Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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November 29, 2012

Schumer wants better oversight for vet fiduciaries


Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — But since 1998, it is estimated that at least $14.7 million worth of veterans benefits have been stolen as a result of fraud in the fiduciary program. The VA, in a House committee hearing back in June, has admitted there are issues.

But the VA has rules in place to guard against this, Schumer said.

“What’s more, the Department of Veterans Affairs has developed new rules to overhaul and update the current fiduciary program, but after months and months, is yet to submit them to the Office of Management and Budget for approval, even after claims that those rules have been completed for months,” Schumer said.

It's like calling balls and strikes without an umpire, he added.

The program should better explain VA beneficiary rights to recipients and their families, impose stricter qualifications for fiduciaries, proven through the increased use of background checks, and better oversee that fiduciaries are following responsibilities and reporting requirements once assigned to a veteran, Schumer said.

Schumer’s casework office said it has seen more than 100 cases in which VA beneficiaries experience significant red tape in the assignment of a fiduciary. For example, in an effort to manage an elderly parent’s affairs, sons and daughters have reported running into serious frustrations and road blocks in being assigned as a fiduciary.

Until a VA fiduciary is assigned, veterans or beneficiaries are technically expected to apply for benefits on their own. This is a concern among veterans and their families, because the VA does not automatically recognize individuals with power of attorney as fiduciaries.

Under the current law, the VA can assign anyone to manage an eligible veteran, regardless of who has the power of attorney or eligible family members. Schumer said these issues should be addressed in the VA’s new regulations.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.

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