Far too many veterans get this sort of notice and then they don't respond appropriately.
If the appropriate response doesn't happen in a timely manner, the VA will act on
the proposal and appoint a fiduciary.
The fiduciary is then free to act to control the finances and the result is often a major
problem for the veteran.
The following will apply to actions the veteran must take when he/she is first
notified that a fiduciary appointment is being considered.
These steps must be done as soon as possible after the letter arrives. Time spent
calling a Congressperson, consulting a VSO and so on is usually time wasted.
Note that all these steps must be conducted in writing.
There should be no phone calls and no emails. Faxes are not a good idea.
This is a very serious matter and the veteran must initiate a strong defensive plan of action.
Letters must be as brief as possible and state all the facts.
Mailing must be done via USPS Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested.
When you write to VA you must not display anger or emotion.
Ultimately, you must get involved quickly if you do not
believe that appointing a fiduciary for you is warranted.
The process usually works like this:
(1) The veteran has a C & P exam where the topic of finances is brought up. The examiner may write a brief note that "Veteran is incompetent to manage his finances." This may or may not be true. I've observed cases where the veteran said "My wife handles our checkbook" and that has been interpreted by VA as enough to declare the veteran incompetent.
(2) A letter will arrive that is a "proposal" to begin an investigation and to appoint a fiduciary.
(3) If the veteran does not properly and timely respond to this proposal, an appointment is made for a VA Field Examiner (or Agent) to come to the veterans home to discuss the proposal to appoint a fiduciary.
(4) If the Field Examiner does come to the home they will soon after begin to run credit reports and other background checks to determine whether the spouse, parent or perhaps a sibling may act as fiduciary.
(5) If no approval is made for a family member, the FE will see that a VA appointed "professional" fiduciary is appointed. That person may be a banker, lawyer or other VA approved person and they will then take over the veterans VA money. The veteran will then have to seek any funds through the appointed fiduciary.
To get notice that the VA is proposing to appoint a fiduciary is
usually an unpleasant, unwelcome surprise.
The veteran may or may not need help and guidance with the award money he or
she has earned. The VA fiduciary appointment program is one of the more mismanaged
and poorly understood problems of your VA.
If you disagree with the appointment of a fiduciary in your case, you must act
in your own interests and you must act right now.
Read this page carefully. Then proceed to act to help yourself.
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VA Benefits for Sleep Apnea
as a service
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Brett Valette, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
By The Numbers
How This Works-What To Do
1) You receive notice that VA is proposing to appoint a fiduciary.
You are shocked and you do not agree. This is only a proposal, not a decision.
You have the right to appeal.
2)DON'T PANIC! Sit down and read the letter very carefully.
Read it again. There is valuable information in the letter you received.
3) Complete aNotice of Disagreement (NOD)form.
4) Mail the form using Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested.
Do not use anything other than Certified Mail!
5)Do not delay! Don't run around asking everyone what to do.
Don't try to collect statements from anyone like family or friends.
Don't do anything but get the letter in the mail.
6) Once VA gets the NOD form, they will reply to tell you that you can't
file a NOD yet because no decision has been made.
Don't worry about that. Your NOD has notified them that they have made a mistake.
You are now on record with the disagreement.
7)Wait patiently. After VA receives your NOD they will probably
schedule you for another C & P exam. During this C & P exam you will
be asked about how you manage your finances.
Answer truthfully and completely.
8)You're done. That wasn't hard, was it?
VA will ask to set up a meeting with you in your residence.
This meeting will be with a VA Field Agent (or examiner) who will ask you about your finances, do background checks on people in your home, perform credit rating checks and so on. He/she will tell you that as an incompetent veteran you can not have guns in your house and you will
not have the right to purchase firearms.
Ostensibly, the VA field agent will try to determine who in your family may be appointed as your fiduciary. Many times the agent will find that nobody in your family has a good enough
credit record so he/ she will appoint a paid fiduciary.
In either case, you will lose control of the money you have earned from VA.
The paid fiduciary will take their cut of the money each month and if you want
any of it, you must go through a complex process of asking for it.
