Chairman Nadler Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 983, the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2021
Washington, June 22, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement on the House floor in support of H.R. 983, the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2021:
"I am proud to support H.R. 983, the 'Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2021,' bipartisan legislation that would make it a crime to knowingly engage in any scheme to defraud a veteran of his or her veteran’s benefits.
"Our nation owes a great debt to veterans. There are currently about 18 million veterans of the United States military—men and women who selflessly served our Nation.
"Unfortunately, many of our veterans—as a result of their service—have physical and mental scars. There are well over 1 million American veterans with service-connected disabilities, and 43% of post-9/11 veterans have a service-connected disability, which may entitle them to certain benefits.
"Receipt of benefits requires the veteran to file an application and undergo a thorough review by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sometimes these benefits are granted outright. Other times, the veteran must appeal their initial denial to receive the benefits they deserve.
"Under current law, the VA allows agents or attorneys to assess a nominal fee to assist claimants who are appealing different aspects of their benefits. They are not permitted, however, to charge for services related to the initial preparation and filing of their claims.
"Accordingly, it is currently illegal for a non-attorney or a person not registered as an agent to assist such initial claims. The rationale for this prohibition is that many veterans may fall victim to benefit fraud schemes, where individuals may divert benefits or apply for benefits that should not be awarded.
"To enforce this prohibition, federal prosecutors currently rely on the wire and mail fraud statutes to ensure that non-attorneys or non-registered agents do not assist in benefit applications or unlawfully divert benefits.
"However, if an unauthorized individual offers a veteran assistance, in person, they cannot be prosecuted under current fraud statutes. The wire and mail fraud statutes do not extend to in-person fraudulent schemes.
"The Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act would close this critical loophole and would ensure that in-person benefit fraud schemes may also be prosecuted.
"For example, in one instance, a scammer held briefing seminars in a senior community. He asked the staff to 'round up' the veterans, then used high-pressure sales tactics to coerce the veterans to apply for benefits.
"In-person solicitation like this requires no electronic or mail transmission, and thus evades wire and mail fraud criminal prohibitions. Other reports indicate that scammers have also been known to hand out flyers outside of VA Medical Centers and VA Regional Offices to identify unwitting veterans.
"These examples are precisely why closing this loophole is so critically important. Under H.R. 983, anyone convicted of such crime could be fined, imprisoned, or be subject to both penalties.
"By adopting this bill, Congress would affirm the integrity of the benefits program and would protect veterans and their survivors who receive payments—such as those to veterans with service-connected disabilities, pensions for veterans with limited incomes, and education and training payments under the GI Bill.
"In recognition of the extreme sacrifice by our veterans and the hardships many of them continue to face after their military service, it is our duty to provide, to the best of our ability, an appropriate measure of compensation for them, particularly for those who are in need.
"This legislation would ensure that attempts to defraud them of the benefits they need and deserve may be fully prosecuted.
"I commend the bill’s sponsors, Mr. Deutch and Mr. Fitzpatrick, for their hard work and their bipartisan efforts to address this critical problem."I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time."