To get notice that the VA is proposing to appoint a fiduciary is usually an unpleasant, unwelcome surprise.
The veteran may or may not need help and guidance with the award money he or she has earned.
The VA fiduciary appointment program is one of the more mismanaged and poorly understood problems of your VA.
program is changing however...slowly but surely. If you disagree with
the appointment of a fiduciary in your case, you must act in your own
interests and you must act right now.
Read this page carefully. Then proceed to act to help yourself.
Veterans want to know about fiduciary appointments...
Search Term; "how to get spouse chosen as va appointed fiduciary"
spouse should be the first person considered. To be appointed the
individual must show a good credit history and agree to the terms and
conditions of a VA imposed fiduciary appointment.
Search Term; "can a va field examiner be sued"
Maybe. You will need to consult an attorney who is experienced in VA law. It's likely to be very expensive for you though.
Search Term; "lawyers for veterans fiduciary"
veterans want to hire a lawyer as soon as they begin the fiduciary
process with VA. Unfortunately, most vets don't understand that there
are limits to what lawyers are able to accomplish. Vets also think that
because they are outraged at the injustice of VA that lawyers will also
be outraged and work for free. While many of my attorney friends do take
on a lot of "pro bono" or no charge work, most fiduciary cases won't be
represented for free. There are steps described on this page that vets
must do for themselves, prior to trying to retain legal counsel.
Search Term; "what does appointed as fiduciary mean and why is this useful"
individual who is appointed as fiduciary is responsible for managing
the VA benefits money for a veteran who is declared incompetent to
handle his/her own money. Many veterans who suffer from mental health
issues, dementia or other cognitive problems may need someone to protect
their money for them.
Search Term; "how much does VA fiduciary get paid?"
The usual fee is somewhere around 4% or 5% of the amount of money paid each month. This will vary from region to region.
many of the processes at your VA are badly broken. The fiduciary
appointment system is mismanaged and often abusive to the targeted
I've been following VA fiduciary cases since my early days of writing for VAWatchdog at http://www.VAWatchdog.org
many veterans do need help to manage their financial affairs, there are
a lot of you who get caught up in the process through a series of
errors. Once you are in this quagmire, it is often very difficult to get
In 2011 there was a major decision by the CAVC that is
beginning to help change things. That's usually called The Freeman
Decision and you should read it now. This is a complex legal document
but it will help to to develop your appeal.
In VA terms, a
fiduciary is a legal guardian who will manage the money that VA has
awarded to you for your service connected condition(s).
attempt assign a fiduciary to manage your financial affairs if you are
determined to be incompetent to do that for yourself. In theory the VA
fiduciary will only have authority to manage VA funds but if you have
other income mixed with the money from VA, they will often seize it all.
veterans aren't aware that they're being examined for incompetence.
During a routine C & P exam the examiner may ask you "How do the
bills get paid around your house?" or a similar question.
are a lot of us who would innocently reply; "My spouse writes all the
checks. We find it easier to let her do all the banking stuff and she's
better at it than I am. It works for us."
To most C & P
examiners that means you can not handle your own finances. They will
make a brief note, "Veteran is not competent to manage his finances."
Once that little remark is in your record, you have a world of problems coming your way.
will then be notified that there is a "proposal" to appoint a fiduciary
for you. The first contact may be by mail or by telephone.
will ask to set up a meeting with you in your residence. This meeting
will be with a VA Field Agent (or examiner) who will ask you about your
finances, do background checks on people in your home, perform credit
rating checks and so on. He/she will tell you that as an incompetent
veteran you can not have guns in your house and you will not have the
right to purchase firearms.
Ostensibly, the VA field agent will
try to determine who in your family may be appointed as your fiduciary.
Many times the agent will find that nobody in your family has a good
enough credit record so he/ she will appoint a paid fiduciary.
either case, you will lose control of the money you have earned from
VA. The paid fiduciary will take their cut of the money each month and
if you want any of it, you must go through a complex process of asking
Often, your request for money is ignored or denied.
you have a fiduciary today and you're unhappy about it or if you have
just been notified that VA is thinking of appointing a fiduciary, you
Nobody will do that for you. There is a process that
must be followed and you must do it yourself. There is nobody to call,
no VSO or Senator can help you. Lawyers rarely are able to take these
cases...there are too many cases and the lawyers usually can't bill for
If you will follow the process as it is described
below and if you will put a lot of your personal time into reading and
learning for yourself, you have a very good chance to win and not have
to deal with this.
