Washington, D.C. – The House of Representatives today approved unanimously by a vote of 411-0 the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2016 (H.R. 4676). This bill, authored by Representatives Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), protects veterans from financial predators who target them for their own financial gain. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) managed the floor debate for the bill since it is under the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee, and issued the following statement on the bill’s passage:
“Fraudsters preying upon our nation’s heroes for profit must be held accountable for their deplorable actions. I thank Representatives Rooney and Deutch for their hard work on a bill that closes loopholes in current law to ensure those who target veterans for financial gain face criminal charges and prosecution for their crimes. I am pleased that the House passed the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2016 today and urge the Senate to quickly pass it.”
Background: Under current law, only agents or attorneys who have met all standard qualifications and standards prescribed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may charge a fee to assist a veteran or claimant in an appeals case. While it is illegal for anyone who is not an approved agent or attorney to charge any fee for assisting a veteran in filing a claim or appeal with the VA, there’s no criminal or financial penalty for breaking the law. As a result, financial predators across the country are targeting veterans, many of whom are elderly and live in low-income housing. They offer to help veterans with their cases, claim to get their benefits approved in record time, charge fees that are often in the thousands of dollars, and then provide them with little or no assistance. The Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2016 penalizes fraudsters that blatantly engage in a scheme to defraud a veteran of his or her benefits, or in connection with obtaining that veteran’s benefits, by imposing a fine, imprisonment of up to five years, or both.