Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) approved Congresswoman Julia Brownley’s (D-Westlake Village) bill, the Protect Veterans from Financial Fraud Act (H.R. 2975). Brownley’s bill was approved as an amendment to the Fair Treatment for Families of Veterans Act (H.R. 4087).
The Brownley language ensures that every veteran participating in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Fiduciary Program can recover their benefits in cases of fiduciary misuse and fraud. Specifically, it would protect veterans from financial fraud by ending the “10 or more rule” that restricts the VA from reissuing stolen benefits to a veteran unless the VA-appointed fiduciary manages VA benefits for ten or more veterans.
“While the VA rightly protects the benefits of certain veterans who are the victim of fraud, a longstanding loophole has left out many of our most vulnerable veterans,” said Brownley. “My bill will ensure that all veterans who are the victims of fraud by a VA-appointed trustee, receive the benefits they have earned and deserve, and rely on to make ends meet.”
The VA’s Fiduciary Program was established to protect veterans and other beneficiaries who — due to injury, disease, or age — are unable to manage their own financial affairs. Under this program, if VA determines a veteran is unable to manage his or her financial affairs, the Department will appoint a fiduciary to assist the veteran in managing benefit payments. In 2014, the Fiduciary Program served more than 172,800 veterans and their survivors.
Most often, family members or friends serve as fiduciaries. According to VA, 80% of VA beneficiaries have a one-on-one relationship with their fiduciary. Unfortunately, not all veterans who have VA-appointed fiduciaries are treated equally under federal law. Under current law, if a fiduciary misuses a veteran’s benefits, the VA can remove the fiduciary, but it can only re-issue benefits to the veteran if the appointed fiduciary manages benefits for 10 or more veterans. The “10 or more” requirement leaves thousands of veterans unprotected and unable to recoup the benefits in cases of fiduciary abuse or fraud, which was committed at no fault of the veteran.
In a hearing in June 2015, the VA expressed support for Brownley’s bill, which is also supported by the American Legion. Here is a link to letter of support from the American Legion.