Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2017 (H.R. 506).
Chairman Goodlatte: H.R. 506, the “Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2017,” was introduced by Congressman Tom Rooney of Florida, a former Member of this Committee, and Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida, a current Member of this Committee. This legislation closes a small but significant loophole in federal law and provides federal prosecutors with an additional tool to pursue criminals who seek to defraud veterans.
In recent years, fraudsters have increasingly targeted veterans, particularly elderly veterans, and often those in low-income housing, in order to defraud those veterans out of their Veterans’ Affairs benefits. These criminals offer to help veterans with their cases, claim to get their benefits approved in record time, charge exorbitant fees, and then provide the victims with little or no assistance.
Under current law, many of these financial predators would be vulnerable to prosecution under the mail or wire fraud statutes if they engage in this sort of fraudulent scheme by calling a veteran on the phone, sending them an email, mailing them a letter, or otherwise using the instrumentalities of interstate commerce to commit fraud.
However, increasingly, these criminals are taking advantage of a loophole in federal law by conducting in-person seminars or meeting in-person at a veteran’s home or assisted living facility. In at least one recent example, a fraudster entered an assisted living facility in Florida and asked the staff to “round up all the veterans” for a seminar. This sort of conduct – swindling an elderly veteran out of his or her benefits, and doing so face-to-face – is truly reprehensible, and worthy of Congress’s attention.
H.R. 506, which has the support of the veterans’ service community, addresses this conduct by ensuring that federal law applies in situations where a fraudster may not yet have violated the federal wire or mail fraud statutes. It does this by creating a new statutory crime in the federal criminal code, to plug that loophole. It will apply in any situation where a fraudster seeks to defraud a veteran, or a dependent or survivor, out of their Federal veteran’s benefits, regardless of whether the criminal has violated the mail or wire fraud statutes.
Our nation’s veterans have done their duty to protect us from harm. Now, when they are vulnerable, it is our duty to protect them.
I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.