Two Florida congressmen have gotten their proposal to protect veterans against fraud back to the House floor.
Back in 2016, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., brought out the “Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act” with then U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., as a co-sponsor of the bill. The House passed the bill in a 411-0 vote later that year but the Senate version, which was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., did not pass before the start of the new Congress.
The bill proposes increasing penalties on conmen targeting veterans by charging illegal fees for help in appealing a claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. If the bill becomes law, violators would face fines and prison sentences up to five years.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee passed the bill without opposition, sending it to the House floor.
“Anyone who seeks to financially exploit the men and women who have served our country and cheat them out of their hard-earned VA benefits should have to face a harsh punishment for their criminal actions,” Rooney said. “Frankly it’s appalling that there are individuals out there who are targeting veterans, especially those in low-income housing or who are elderly, with these schemes. This commonsense legislation will help give prosecutors the tools they need to protect our veterans and go after these criminals. I commend my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee for their decision to move this bill forward and advance it to the House floor.”
"Pension poaching is not only illegal, it's a despicable and immoral practice," said Deutch. "These scammers are getting more and more sophisticated in how they identify and deceive vulnerable veterans with lofty promises to help them with their pensions while charging outrageous fees. Congressman Rooney and I have received overwhelming support from our Congressional colleagues to close this loophole, and we look forward to voting on this on the House floor."
Three other congressmen from Florida--Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart and Democrat Darren Soto--are also cosponsoring the bill.
Rubio is sponsoring the Senate version again with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., as a cosponsor.