Task Force to Combat Scams Targeting Troops and Veterans Launched by House Lawmakers

A joint task force to combat consumer fraud targeting military and veterans was introduced by House lawmakers on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act national, the must-have annual bill that sets policy and spending priorities for the Department of Defense. (DOD Graphic by Regina Ali)

WASHINGTON — A joint task force to combat consumer fraud targeting military members and veterans was introduced by House lawmakers as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, the draft must-have annual bill that sets policy and spending priorities for the Department of Defence.

“The task force would issue regular recommendations to Congress on how we can better warn service members and veterans of the risk of financial scams and fraud, as well as strengthen our enforcement mechanisms and toughen criminal penalties for those who would seek to take advantage of our men and women in uniform,” Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said Wednesday during a House Oversight and Reform Committee subgroup hearing on the national security.

Lynch said the task force would be led by the secretaries of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs in coordination with representatives from veterans service organizations and other nongovernmental partners.

According to a recent AARP survey, military members and veterans are 40% more likely to be taken advantage of by financial fraud, including robocalls, suspicious text messages, and fraudulent offers, than their civilian counterparts. Even more, four out of five service members and veterans surveyed in 2021 said they had been the target of scams directly related to their military service or benefits. One in three people said they had lost money to these scams, according to the survey.

The Federal Trade Commission said service members, veterans, and their families reported more than $267 million in financial losses from scams or fraud in 2021. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that service members filed more than 42,700 complaints in 2021, an increase of 5% compared to 2020 and an increase of 19% compared to 2019.

“Young military personnel and their families are particularly susceptible to exploitation, given their relative lack of financial experience and understandable need for assistance amid frequent moves, overseas deployments and eventual transition. into civilian life,” Lynch said. “Meanwhile, American veterans remain vulnerable to financial scams aimed at depriving them of the pension, disability and other service-related benefits they have earned through their dedicated service to our nation.”

If passed, the task force must be created within 90 days and the group must meet at least three times a year, said Deni Kamper, the House committee’s press secretary. The task force would also submit a report within 180 days of the law’s enactment and submit reports annually.

“There is no obligation for the agencies to implement the recommendations made by the task force,” Kamper said. “According to the content of the recommendation[s]agencies may have the power to implement them on their own, or they may require congressional action.

Jim Rice, deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Membership Affairs, told the House subcommittee hearing that the office is concerned that service members are at increased risk of theft. identify. His office reported that members of the service submitted more than 17,000 credit or consumer complaints, making it their top category of complaints.

Rice said that when credit issues go unresolved, the consequences for service members and their families can include additional costs to get a car loan and a harder time finding suitable housing. Negative credit can also result in the denial of a security clearance and even separation from service.

Additionally, Rice said her office had encountered medical billing issues. In 2021, the bureau recorded more than 1,500 complaints related to incorrect medical bills on credit reports.

“Despite the assumption that military service means full medical coverage, we find that military members experience a wide range of debt collection and medical expense credit reports,” he said. “While national credit reporting societies have agreed to phase out most medical billing and credit reports by 2023, service members cannot afford to wait.”

Comments are closed.