News & Politics

Ripping Off Veterans

Sleazy financial coroporations prey on financially strapped vets who face some personal crisis and need quick cash. Only later do these desperate veterans realize that they've been robbed.
In the wild and woolly world of unbridled commerce, you'll often encounter disgusting life forms that can only be described as sleaze or slime. For example, take the roving band of companies that profit by essentially bilking vulnerable military veterans of their pensions.

These financial corporations appeal to vets who face some personal crisis and need quick cash. No problemo, say the financial agents, just sign over your military pension payments to us for awhile, and we'll advance you some cash. Only later do these desperate veterans realize that they've been robbed – to get, say $20,000, they give up $60,000 or more in monthly pension payments, amounting to as high as 75 percent interest.

These schemes are illegal, for the law says that future military pensions cannot be signed away by a retiree. Incredibly, though, the Pentagon sides not with our soldiers, but with the profiteering companies that prey on them, even handling the paperwork to divert the retirees' pay to the corporation. Pentagon officials twist the language of the law, declaring that these are not assignments of retiree pay, which would be illegal, but merely the "collateral" for loans taken by retirees.

The companies twist the language further, denying that these are even loans. Rather, they say that these deals are straightforward commercial transactions: "We are just purchasing a stream of payments," one company lawyer said coldly.

Even colder, whenever veterans balk at paying the usurious ripoff, company lawyers sue them, usually in courts far away from where the vets live. Financially-strapped retirees cannot afford to challenge these companies, so they are losing the cases by default, and often having to file for personal bankruptcy.

What's bankrupt here is a system that's robbing veterans. Where's Bush? Where's Rumsfeld? Where's Congress? To help battle this outrage call the National Consumer Law Center: 202-452-6252
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of "Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush," from Viking Press. For more information, visit
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