June 6, 2012 Veterans Benefits
Subject: What Changes Will Be Coming to the VA Pension Program?A lot has been happening in the VA pension world recently. Today, the GAO released a report following an extensive investigation where a GAO investigator contacted 19 different companies, posing as a veteran’s son seeking advice about the VA pension program. The report provides transcripts of three phone calls (and excerpts of the recorded phone calls). The GAO report suggests the following recommendations to the pension program:“Congress should consider establishing a look-back and penalty period for pension claimants who transfer assets for less than fair market value prior to applying, similar to other federally supported means-tested programs. VA should (1) request information about asset transfers and other assets and income sources on application forms, (2) verify financial information during the initial claims process,(3) strengthen coordination with VA’s fiduciary program, and (4) provide clearer guidance to claims processors assessing claimants’ eligibility. In its comments on this report, VA concurred with three of GAO’s recommendations and concurred in principle with one, citing concerns about the potential burden on claimants and recipients of verifying reported financial information. VA agreed to study the issue further.”Here is the link to the summary page and full report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-540A New York Times article was also published June 5th about the new GAO report: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/veterans-pension-program-is-being-abused-report-says.html?emc=eta1It does not appear that any rules have been proposed yet. ElderCounsel frequently checks the Federal Regulations website to see whether any new regulations have been offered. The GAO report states that the VA is working on proposed regulations and intends to make revisions to its Adjudication Manual by the end of 2013 to reflect any new regulations that pass.In addition, the Senate is conducting a hearing today to investigate claims of exploitation of seniors applying for the VA pension program:http://www.aging.senate.gov/hearing_detail.cfm?id=336928&ElderCounsel is closely monitoring these activities and will post updates as they become available.