Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, during the markup of H.R. 8354, the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020:
"I call on my colleagues to join me in supporting, H.R. 8354, the 'Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020,' a bipartisan bill that would permanently establish a Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative within the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
"Launched in December 2014, the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative—or SVI—has been at the forefront of the Department of Justice’s efforts to protect servicemembers, veterans, and their families from being victimized in cases of fraud and predatory lending.
"This legislation builds on the SVI’s experience by making it permanent, to ensure that the DOJ continues to promote the legal interests of servicemembers, veterans, and their families within the Department of Justice.
"Most notably, H.R. 8354 would appoint a liaison to the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division to coordinate Federal prosecutions of cases involving fraud against servicemembers.
"By giving SVI a permanent home in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, this bill would ensure that DOJ will continue to provide outreach to servicemembers, will provide the Attorney General with policy recommendations on servicemember-related matters, and will enforce the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986, and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, among other laws.
"Coupled with the SVI’s current outreach efforts, establishing this direct link to the Criminal Division will ultimately allow DOJ to be more effective in addressing civil and criminal frauds against servicemembers and their families.
"Fraud schemes that target servicemembers and their families are especially pernicious. Between 2015 and 2019, the FTC received over 163,000 reports of fraud targeting military retirees and veterans, and nearly 13,000 fraud reports from active duty service members. The FTC ascertained that the median loss in these cases was significantly higher for servicemembers and veterans than for their civilian counterparts.
"This bill also codifies the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative as a section within the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. Permanent establishment of the SVI would recognize the important work it has carried out since 2014.
"The successful legal actions that the SVI has undertaken thus far have returned tens of millions of dollars to servicemembers and their families. H.R. 8354 would bolster these efforts and would ensure that they continue.
"Our servicemembers and veterans have worked tirelessly to protect us at home and abroad. It is only right that we work as hard as we can to protect them from abuses such as fraud, predatory lending, and other fraudulent schemes. I thank our colleague, Representative Escobar, for her leadership on this issue and for authoring this important legislation.
"I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill today."