A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate on April 5 would ensure families of defrauded veterans receive the benefits owed if the veteran passes away before their case with the VA is resolved.
The Restoring Benefits to Defrauded Veterans Act (S. 3994), sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) would add language to existing law that would require the VA secretary to pay out these fraud claims to a veteran’s estate, a fiduciary who had served the veteran, or “the next inheritor.” The House version of the legislation (H.R. 5966) was introduced Nov. 21 by Reps. David Trone (D-Md.) and Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).
The claims stem from misuse of benefits by a veteran’s fiduciary where the secretary is found to have committed “negligent failure” to “investigate and monitor a fiduciary,” according to current law. There were about 12,000 allegations of such fraud from Jan. 1, 2018, to Sept. 30, 2019, according to a VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report.
While OIG found no “systemic issues” with the VA Fiduciary Program, it did find “instances of significant wait times,” including one veteran owed more than $20,000 in misused funds waiting more than 19 months after the ruling to receive his money.
MOAA supports the measure along with The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Wounded Warrior Project.
“Unfortunately, thousands of veterans have been victims of fraud and have dealt with a long, drawn out process to ensure they and their families receive their earned payments,” Manchin said in a press release announcing the Senate legislation, adding that the bill would “make a simple fix to help these defrauded veterans and their families receive the support they need and deserve.”
Tuberville said Americans would “like to believe we live in a country where no one would take advantage of our veterans, but sadly it does happen. What’s worse is if the money that was lost to fraud is never returned. This bill attempts to help right that wrong … .”
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It’s more important than ever to make sure you’re in the know and your military benefits are protected.