Avoiding scams for veterans benefits - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Avoiding scams for veterans benefits

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WATERLOO (KWWL)-- Last week, we told you that the US Department of Veterans Affairs is warning veterans about a scam.  It's where people posing as Veterans Affairs service employees ask for personal information to increase death pensions, even going door-to-door to get it.  A viewer in Waterloo who heard our story contacted us, and thought she and her daughter may have fallen victim to this scam.

90-year-old Mona Ingham has lived a full life.  Most of her life, she worked two or three jobs at a time and raised four kids.  Now a widow, she gets by on a small, fixed income. 

"I'm trying to get by on Social Security and a small pension I get from Rath's," Ingham said.

Ingham's been all alone for a decade after her husband passed away in 2001.  He served in World War II, and was even held as a prisoner of war.  After he died, Senator Chuck Grassley awarded Ingham his service medals.  And recently, she was concerned that someone might be trying to scam her into paying money toward a death pension benefit from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I just can't understand why anybody would take and try to shaft families of the service men," said Ingham.

Recently, someone came to her home and offered to help find out what benefits her family might get.  About a month ago, her daughter cut the representative a check for $400.  And so far, Ingham says they haven't seen a dime in return.

So KWWL called the company that Ingham was approached by.  A spokesperson says it is a legitimate agency-- that works with the US Department of Veterans affairs.  They say while there is no fee to apply for veterans benefits, sometimes firms like theirs will charge you to perform research to see if you qualify for benefits, and to help guide you through the process of what to do if you receive money from the VA.

KWWL also made several calls to service organizations, and a spokesperson with the Iowa Army National Guard says while it's true there are legitimate and non-legitimate agencies that work with veterans benefits, it's almost never necessary to pay a fee for those services.  The guard says there are a lot of people with expertise in the field that can help walk you through the process for free.

The VA has a search site for legitimate veterans service organization representatives, attorneys, and claims agents.  You can find that directory here.  Since there are some firms you shouldn't trust to handle the process, call the Iowa Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at (515) 281-5926 if you feel you've been the victim of a scam. 

Additional Note:

The Consumer Protection Division of the Iowa Attorney General's office offers the following tips if you're approached at your home by a company offering help with veterans benefits.

-You can say, "No thanks."  Tell the representative that you even if you want to consider such services, you want time to compare your options.

-Report it either to local law enforcement and/or to the Iowa AG's Consumer Protection Division.

-Contact the military directly if you have questions or need  help sorting out benefits.  Even the VA's database of accredited agencies may not always be reliable.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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