New York state’s general business law has been amended to protect veterans and their family members from the practice known as “pension poaching.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the Pension Poaching Prevention Act into law on Aug. 23. It makes it illegal for any business, individual or other entity to engage in practices built on selling unneeded financial products or services to veterans to earn a commission and fee, as well as prohibiting certain other acts designed to cheat veterans and their family members.
According to the new law, “Pension poaching involves dishonest financial planners, insurance agents, and other professionals luring veterans and their family members to pay substantial funds for veterans’ benefits services that the offering entity is unqualified to provide and that can detrimentally impact the future financial situations of the veteran and his or her dependents.”
The law, which takes effect March 23, 2020, explains: “Entities engaging in pension poaching tend to use high-pressure sales tactics directed toward potential customers, falsely guaranteeing benefits for veterans and their families even when the advertising entity lacks the federal accreditation required by law to file such claims and appeals for federal veterans’ benefits.”
The scammers often get veterans or family members to move most or all of their assets to the scammers’ control, in addition to charging high fees for their so-called services.
“There are plenty of businesses that legitimately assist veterans and their families,” Cuomo said. “However, there are far too many bad actors who prey upon the individuals who have valiantly served our state and our nation, causing irreparable financial harm.”
The law makes it illegal to receive compensation for assisting a veteran or family in the preparation of a claim for benefits, and prohibits charging unreasonable fees for services and guaranteeing that an individual will receive a specific amount of veterans’ benefits money.
Sen. David Carlucci, who represents the 38th district covering parts of Westchester and most of Rockland County, sponsored the legislation in the state Senate. “Veterans are heroes who have served our country selflessly to defend our freedoms,” he said. “Now it’s our turn to protect them from scam artists who seek to steal their hard-earned money.”
Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley of Brooklyn, who sponsored the Assembly’s version of the bill, characterized the new law as the strongest of its type in the nation.
The new law requires that anyone who advertises that they provide services related to veterans benefits has to disclose in the advertising, in part, “This business is not sponsored by, or affiliated with, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs, or any other congressionally chartered veterans service organization.”
There also has to be a notice that free information and services regarding veterans’ benefits is available elsewhere.
The governor’s office, which estimates that there are nearly 750,000 veterans currently living in New York state, identified the practice as a “growing scam nationwide.”
According to Cuomo, “In enacting the strongest state legislation in the nation to protect our veterans and their families from these pension poaching schemes, we are sending a clear message to these unscrupulous entities that we will not allow them to abuse our service members and recognizing the sacrifice these brave men and women have made.”