By Joanne Arbogast
The Daily Item
This Memorial Day, as your thoughts turn toward veterans, be on the alert for scammers doing the same thing, only with bad intentions.
The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is reminding veterans, active military personnel and their dependents that they should never pay for help to apply for veterans benefits.
“We’ve seen advertisements from businesses that offer veterans assistance in applying for benefits for free, and then end up charging a fee for financial planning services,” said Brig. Gen. Mike Gould, the state’s deputy adjutant general for veterans’ affairs. “We need to get the word out that veterans should never pay for these services. Free assistance is readily available from any accredited veterans service officer at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the County Director of Veterans Affairs, or through a chartered veterans service organization such as the American Legion, VFW, DAV, or AMVETS to name a few.”
County directors of Veterans Affairs are accredited officers who provide veterans and their dependents assistance to identify and help determine eligibility for a wide range of veterans benefits; assist in the preparation of applications for county, state and federal veterans benefits and programs such as: burial allowances; grave markers and headstone; disabled veterans real estate tax exemptions; veterans emergency assistance; education gratuity program; federal health care benefits, service-connected disability and non-service connected disability pensions, and survivor benefits.
To locate a county director of Veterans Affairs or for more information, visit the state DMVA online at dmva.state.pa.us and click on Veterans Affairs.
Also be aware that while many legitimate charities are soliciting donations to support the nation’s military veterans as well as the families of active-duty personnel, not all “charities” are legitimate. Some are sham operators whose only purpose is to make money for themselves.
Others use paid fundraisers whose fees eat up most of a donation. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are several ways to make sure your donations go to a legitimate charity, rather than a scam artist:
Recognize that the words “veterans” or “military families” in an organization’s name doesn’t necessarily mean they will benefit from the money you are donating. To check an organization, contact militaryonesource.mil.
Look for an organization’s track record. Scam artists follow the headlines and charities that spring up literally overnight in connection with military conflicts and related news stories may disappear just as quickly.
In addition to current solicitations seeking to help veterans, be suspicious of ones claiming donations will go toward helping tornado survivors in Oklahoma.
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Glenn M. Cannon is encouraging people who want to help Oklahoma tornado survivors to go through established organizations.
“We all know that Pennsylvanians have a long history of helping those in need, and in a situation like this, making a monetary donation or providing supplies that are known are needed to a trusted charity, is likely the best way to do that,” he said.
For information on offering support, as well as a list of Oklahoma community and service organizations seeking assistance, go to www.ok.gov and click the “How to Help Tornado Victims’’ link. Also visit GuideStar (guidestar.org).
Making a donation directly to a legitimate charity ensures contributions are used only for goods and services needed by disaster survivors. Charity groups coordinate their efforts to make sure donations are used for the things the survivors need, at the right time and in the right quantity.
Watsontown police are investigating a scam that occurred in the borough on Thursday. Police detained two white males, age 18 and 19, who were going door to door in Watsontown asking for money donations for the Christ Wesleyan Church of Milton for mission trips.
The investigation revealed that the church was not having a drive for donations at this time nor were these two males associated with this type of activity with the church.
Money and a check were recovered and criminal charges are pending. If anyone donated money or had contact with these men, they are asked to call the police at (570) 742-8771 or (570) 538-2773.