Spotlight on Innovation: Veterans Benefits Protection Project
We're highlighting the cutting-edge programs and successful strategies of our 2017 Aging Innovation Award Winners with this spotlight feature. This week we shine a spotlight on the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services, winner in the Elder Abuse Prevention category.
San Francisco's Department of Aging and Adult Services and the Institute on Aging's Elder Abuse Prevention Program, a local provider of the Office on Aging, launched the Veterans Benefits Protection Project (VBPP) to raise awareness of pension-poaching scams among elder veterans in early 2016 in collaboration with key state and local entities.
Pension poaching targets veterans by convincing them to purchase expensive financial products they do not need in order to qualify for Aid and Attendance, a benefit paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs to help senior veterans and their spouses pay for in-home or assisted living facility care. Veterans and their families purchase these products then discover they still do not qualify for the benefits they are promised. VBPP coordinates community outreach, prevention and intervention efforts, including developing and distributing an informational toolkit for providers, consolidating outreach materials online and organizing monthly stakeholder meetings.
"Advocates have been seeing scams associated with Aid and Attendance qualification for the past decade," said Shawna Reeves, Director of Elder Abuse Prevention at the Institute on Aging. "Although broad policy solutions have been suggested to remedy the problem, little has been done to help the older veteran victims or to prevent older veterans from becoming victims. This project bridges the gap between policy solutions and client needs and is the first project of its kind to address Aid and Attendance scams at the grassroots level."
Since the project began, VBPP has consolidated resources for elder veterans and the professionals who work with them on a website, conducted trainings for professionals throughout California, participated in radio interviews, presented on the project nationally and distributed an educational toolkit to licensed long-term care facilities and senior centers in San Francisco. The Institute on Aging also leveraged funding from San Francisco's Office on Aging to secure a grant from the California Community Foundation to replicate VBPP in other California counties.
News of the project's 2017 Aging Innovation Award has since garnered additional attention from California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and national media outlets. On November 8, VBPP will debut a new screening tool to help detect victims of veterans benefits scams and get those victims the help that they need.
To learn more about this year's winners, be sure to read our press release and check out our book of winners!