THE VETBLOG BY DEBBIE BURAK |
The Latest PostLetter to Senator Wyden - August 02nd, 2012
August 1, 2012
Dear Senator Wyden:
As someone who assisted the Senate Committee on Aging with the investigation on “Pension Poachers”, I respectfully must say that I am incredibly disappointed at the outcome of this investigation.
I worked with Investigators for three solid months leading up to the hearing held on June 6, 2012.
I spent countless hours scouring thousands of VeteranAid.org emails and forum postings along with reaching out to my resources in order to provide critical information to investigators clearly showing the individuals and companies that should have been the focus of the investigation.
All the while in doing so, I was under the impression that the goal of this investigation was to identify those who had committed fraud associated with this pension, and to criminalize the activities of specific individuals and companies. I thought someone was finally going to put an end to this “illegal” exploitation of our senior veterans and their families. I would not have cooperated to the extent that I did had I believed otherwise.
Due to my unique position with my work, I was able to provide Investigators incredible insights, information, and incriminating documentation regarding those individuals and companies who have deliberately duped our veterans and their families. It seems that very little if anything was done with this information.
To quote from one investigator’s emails to me:
It’s been wonderful working with you these past few months. You were invaluable to this hearing! Veterans across the country are lucky to have you as an advocate”.
I provided individuals to speak with along with former employees who had worked for some of the companies who were willing to share insider information to include an excel spreadsheet listing over 3,000 veterans and widows who had been promised and hoodwinked by XXXXXX Corporation.
None of these individuals were called to testify, and the fact that only one subpoena was issued is at best suspect.
While the Senate’s investigation looked at all the offenders and perpetrators who have exploited this pension, I have to ask why was VA Accredited Attorney, Douglas Ocker not sitting at the witness table to face Kris S., whose parents were duped by him through a XXXXXX property asking him to explain himself and his actions?
The bigger question is why was no one there representing XXXXXXX Corp, who has single-handedly done more harm than all others combined in fraudulently using this pension to fill their 300+ Independent/Retirement properties that do even not meet the qualification of providing assistance with daily living?
With documentation being provided showing that XXXXXX Corp submits fraudulent applications claiming that the veteran or widow is paying the market rate at the “Independent” facility, when in fact they are not, and that they imply that services are being provided which are not, begs the question as to why a subpoena was not issued for their appearance. The biggest offender in all of this is not called before the Committee? How much desire could there have been to truly get to the bottom of this issue? (For insights as to how employees feel about working at this company, you can read here – http://blog.dlcharles.com/2012/03/01/beneath-the-veil-part-6.aspx)
These actions are no different from those who commit Medicaid fraud by claiming bogus expenses and services provided. I am confident that there are legal ramifications for doing so, and I am unclear as to how this would not have been the primary focus of the investigation and concern of the Committee.
It appears that having Emily Schwarz present at the hearing held June 6, 2012, as the representative of Veteran’s Financial Services served the sole purpose of justifying the need for a look back being put into place rather than addressing the issue of those who have essentially committed fraud and left thousands of veterans in the same situation that Kris Schaffer now finds her father in.
While the actions of Veteran’s Financial are inarguably despicable, under current VA law, they have committed no actual “crime”. I believe this was just the better story to use as an example to make a point, while Greg M., Glen O., and others who truly are the components that have toppled this VA benefit with their greed go without vetting and accountability.
If you truly wanted to make a statement of what happens to individuals who violate this pension, all you had to do was bring forth criminal charges and set someone out there as an example of what will happen to anyone who infringes on our veterans and fraudulently uses this pension. If your concerns were to protect our senior veterans from the likes of these companies and individuals, you would have arrived at another conclusion as a solution in dealing with this. Not doing so left more questions than answers.
This Pension has been sitting idle on the VA books for 61 years, while millions have missed out simply due to a lack of being informed about it, and nobody seemed to have a problem with that as long as it remained unknown and underutilized.
Now that this pension has become more publicized, there is this “call to action”, but rather than holding those responsible for having exploited this pension, and committing fraud, or demanding an explanation from the VA as to why they have failed to inform our veterans about this resource, your answer to this is to impose a “look back”, while the true offenders get a pass on this and get to continue business as usual, and the VA gets another way to delay payment. Where was the outcry for the previous 61 years?
Am I to understand that you are ok with the fact the VA is already taking 9-18 months to award this pension, which in itself is unacceptable given that this is a non- service-connected pension and not “compensation”? There are three simple qualifiers that make this an either you do, or you don’t qualify, and there simply is no excuse to be offered here for the current delays.
With three pension centers in the country dedicated to the processing of applications for Aid and Attendance, there is no legitimate reason that a fully developed claim with all supporting documentation taking any longer than 60 days at most for processing and award for those who qualify.
If the IRS can keep up with the advancements in technology and use them to streamline the filing of income-tax returns, it is not unreasonable to hold the VA to the same standard. It is very telling in the intention that the only Federal agency that can process volumes of paperwork seamlessly is the IRS.
