Snohomish couple sued for deceptive veterans assistance plans
When veterans need help with any type of benefit- there are a number of places they can go-
including a local American Legion office. The service is free. But the state Attorney General's office says Peter G. Cook and Carolyn Y. Cook of Snohomish- operating as C&C Consulting- charged thousands of dollars for help they were not qualified to give and often failed to provide.
The state is suing the Cooks for what investigators call deceptive and unfair practices and violations of the state's Consumer Protection Act. The case involves the complicated process of trying to qualify for Medicaid and or financial aid from the Department of Veterans Affairs to cover nursing home care. The latter is known as Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance.
"Many of these folks are elderly," said assistant AG Jeff Rupert. "They're in the last years of their life."
Rupert says clients signed service agreements with C&C and paid anywhere from $2,500 to $5,900 up front. In exchange, the clients were told they'd get help with the lengthy and detailed qualification and application process- as well as advice on how to protect their assets so they could get care without impoverishing themselves or their surviving spouses.
"While the agreement seemed to cover everything the person would need, the Cooks would come back at times and ask for more money." , said Rupert. The state says contrary to the C&C agreement, none of the client's money went toward legal services, which are critical, and in some cases the benefits were ultimately delayed or denied.
According to the lawsuit filed in Snohomish County Superior Court, C&C violated state and federal law by providing VA Aid and Attendance services without being accredited by the VA and by charging a fee. The state says the Cooks also illegally sold insurance annuity products as investments and collected thousands of dollars in commissions.
"One case was over about 300-thousand dollars in annuities." said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. "The interest rate for the beneficiary was literally zero." In that case, the state says the Cook's collected $10,000 in commissions, but the annuity was never approved by the state Insurance Commissioner.
The Cooks list their home in Snohomish as their business address. But attempts to contact them in person were unsuccessful. They did not respond to my phone calls nor the note I left in the door requesting a response to the Ag's allegations. Ferguson says to his knowledge, C&C Consulting is still in business.
"It's a slap in the face to a veteran." said Bob Wallacem, Service Officer with the American Legion in Seattle. "It's a crime. It really is. They're charging $2,500 to do the same thing that we do for free."
The state's lawsuit asks the court to force the C&C to stop what investigators call unfair, deceptive activity. Military experts say vets are especially vulnerable to this type of service because of the tight limits on the assets you can have in order to qualify for Medicaid and nursing home assistance- and the fact that many of the referrals come from nursing homes.