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tv   Hearing on Scams Targeting Veterans  CSPAN  November 6, 2019 5:14pm-7:11pm EST

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in a traditional sense, but i do think they are trying to build the kind of cyber capabilities. way is part of wahere way is an extraordinarily asset for them. announcer 1: new york university journalism professor talks about her new book, diversity, inc. >> i am not optimistic about white america's ability to see fiction of african-americans, of latinx people, the centuries old demeaning images of people and how that has as much to do with the lack of diversity. announcer 1: watch book tv every weekend on c-span two. up next, a hearing
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on protecting veterans targeted by scams and what congress can do to address the issue. this is about two hours. >> this hearing will come to order. good morning. next week, americans will honor our nation's veterans who have paid the price for our freedom in times of conflict and served as our shield in times of peace. today, nearly 20 million americans have earned the title of veteran. i'm proud to say that maine is home to more than 114,000 veterans. the second highest percentage in our entire country.
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we owe them such a great debt. the gratitude we express in words on veterans day can repay this debt only in small measure. a truly grateful nation must match its words with actions. as we will learn today, one issue that calls for our immediate action is to fight a newer enemy facing our veterans and that is those relentless con artists who seek to rob them of their life savings and defraud them of the benefits they have earned in service to our country. often, veterans fall victim to the same scams that this
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committee has highlighted in recent years such as the irs imposter scam, the grandparent scam, the romance scam, the jamaican lottery scheme and identity theft. veterans are disproportionately affected by these schemes, but there is also troubling evidence that some fraudsters are deliberately targeting veterans and they're structuring their scams in order to reach our veterans. for example, in a case that we will hear more about today, a fraudster set up an entity called the veterans pension planners of america. sounds legitimate, doesn't it? it was not. she used it to operate what is
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often referred to as an aid and attendance scam. her pitch was that she could help veterans diversify their assets to get beneath the threshold to qualify for va benefits if they released their assets to her. instead she stole their assets and spent their money. all told, she defrauded 78 victims out of $2 million before she was arrested and convicted on multiple state and federal charges. scammers exploit public support for those who have served our country by creating fake charities that supposedly raise money for needy veterans but instead funnel funds from generous contributors to greedy fraudsters.
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in one recent case, the con artist operating out of michigan was convicted of stealing nearly $200,000 from 36 victims who thought they were donating to charities benefitting veterans. not only did the veterans never see a dime of this money, the fraudster added insult to injury by stealing the victim's personally identifiable information to commit identify theft. fortunately through the very good work of the u.s. postal inspection service, this criminal is now behind bars. other criminals promised to help veterans claim benefits from nonexistent government programs or they charge inappropriate fees for helping veterans apply for the benefits they've earned
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or they exploit the sense of comradery that veterans feel for one another to gain their victim's trust and swindle them out of their savings. these regrettably are not isolated examples. surveys show that more than three quarters of our veterans have been contacted by con artists. given these facts, what action should we take to protect our veterans? certainly the cases we will highlight in this hearing show the value of aggressive prosecution. that sends a real message to other criminals out there that they will be pursued, they will be caught, and they will be brought to justice. but it's this committee has
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often noted, many con artists operate offshore, beyond the reach of our state and local law enforcement and some veterans are simply too embarrassed to report that they have been scammed. although they shouldn't be because it can happen to anyone. instead, we must find ways to protect our veterans from scams before they become victims. education is one way. that's one of the reasons we're holding this hearing today. another is to build on the comradery veterans have for one another by bringing them together to provide another set of eyes. the non-profit vet to vet maine program shows how the trusted judgment of a fellow veteran can
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stop a scam before it starts. before closing, i want to note the reason gao study that identified actions that the veterans administration can take to better protect veterans from aid and attendance scams. according to the gao, they receive reports of potential fraud or exploitation but it does not analyze this information to assess the prevalence of scams, inform its outreach efforts, or to help law enforcement pursue these criminals. i believe that the va should take a leading role in this fight. the ranking member and i, as well as other members of this committee, will be writing to the secretary of the va to ask what steps the department is taking to assess the risk posed to our nation's veterans and what can be done to better
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protect them from fraud. as veterans day approaches, we remember all those who serve, not just by honoring their service through our words, but also by the actions that we take. veterans and their families have a right to expect that the nation they served will fight to protect them from unscrupulous individuals. as the aarp says in its bulletin, they protected us, now it's our turn. i now am happy to turn to our ranking member for his opening statement. thank you. >> chairman collins, thank you for holding this very important hearing especially as we prepare
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for veterans day. i'm pleased as i know we all are that we're joined by three veterans, one of whom is an active reservist on this panel today. we want to thank each of you for your service to the country and grateful for your testimony today. veterans day is only days away and it's a day when we honor those who served our country not only in war but also in peace. and it's a reminder of our abiding responsibility to serve them, to serve them in return. president lincoln outlined a simple mandate when it comes to the care that our veterans are owed -- quote, that we must care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, unquote. way back in 1991, my father was taking the oath of office as governor and it happened to be the day before the invasion of
