New laws will help protect veterans against Pension Poacher scams and increase economic protections for military servicemembers
OLYMPIA —Two bills requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson to protect veterans and military families were signed into law today by Governor Jay Inslee. The bills received broad bipartisan support. The new laws will take effect June 12, 2014.
Economic protection for Washington’s military personnel and veterans
This new law was jointly requested by Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee. It will increase economic protections for Washington’s military personnel and veterans.
Ferguson and Inslee worked with Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, and Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, to secure legislative approval.
“I am committed to standing up for those who serve our country,” said Ferguson. “This law increases state protections for Washington’s military personnel and their families.”
“The men and women in our military work so hard to serve us,” said Inslee. “There are enough worries that come with deployment and active duty that we want to help make sure their financial affairs are not one of them.”
Protections exist under both federal and state law to allow the men and women who bravely serve in our Armed Forces to focus their full attention on their military responsibilities without adverse consequence for themselves or their families.
However, protections under Washington state law for military servicemembers called to active duty were less than those provided under federal law.
This inequality meant that servicemembers whose active duty orders are signed by the Governor — such as in cases of natural disaster like the recent Oso, Wash. mudslide — had fewer rights than those whose active duty orders were signed by the President.
The new law brings state enforcement provisions for the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in line with the federal law and empowers the Washington State Attorney General to enforce the state and federal Acts.
The federal SCRA provides various financial and legal protections for military service members, such as reduced interest rates on preexisting debts, foreclosure and eviction protections, and protections from default judgments.
“When our troops get deployed — either overseas in Afghanistan or here at home — they will have protection under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act,” said Ferguson. “They deserve our support in making sure those rights are enforced.”
Veteran Pension Poacher Prevention Act
“Pension poachers” represent a growing threat to elderly veterans. These unscrupulous financial planners or insurance agents claim to be veterans’ advocates but ultimately scam elderly veterans of their assets.
Poachers convince veterans to reposition their assets to try to qualify for the Aid and Attendance Benefit, which has specific and strict qualifications. The poachers then sell veterans often unneeded financial products or services to earn a commission or fee.
Problems arise because these unscrupulous brokers often fail to deliver on their promises, do not provide full information about other veterans’ benefits, and do not reveal the potentially adverse consequences of the financial transactions such as loss of Medicaid eligibility.
Ferguson worked with Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, and Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, to secure legislative approval that led to this new law.
“We have a duty to protect veterans from scams,” said Ferguson. “This new law will help protect veterans from scams and defend their legal rights.”
The Attorney General’s Pension Poacher Prevention Act will prohibit certain unfair and deceptive practices. The law will:
- Make it illegal to receive compensation for assisting with the preparation of a claim, except as allowed under the U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs’ rules for accreditation;
- Prohibit individuals from guaranteeing a specific benefit amount;
- Make it illegal to misuse personal and financial information gathered for the purposes of assisting an individual with a veterans claim; and
- Give the Attorney General’s Office enforcement authority through the state’s consumer protection laws.