NADLER STATEMENT ON “PREVENTING CRIMES AGAINST VETERANS ACT OF 2017”
Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY.) delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of “H.R. 506, the “Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2017.”
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to support H.R. 506, the “Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act.”
H.R. 506 provides an important, additional tool for federal prosecutors to use against those who engage in fraudulent activities targeting veterans. This bipartisan measure would make it a crime to knowingly engage in any scheme to defraud a veteran of his or her veterans’ benefits, or to knowingly engage in fraud in connection with obtaining veterans’ benefits for that individual. Anyone convicted of such crime could be fined, imprisoned up to five years, or be subject to both penalties.
Because we honor our veterans’ service and their sacrifices for us, it is particularly important that we protect them from fraud and we ensure the integrity of the system of benefits we provide for them.
Currently, there are approximately 21 million veterans of the United States military -- men and women who selflessly served our Nation and fought in theaters of war, from the Second World War, Korea, and Vietnam to more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, many of our veterans – as a result of their service – have physical and mental scars. There are well over one million American veterans with service-connected disabilities.
The suicide rate among veterans is 300% above the national average and it is estimated that about 30% of all Vietnam veterans and 20% of veterans of the recent Middle East conflicts suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in a given year.
In addition, veterans are more likely than non-veterans to become homeless. They comprise 17% of our homeless population and, on any given night, there are about 50,000 veterans sleeping on America’s streets.
Given the dedicated service of our veterans and the hardships many of them continue to face after their military service is completed, it is imperative that we do our utmost to ensure they are appropriately compensated.
To that end, the Federal Government provides a range of financial benefits to veterans, including disability payments to those with service-connected disabilities, pensions for veterans with limited incomes, education and training under the GI Bill, certain benefits for the families of veterans, and various life insurance benefits.
This is the least we can do, and it is still not enough. There continue to be concerns with the quality and availability of the medical care we provide to veterans. And, some veterans experience significant delays in the processing and payment of certain benefits because of claims lost by the Veterans Benefits Administration, and other paperwork errors.
Although these issues are beyond the reach of the Judiciary Committee, we can take action today to protect existing benefits by combatting efforts to defraud veterans of their benefits.
Absolutely no veteran should be defrauded of their well-earned benefits, particularly those in need. Those who defraud veterans and their families of their benefits not only harm these victims, but they also diminish resources required to pay the claims and fund the programs needed to assist those who have served our Nation.
This bill will help address this problem.
Finally, I thank the gentleman from Florida, Representative Ted Deutch, who is the lead Democratic cosponsor, for his leadership on this important measure.
I support this bill and I urge my colleagues to do the same.
I yield back the balance of my time.