Rooney cosponsors bipartisan bill to protect veterans from fraudsters

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) cosponsored a bipartisan bill on Thursday that would close a loophole enabling predators to target veterans appealing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cases.

Under the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act, H.R. 4676, financial predators that charge veterans exorbitant fees while providing little or no help on VA appeals could be penalized with fines and imprisonment.

“Everyone knows that the claims process at the VA is too slow,” Rooney, an Army veteran and a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, said. “Anyone who deliberately seeks out our most vulnerable veterans purporting to speed up this process with their VA claims and illegally charging them exorbitant fees for their ‘services’ deserves to face a harsh penalty. This bill will help prevent America’s heroes from being targeted by fraudulent financial schemes by giving law enforcement the tools they need to punish these low-life criminals.”

Under current law, only agents and attorneys who meet qualifications of the VA are allowed to charge fees to represent veterans and claimants in appeals cases. Although it’s illegal for unqualified fraudsters to charge veterans for assistance, there’s no criminal or financial penalty for breaking that law.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), a cosponsor of the Preventing Crimes against Veterans Act, said that financial fraud is growing more sophisticated and veterans have become targets.

“The Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act represents a basic but essential step that we must take to protect the financial security of our veterans, and I look forward to working with my friend and colleague, Congressman Rooney, to move this legislation forward,” Deutch said.

Under the bill, those who blatantly defraud veterans of benefits would face fines and up to five years in prison.

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