VA employees fail open book tests, and are lacking educational opportunities giving them the proper tools to truly assist our veterans. They are forced to work off production quotas that are attached to “bonus” driven incentives. At state and local levels the education and training of County Service Officers is even less. To add 36 months worth of banking statements to a system that is flawed and can’t handle the work flow as it exists now, is a disaster in the making.
Have you even considered the challenge families will face in trying to obtain 36 months worth of bank statements who may not already hold POA, or the frequency in which the VA claims to have not received a specific document, or the cost associated with requesting all these copies or providing them more than once?
How can one justify that a 94-year old widow who literally has nothing has been waiting 16 months for a decision from the VA, and is on Hospice care. It is doubtful she will live to see the decision letter arrive.
What about this 94- year old veteran waiting 7 years featured in the Houston Chronicle on July 9, 2012?
Or more recently this 92-year old veteran potentially being evicted this past Thursday waiting on the VA.
Did the VA step up on this? No they did not. I am the one who contacted the station, the reporter, and Senator Nelson’s office asking for them to intervene on his behalf.
I think out of all that was taken into consideration during this investigation, the Committee circumvented the VA’s daily failings of our veterans for another agenda. You have not addressed the problem, but rather an unfortunate circumstance that came about due to the VA’s 61 years of silence. Silence that created the market for these “poachers” to thrive in.
Are you aware that on average every day in this country 1,369 veterans 70 or older die?
Do you know that the largest growing segment of our population is centenarians?
Bill S.3270 will not have any impact on the “Pension Poachers”. They will simply target the veteran population a little earlier than they do now to avoid the 3-year look back. If anything, they will, and already are using it to their advantage to alarm individuals to act now prior to the bill going into affect. Essentially, you have given them an additional means to close the sale, and I 100%, oppose this bill.
Companies like XXXXXXX will stand to benefit greatly from this purposed look back, and will more than likely see their highest profits to date in making loans to veterans and their families to pay for care at facilities.
I’m quite certain that others will find ways to offer services to benefit from an additional imposed delay and hurdle to jump through.
The VA will certainly benefit by hanging onto payments that won’t be going out to the veteran or widow.
The only person who does not stand to benefit from Bill S. 3270 is the very veteran and widow for who this pension is intended. You are not protecting the intention of this pension, and you are not addressing the scavengers who will hover like vultures when the dust settles on this.
Having been a part of this process giving over 3 months of my personal time, attending this hearing in person, and being asked to write an official Statement for the Record , I honestly thought I was being given an incredible opportunity to assist our government at work for the right reasons, and to see justice prevail. I have walked away from this totally disillusioned. I fail to see where any good came from all of this regardless of what type of “spin” one might put on it.
It seems to me that all the contributing issues that brought this pension to light in the first place are still on the table, and the integrity of this pension remains compromised due to the fact that those who were and are responsible for exploiting it will not be held accountable.
I find it most alarming that out of all the pensions, compensations and benefits offered through the VA, that the Aid and Attendance level of the “Improved Pension” has been hand-picked to be the only benefit to have an imposed “look back” attached to it. The very segment of our veteran population who are in their final days, and who do not have time on the clock to wait on the VA, this is who gets to bear this burden rather than taking to task those whose unethical conduct created this mess.
It is a disgrace beyond comprehension that our men and women at any age, let alone in advanced age, should be put through these rigors due to a failing agency that is allowed to operate with no accountability, and to pay the price for the actions of “scammers” who seized an opportunity to “monetize” senior veterans and their families.
Bill S. 3270 is not the answer. It is simply reacting to a symptom of the problems associated with an agency that is deliberately designed to fail those it is intended to serve. It is not the solution, it is an injustice.
I did not build and maintain a #1 nationally ranked site dedicated to this pension, or become the most respected resource on the topic of Aid and Attendance by keeping my mouth shut. I have given it my all for the past 7 years doing the job the VA didn’t, because my parents did without in their greatest hour of need, and the outcome of this investigation for me is unacceptable.
I am the proud daughter of a WWII veteran, who knows that our veterans deserve their sacrifice to be honored and especially so when they are no longer strapping young men and women defending our freedom, but rather frail and in need for a grateful nation to step up.
I respectfully submit that until Congress as a “collective” body holds the VA accountable for its failings of our veterans, that no change should be put into effect until such time that the VA is a transparent agency keeping its promise to our veterans in a timely manner rather than holding them hostage.
The days of the VA operating as a “broken” agency have got to come to an end before implementing any additional requirements that are not to the greater good of our veterans, and measures need to be put into place to ensure that those who violate a veteran are prosecuted the fullest extent of the law.
I appreciate your time and considerations of my concerns, and would be happy to be of any assistance should you choose to investigate this matter further.
Debbie Burak – Founder
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