Veterans entitled to certain benefits are finding more ways to receive them.
Veterans entitled to certain benefits are finding more ways to receive them. However, VA officials say veterans are paying for services they should receive for free.
"There's plenty of county service officers, state service officers," said Nathan Weinbaum, Director of Blount County Veterans Affairs.
"We're here to help, and we're able to help."
Weinbaum warns of a new business trend across the country: companies that offer advice and services for veterans looking to apply for pension benefits.
He poses a question to those companies:
"Why are they only focusing on this one benefit? Why not help veterans that are injured in service, why not help them with a GI bill?"
He says it is about profit. Often companies will take clients who don't qualify for certain pension benefits and, for a commission, will arrange the client's assets so they do qualify.
"Money is involved. They can move money around and that's how they pad their pockets," he said.
East Tennessee representatives for "U.S. Senior Vets" say not all companies are bad.
"We help veterans and their spouses gather information that they need to submit claims to the VA," said Randall Baxter, a financial planner and radio host who partners with U.S.S.V. The company is not affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
He is aware of criticisms toward companies like the one he works with, but says many have good intentions.
"For my sake, and for the sake of hundreds of people that work in this
industry that do it right."
Baxter fielded pointed questions from Weinbaum and others, who challenged the company's motive.
"There are a lot of folks out there that don't function ethically, or morally when they're dealing with the elderly," he said. "At the same time, that doesn't mean that everybody is unethical."
"There is no reason for any veteran to pay to have money moved around, or anything like that, for this benefit," said Weinbaum.
"Either you qualify or you don't. And if you don't, that's the way the laws are."
The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs posts a list online of Veterans Benefits Offices in the state of Tennessee, as well as County Veterans Service Offices.