Thus they violate the law demanding a duty of honesty; good faith and fair dealing when the “purchaser” is 65 or older (i.e.elderly). They also fail to advise in writing, as required by Insurance Code section 789, that use of a mutual fund or other asset to fund the annuity may have tax consequences in addition to early withdrawal penalties etc.
In the past, the SEC and Financial Industry Regulatory authority, scrutinized 110 securities firms that utilized the “free lunch”. The report found that 100 percent were sales presentations despite the facts they were advertised as educational.
Per a past AARP bulletin “for years AARP has warned about “veterans advocates” who are unscrupulous investment advisers targeting Senior Vets throughout the country.” The advisors are not accredited with the US Department of Veteran Affairs. They allude that they are part of the government and are a nonprofit 501c3. Sometimes they wear a picture badge (with a patriotic looking logo) that ID’s them as a “Volunteer Veteran Advocate” with a senior veterans group.
They convince the innocent victims to buy annuities under the guise of an Aid and Attendance program which benefits low-income war veterans and spouses for which they are often not qualified. They go after wealthy seniors in expensive retirement facilities, because people who are truly qualified for Aid and Attendance have no money. They induce the senior to reposition their assets into an irrevocable trust so they appear poor and can thus apply for the FREE Aid and Attendance Pension benefits offered by the US Department of Veteran Affairs. By going along with this subterfuge, the senior veterans may jeopardize their chances to qualify for Medicaid and may be conspiring to defraud the government.
The AARP Bulletin explained, the salesman “advocate” promises if they purchase through them, they can be eligible for Department of Veteran Affairs pensions and other benefits. Some Veteran Affairs Divisions, have set up task forces to address these schemes.
The irrevocable trusts usually utilize annuities which are long term investments that are often inappropriate for older retirees. One case involved a 90-year-old vet. Some annuities must be held for a certain period of time. Thus a 90-year-old that purchases a 10 year annuity, will likely not be around when it concludes. If they pass away, their heirs will be stuck with the same investment for that 10 year period.
Rarely do victims of elder abuse pursue litigation against suspected scammers. Because real Elder Abuse requires a senior to go to court. Seniors can’t handle court and they don’t want to be involved. The schemes are NOT unusual and are nationwide to induce war vets to sign away money in exchange for service that don’t exist.
Often seniors don’t know what an annuity is, and the word annuity was never used in the sale. The salesperson often identifies himself as a volunteer for a group for Senior Vets- alluding to their being part of the VA and government.
When litigation was initiated against one insurance company, they agreed to stop selling this product in California. A special Hotline has been set up for elder abuse victim’s complaints and assistance. Elder abuse can be financial, like the case herein, or a hospital or nursing home mistreating the senior. The law allows for a recovery of three times the amount of the punitive DAMAGES.
The VETERAN FRAUD HOTLINE number is 760-837-7555.
DALE GRIBOW – REPRESENTING THE INJURED AND CRIMINALLY ACCUSED
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