Schuette Highlights Consumer Protection Resources Available for Active Military Members & VeteransContact: Andrea Bitely, Megan Hawthorne; (517) 373-8060
July 28, 2017
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today reminds Michigan’s service members of consumer protection programs and tips geared toward the specific needs of both active military members and veterans, as July is designated by the Federal Trade Commission 'Month of the Military Consumer.'
“The men and women who serve our country have guaranteed us safety,” said Schuette. “The least we can do in return is to provide them with the resources they need to ensure their financial security.”
Active military members and veterans are often solicited by scammers looking to prey upon their steady source of income. Since many military families are frequently ordered to change stations, or complete a temporary duty assignment, a move often leaves them unaware of the business climate in their new community. Other fraudsters target unsuspecting young service members living on their own.
The resources provided below cover a variety of common issues active military members and veterans face. The information contained in this resource is informal guidance and is not provided as a substitute for legal advice. The Attorney General has a team dedicated to the campaign to educate the military community about these best practices.
Pension Benefit Applications and Investment Advice
Older veterans are an attractive target for unscrupulous “advisors” or “veterans’ advocates” offering help to apply for additional benefits: usually Aid and Attendance (A & A). These so-called advisors – who may be attorneys, financial planners or insurance agents – try to persuade veterans to transfer assets into a trust or restructure their finances to qualify for A & A, which is intended for low-income individuals.
What they may not reveal is that these transactions can cause the veteran to become ineligible for Medicaid services or unable to access funds without incurring high withdrawal fees or other expenses when the annuity or investment product being pitched is unsuitable for seniors.
How to Avoid It:
- Applying for veterans’ benefits is free–and so are the forms. Learn more about Aid and Attendance or Housebound Benefits at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ pension page.
- If you need help with the application, use someone accredited through the Veterans Administration (VA). The accreditation means the person is trained to help fill out and file the papers. It doesn’t mean the VA endorses the person’s advice or ethics.
- To verify if an advisor is VA accredited, or to search for an accredited advisor by city or state, visit the VA Accreditation website. Accredited counselors and other assistance are also available through county VA offices.
- People with VA accreditation are not allowed to charge for help unless they are attorneys, and only after the veteran’s initial claim has been denied and a Notice of Disagreement has been filed.
Avoiding Predatory Lending
Active service members are often targets of high-interest lenders, despite the federal Military Lending Act that is designed to prevent predatory lenders from gouging military personnel. Information on lending protections and options for service members is available at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s service members’ page.
Purchasing or Leasing Automobiles
The Michigan Lemon Law protects you from the purchase or lease of a defective vehicle. In some circumstances, you may be able to obtain a replacement or a refund.
Before donating to or applying for services from a veterans’ charity, it is important first to verify the legitimacy of the charity. Some so-called veterans’ charities are outright scams that prey on the public’s generosity by using the terms “military” or “veteran” in their solicitation scripts, while providing no real services. Other veterans’ charities may perform some nominal charitable benefit, but largely serve their own interests. Always conduct research before giving to an organization.
Attorney General Schuette is dedicated to protecting Michigan residents who wish to donate to military-themed charities.
Below are charity scams the Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Section has exposed in recent years:
- Healing American Heroes phone card scam
- VietNow deceptive telemarketing scam
- Fake veterans charities resulting in criminal conviction of Neil Thrasher
For more information, visit the Charities Section of the Attorney General’s website. Additionally, donors are encouraged to search the Attorney General’s charities database. To inquire about a particular organization or to make a complaint, email the Charitable Trust Section.
Attorney General Resources
- The Michigan Military & Veterans’ Legal Services Guide was designed by the Department of Attorney General, in partnership with the Veterans law Clinic at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, to provide Michigan military personnel and veterans – as well as those who assist them – with a directory of resources to address legal and related issues.
- Located under the “Military” tab on the Michigan Attorney General’s website, there is a directory of Legal Protections & Rights Available to Military Service Members and additional resources for Michigan military and veterans.
Other Helpful Michigan Resources and Benefits
- Scams Targeting Service Members or Veterans (Financial Fraud Enforcement Task)
- Veterans Benefits & Services Booklet (Michigan Legislature)
- Michigan Veteran Driver License Designation (Michigan Secretary of State)
- Veteran and Military Service License plates (Michigan Secretary of State)
File a Complaint
If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, please file a complaint with the Department of Attorney General:
PO Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909