There is no other way than what you'll read here that I'm aware of.
What to do when the fiduciary letter arrives
veterans do not understand the VA fiduciary appointment process. When a
letter arrives telling the veteran he or she is incompetent to handle
their VA award money, it's usually a shock.
Very few Veterans
Service Officers or advocates within a Congressional Representatives
office are usually of little help. Most lawyers don't have any
experience with this VA action.
The veteran is usually left to fight the battle alone.
will often try to appoint a fiduciary when the veteran is rated at 100%
for a mental health problem and there will be an award of retroactive
pay that is greater than $20,000.00. There is often no particular reason
for the proposal to appoint a fiduciary.
VA should always try to
appoint a close family member although that doesn't usually happen. In
any case, whoever is appointed will be required to complete paperwork
and clear any expenditures by the veteran through the VA.
If the appointment of a fiduciary can be avoided, it should be.
The process usually works like this:
The veteran has a C & P exam where the topic of finances is brought
up. The examiner may write a brief note that "Veteran is incompetent to
manage his finances." This may or may not be true. I've observed cases
where the veteran said "My wife handles our checkbook" and that has been
interpreted by VA as enough to declare the veteran incompetent.
(2) A letter will arrive that is a "proposal" to begin an investigation and to appoint a fiduciary.
If the veteran does not properly and timely respond to this proposal,
an appointment is made for a VA Field Examiner (or Agent) to come to the
veterans home to discuss the proposal to appoint a fiduciary.
If the Field Examiner does come to the home they will soon after begin
to run credit reports and other background checks to determine whether
the spouse, parent or perhaps a sibling may act as fiduciary.
If no approval is made for a family member, the FE will see that a VA
appointed "professional" fiduciary is appointed. That person may be a
banker, lawyer or other VA approved person and they will then take over
the veterans VA money. The veteran will then have to seek any funds
through the appointed fiduciary.
Far too many veterans get
this sort of notice and then they don't respond appropriately. If the
appropriate response doesn't happen in a timely manner, the VA will act
on the proposal and appoint a fiduciary.
The fiduciary is then free to act to control the finances and the result is often a major problem for the veteran.
following will apply to actions the veteran must take when he/she is
first notified that a fiduciary appointment is being considered. These
steps must be done as soon as possible after the letter arrives. Time
spent calling a Congressperson, consulting a VSO and so on is usually
Note that all these steps must be conducted in
writing. There should be no phone calls and no emails. Faxes are not a
good idea. This is a very serious matter and the veteran must initiate a
strong defensive plan of action. Letters must be as brief as possible
and state all the facts. Mailing must be done via USPS Certified Mail
with Return Receipt Requested.
When you write to VA you must not display anger or emotion.
In your letter you must say:
"This letter is a Notice of Disagreement with your proposal to consider the appointment of a fiduciary."
"I disagree with your inference/conclusion that I am incompetent to manage my finances."
examination that has suggested that I am incompetent was not complete
or thorough. The examination was inadequate. I request another
"I request a personal hearing."
"I am not incompetent."
request that all my benefits be continued while I appeal your proposal
and that no benefit payments be interrupted or delayed until I have
exhausted all appeals venues."
(3) Send this letter via certified mail only.
(4) Wait for a reply.
you wait...separate your checking accounts. If your spouse uses the
same account as you, she (he) should open a separate account. The
checking account that your VA check is deposited to should have no other
funds in it. If VA seizes that account, you want as little in it as
Check your credit reports. If there are blemishes you must take care of that now.
down and sort out your finances. Do a financial report on yourself so
that if and when VA pushes for this you will be prepared to answer
questions about your finances.
Do not delay. There are no
specialists out there to help you. You are the only one who can begin to
solve your own issues with VA.
If a fiduciary already has been assigned:
Write a formal appeal letter (everything sent certified return receipt
and copies maintained) to the VA Regional Office that is handling the
See How To Appeal
If a fiduciary is newly assigned:
Immediately file a Notice of Disagreement with fiduciary assignment.
This should be written as a standard sort of NOD and requesting a
personal hearing and so on.