What is a Fiduciary?
A fiduciary is basically a financial manager of your VA disability compensation benefit. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assigns fiduciaries to protect veterans and beneficiaries who are unable to manage their VA benefits. The VA has conducts a field examination before assigning a fiduciary.
Why Am I Being Assigned a Fiduciary?
You are being assigned a fiduciary because a court has determined you to be incapable of managing your finances or a health care provider has documented this issue. Sometimes “medical documentation” is based on conversations with your doctor. Your doctor may ask you: “How do you pay the bills?” Be careful when answering such questions. Saying “I’m no good at math; my wife handles all the bills” can be a red flag. Your doctor may note that you are “unable to maintain finances.” During these exams, be aware of this anytime you talk about your household finances - paying bills or spending your VA benefits. If your spouse does usually take care of the bills, explain that you share responsibilities or that you still understand what is going on with your household finances and that you are capable of handling them.
Do I Need a Fiduciary?
The Fiduciary program is designed to protect veterans. Having a fiduciary protects you from the betrayal of predatory friends or family. It also protects you from yourself if your decision-making ability has diminished due to age or illness. You need to be honest with yourself and how you handle money. The VA will not start this process without cause. If you think getting a fiduciary is a mistake, you can appeal it.
The VA Field Examination
The VA must do a “field examination” before assigning you a fiduciary. The examination is used to determine whether or not you are able to continue to manage your VA benefits. The VA will ask for the following information:
- Photo identification
- Your income
- The source and amount of all monthly bills and other recurring expenses (such as insurances, property taxes, etc.)
- A list of all assets, to include bank accounts, stocks, bonds, life insurance, burial plans, and other property you own.
- A list of all current medications
- Name, phone number, and address of your primary care doctor
- Name, phone number, and address of your next of kin
The VA will first seek to qualify the individual you desire to serve as your fiduciary. It is recommended that you ask for your wife, husband or family member to serve as your fiduciary – assuming that person is trustworthy. If they are unable to serve in this position, a fiduciary will be chosen for you. This may be a court-appointed fiduciary or a professional fiduciary. Any proposed fiduciary must be screened by the VA. This includes:
- an interview with a VA representative
- a credit check
- a criminal background check, and
- interviews with references.
- There is no guarantee that your preferred fiduciary (family member) will be chosen. But you may appeal the decision if you are not comfortable with the fiduciary.
Appealing a Fiduciary Appointment
If you disagree with the appointment of a fiduciary or disagree with the decision of who will be your fiduciary, you have the right to appeal. Go here for more information on appealing the appointment of a VA Fiduciary.
If you disagree with the fiduciary appointment/selection, you may:
- appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals stating you disagree with their decision and want the Board to review it
- give evidence they do not already have that may lead to a change in the decision.
If you are interested in serving as a VA Fiduciary, go here.