CHICAGO (CN) – A lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Illinois attorney general claims a Michigan-based organization is tricking elderly veterans in Illinois into buying insurance products from an affiliated company under the guise of helping with pension benefits.
The American Association for Wartime Veterans, or AAWV, presents itself as a community outreach organization that assists veterans in applying for “aid and attendance” pension benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
However, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan claims in a Cook County Circuit Court lawsuit that AAWV actually uses the VA program to target veterans for annuities sales through Atlantis Marketing Solutions, a financial planning company with the same address and owner.
According to the complaint, “the defendants gain access to the pool of potential applicants for VA pension benefits by conducting free informational seminars on the VA pension program at assisted living facilities and other community centers.”
The professional members of AAWV are insurance agents for AMS, who are the ones giving the presentations and hiding their true occupation from potential clients, the complaint states.
Madigan alleges the seminars are a sham intended to “steer applicants into the purchase of annuities by misrepresenting that such a purchase is needed to qualify the applicant for the VA pension program.”
“In essence, the VA pension is a government welfare program” meant to provide veterans with low assets and income with a certain level of security, according to the complaint.
AAWV and AMS allegedly misrepresent the difficulty in getting these benefits and claim there is a lack of free sources veterans can go to for help, telling clients they need to reposition their assets by purchasing annuities in order to qualify.
“In reality, the insurance products are not needed to help the claimant qualify for VA pension benefits and may cause financial harm to the veteran or the veteran’s family,” Madigan’s lawsuit states.
Agents then assist clients in applying for their benefits through the VA, something they are not accredited to do, according to the complaint.
Illinois is suing AAWV, AMS and their owners for alleged consumer fraud. The attorney general’s office estimates they held at least 143 seminars in Illinois over a two-year period.
AAWV did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.