Often, your request for money is ignored or denied.
If you have a fiduciary today and you're unhappy about it or if you have just been
notified that VA is thinking of appointing a fiduciary, you may appeal.
Nobody will do that for you. There is a process that must be followed and you must do it yourself.
There is nobody to call, no VSO or Senator can help you. Lawyers rarely are able to take these cases...there are too many cases and the lawyers usually can't bill for their time.
If you will follow the process as it is described below and if you will put a lot of your personal
time into reading and learning for yourself, you have a very good chance to win and not have to deal with this. There is no other way than what you'll read here that we're aware of.
What to do when the fiduciary letter arrives
Most veterans do not understand the VA fiduciary appointment process. When a letter
arrives telling the veteran he or she is incompetent to handle their VA award money,
it's usually a shock. Very few Veterans Service Officers or advocates within a Congressional Representatives office are usually of little help. Most lawyers don't have
any experience with this VA action.
The veteran is usually left to fight the battle alone.
VA will often try to appoint a fiduciary when the veteran is rated at 100% for a mental
health problem and there will be an award of retroactive pay that is greater than $20,000.00.
There is often no particular reason for the proposal to appoint a fiduciary.
VA should always try to appoint a close family member although that doesn't usually happen.
In any case, whoever is appointed will be required to complete paperwork and clear any
expenditures by the veteran through the VA.
If the appointment of a fiduciary can be avoided, it should be.
Overall, many of the processes at your VA are badly broken. The fiduciary
appointment system is mismanaged and often abusive to the targeted veteran.
While many veterans do need help to manage their financial affairs, there are a lot
of you who get caught up in the process through a series of errors.
Once you are in this quagmire, it is often very difficult to get out.
In 2011 there was a major decision by the CAVC that is beginning to help change
things. That's usually called The Freeman Decision and you should read it now.
This is a complex legal document but it will help to to develop your appeal.
In VA terms, a fiduciary is a legal guardian who will manage the money that VA
has awarded to you for your service connected condition(s).
VA may attempt assign a fiduciary to manage your financial affairs if you are determined to
be incompetent to do that for yourself. In theory the VA fiduciary will only have authority to
manage VA funds but if you have other income mixed with the
money from VA, they will often seize it all.
Many veterans aren't aware that they're being examined for incompetence.
During a routine C & P exam the examiner may ask you
"How do the bills get paid around your house?" or a similar question.
There are a lot of us who would innocently reply; "My spouse writes all the checks.
We find it easier to let her do all the banking stuff and she's better at it than I am. It works for us."
To most C & P examiners that means you can not handle your own finances.
They will make a brief note, "Veteran is not competent to manage his finances."
Once that little remark is in your record, you have a world of
problems coming your way.
You will then be notified that there is a "proposal" to appoint a fiduciary for you.
The first contact may be by mail or by telephone.
The VA fiduciary program is the most dangerous and corrupt
offering from a dangerous and corrupt system. If VA approaches you about
a fidu appointment, call a lawyer...quickly!
VA Identifies Additional Beneficiaries in Need of Fiduciary Assistance
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that an information
technology system that it deployed in 2014 and enhanced in 2015, the Beneficiary
Fiduciary Field System, allowed it to identify claim processing errors
affecting approximately 14,000 Veterans and survivors. These Veterans’ and
survivors’ claims were initially filed over many years, with some going back
as far as 2000. The errors concern cases in which VA had proposed that
due to disability or age the beneficiary was unable to manage his or her VA
benefits without assistance, but did not complete the action by transferring
it within VA for appointment of a fiduciary.
These cases represent approximately four percent of such proposals since 2000.
GOP targets veterans gun ban
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reported more than 257,000 former
members of the military who cannot manage their finances to the
FBI’s list of people who are not allowed to own guns,
Republicans claim, even though "it has nothing to do with regulating firearms.”
The VA is responsible for appointing a fiduciary to help veterans
who it determines cannot manage their own finances, but the agency
is also taking the additional step of reporting these veterans to the
“mental defective” category of the FBI’s background
check system, even if they do not pose a danger to society, the senators allege.
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