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Gus Bilirakis Gets Two Veterans Bills Through Committee

Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis celebrated two victories this week as the House Veterans Affairs Committee, for which the Sunshine State congressman serves asvice chairman, passed two bills he introduced.

Bilirakis HR 1826 would impose criminal penalties on individuals who charge veterans unauthorized fees on VA claims -- closing a hole at the federal level.

"This hole leaves the door open for fly-by-night companies and con artists to take advantage of veterans, unlawfully charging them hundreds or even thousands of dollars," Bilirakis said in a statement released on Friday. "My bill would make this offense punishable by up to one year in prison and/or fines. Crooked practices must be stopped, and this enforcement mechanism is a critical first step."

Bilirakis also introduced HR 2274 to add accountability for the Post 9/11 Educational Assistance Program.

"It is essential that we know the number of people using the benefit, expenditures, and the number of credit hours, certificates and degrees earned by beneficiaries, and my legislation requires that the VA report those numbers on an annual basis," Bilirakis said on Friday. "This will help ensure that the program is efficiently and effectively providing our nation's veterans with an education."

Bilirakis' efforts won the approval of his chairman -- U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican who represents parts of the Florida Panhandle.

"Representative Bilirakis has been a stalwart advocate for veterans, as well as an active member of this committee," said Miller. "Through this legislation, we are ensuring that the investment we have made in our student veterans' future results in a good education and the opportunity for meaningful employment."

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