Scammers target veterans

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The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 was enacted as part of the way that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) could rectify its reprehensible record of delaying medical treatment for veterans across the United States. It included the establishment of the Veterans Choice Program. The program allows some veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than wait for a VA appointment or travel to a VA facility. Unfortunately, the word “reprehensible” comes up again in conjunction with the program, because scammers are targeting veterans who want to use it.

In April 2017, VA issued an alert that explained that a nearly identical toll-free number (one that had a different toll-free prefix code but had the same phone number) was set up to scam those who dialed the number incorrectly. The correct toll-free number is 866/606-8198.

Those who dialed the wrong number were told that they could receive a $100 rebate if they provided a credit-card number. Although a caller wasn’t told that he/she had reached the VA or the Choice Program line when the scammer answered the call, callers who asked whether they reached the Choice Program were told that they had done so.

Federal Communications Commission shut down the scam phone number in May 2017. Nevertheless, the situation serves as a reason to remind veterans that VA never asks veterans for a credit-card number or offers such a financial incentive through the Choice Program.

According to Tom Grahek, who is the program manager for Veterans Health Administration Office of Community Care, VA received no reports of veterans being victimized by the scam.