My dad fought gallantly in the 1940s in the second World War. He was “in theatre” with Patton’s Army. Made his way through Europe carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle, at that time considered one of this country’s fiercest weapons. He helped liberate POW camps and eventually, he and his fellow comrades helped bring an end to Germany’s attempted conquest of the world. My father’s work wasn’t done; immediately following the war he was stationed as a guard outside the famous Nuremberg Trials. If anyone ever deserved his country’s help during a time of need, it is my dad. So when we went to hear an attorney speak about helping veterans receive VA benefits recently, it gave this 92-year-old proud Latino hope that– as his and my mom’s health quickly deteriorate– his country could make things more comfortable for him. We set up a follow-up appointment with the attorney at a cost of around $600. She spent more than the agreed-upon hour going over some of the details of filling out a VA application for benefits. It was complicated and overwhelming for both my dad and me, but I’m realizing now that was perhaps the intention of this attorney. Figuring we wouldn’t be able to get through the reams of paperwork, I asked the attorney what they would charge to fill out the application. What I got was an email response offering to prepare my parents’ will, health directives, power of attorney and a few other items that my parents do not need help with. The price $9,500. I explained that we didn’t need help with any of those items, but that I was curious what the price would be for help only with the VA application. I was told the attorney couldn’t help us with our request and that we should seek help from a local Veterans Service organization. In other words, my dad’s needs weren’t lucrative enough for this attorney. It was clear to me that her office was hoping to “up-sell” us and perhaps other unsuspecting clients who were duped into thinking her office was there to help veterans. Sadly, I’m hearing more and more that being taken advantage of in this way isn’t an uncommon problem for vets.
We did take that attorney’s advice and found a local veterans service organization. Hopefully, they will be able to give my dad the support he deserves, and– more importantly– restore his faith in those he courageously defended so many decades ago.