Rep. Tom Rooney’s bill protecting veterans clears US House

The Veterans Pension Protection Act passed the House of Representatives Tuesday.

The legislation was written by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., to combat scams against retired veterans and strengthen the Veterans Affairs pension program.

The bipartisan bill, cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla. and Ron Barber, D-Ariz., passed as part of a legislative package to reduce the backlog of VA disability claims and improve services for veterans, according to a statement released by Rooney’s office.

“As a veteran myself, I am outraged by the actions of those who would prey on America’s elderly and disabled veterans,” Rooney said in the statement. “These financial predators are scamming elderly veterans out of their life savings, while undermining the VA pension program for the veterans who rely on it. By creating a three-year look-back period, we can put an end to this fraud against our nation’s heroes while strengthening the VA pension program.”

Rooney explained in a floor speech how his bill will address a common scam called “pension poaching”:

Unethical financial advisors and firms prey on elderly and disabled veterans by promising to help them qualify for VA pension benefits if they divert their assets into trusts or annuities.

The firms profit from those trusts or annuities, but they are often poor investments for seniors. As a result, victims lose access to their savings in exchange for a small pension. Meanwhile, the pension fund is drained for veterans in need.

These firms further profit by charging veterans exorbitant fees and selling them additional, costly services.

Since the VA only considers net worth at the time a veteran applies for benefits, the Department cannot determine if an applicant has diverted their assets in order to qualify, according to Rooney’s statement. The Protecting Veterans Pensions Act would close this loophole, put a stop to pension poaching and shore up the VA pension fund by creating a three-year “look-back” period to determine eligibility.

The Rooney bill language was included in H.R. 2189, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., which also creates a task force to address the backlog of VA disability claims.

Watch Rooney’s Tuesday House floor speech here:

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