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iraq when our soldiers were heading into combat and at that time he said -- and i'm quoting -- we pray for them and for ourselves that we may be worthy of their valor, unquote. being worthy of their valor, if you happen to be a member of congress, if you're going to prove yourself worthy of their valor, you ought to prove it by your actions. here in the senate and the congress overall, we have an -- the opportunity and the ability to demonstrate that we are worthy of their valor by ensuring that veterans receive every single benefit that they are owed and even more. and when we learn of barriers to those benefits, we must work to overcome those barriers. that's why i'm fighting so hard to hold the department of veterans affairs accountable for providing every veteran access to information about their va
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benefits. my legislation, the va website accountability act, which i hope we can pass by the end of this year, would get us one step closer to comprehensive accessibility for veterans. it's why i'm fighting to ensure that caregivers who watch over our veterans every single day are supported and given respite. the supporting of veterans caregivers act would ensure caregivers cannot be kicked out of the va caregivers program. and as we'll discuss today, it's why chairman collins and i wanted to hold this hearing to ensure that not one more veteran, not one more veteran loses one more penny to a scammer, a schemer, or a con artist. so we must not stop with just the hearing. we know that 78% of veterans
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report receiving a scam attempt related to their veteran status. almost eight out of ten. if we are to be worthy of the valor of our veterans, this number should be zero, not 78%, it should be zero. a recent report from the gao found that the va lacks a central clearinghouse for soliciting and collecting information on potential financial exploitation of veterans receiving pension benefits. to say this is troubling is an understatement. the gao provided the va with clear recommendations for addressing this problem and now i'm quoting, quote, systematically solicit and collect information on potential financial exploitation, unquote, and, quote, assess this information to address plans -- to address the potential
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exploitation of veterans receiving pension benefits, unquote. instead of working to implement the recommendations, the va is putting in place a process that the gao claims would, quote, not fully address the underlying issue, unquote. i think they're being a little charitable in their assessment of what the va is doing in response. this is totally unacceptable. that's why we're sending a letter, members of this committee, chairman collins and i and others, to find out more about this decision and also why the va is not doing more to combat scams against veterans. and as we'll hear today, in order to put an end to the predatory practice of scammers, scammers of the worst kind of who prey upon those who serve, there needs to be an all hands on deck approach. we need to find a way to stop these scammers from getting
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through phone lines, we need to be sure that people are educated about how to avoid becoming victims of a scam. there must be a place to report scammers, whether it's the department of justice, the federal trade commission, the va or right here at the aging committee by way of our fraud hotline. we need to ensure that prosecutors have the tools they need to go after these criminals and keep them behind bars. i'm certain that our hearing today will touch upon all of these topics and more, but it's unconscionable to me that someone who would stoop so low as to steal money from someone who agreed to sacrifice so much for our country and it's also unconscionable to me and i know members of this committee, that someone would also stoop so low to pad their own pockets by spewing a tale of caring for veterans when they're doing nothing of the kind.
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chairman collins, this hearing could not be more important. we thank you for holding it and we look forward to the testimony of our witnesses. >> thank you, senator casey. i want to acknowledge that senator brawn and senator blumenthal have joined us and we're now going to turn to our panel of witnesses. our first witness is ben wells from portland, maine. mr. wells is an air force veteran who participated in operation enduring freedom. he flew 35 combat missions, earned an air medal and was honorably discharged in 2013. he then had the wisdom to move to the great state of maine where he became involved in the vet to vet program. a local non-profit that matches veterans for companionship, mentorship, and other assistance.
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i will now turn to our ranking member to introduce our second witness. >> thank you, chairman collins. i'm pleased to introduce leverne foreman. all the way from herndon, in northumberland county. thank you for making the trip and we're grateful you're willing to be with us. he served in the u.s. air force, the u.s. army reserve as well as the national guard. he worked as a civilian employee for the army. he's here today to share with us what happened to him a few years ago when con artists stole money from him claiming it would go to a veterans organization. leverne later learned there was no organization. he reported what happened and it's possible he'll be able to help the prosecution of the scammers. i'd also like to welcome
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leverne's wife, doris, who is with us today, his daughter terry and son-in-law jeffrey who are also here. we're also grateful, leverne, as we are to all of our veterans today and we hope every day we're grateful for your service but especially for taking the time to be here. thank you. >> thank you. our next witness will be dewane richardson, the district attorney for three counties in mississippi. he has been a real leader in combatting these scams. first selected at the tender age of 30, one of the youngest das in the state's history, mr. richardson later became the first african-american to serve as president of the mississippi prosecutors association and finally, last but certainly not least, we will hear from
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inspector carol harris, the acting inspector in charge of the communications strategy group at the united states postal inspection service. inspector harris is also a lieutenant colonel in the u.s. marine corps reserves who served in iraq and kuwait. and was awarded the navy marine corps commendation medal. he now leads operation protect veterans for the postal inspection service and will discuss its efforts to combat fraud targeting our veterans. mr. wells, we'll begin with you. thank you all for being here. >> thank you. chairman collins, ranking member casey, members of the committee, thank you for having me here. it's an honor to speak about this issue. as you said, senator collins, i was an air force veteran, i got out in 2013 and relocated to maine in 2014.
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upon arriving there, i wanted to continue my dedication to service and i was looking for opportunities to volunteer while i applied to graduate schools. i found vet to vet maine and i liked what they had to say. they offered companionship for isolated veterans. senator collins indicated that there's a significant number of veterans in the state. what i would also like to emphasize is there's a significant number of elderly men and women in the state and veterans are no exception. what vet to vet maine seeks to address is the isolation of those veterans but also connect them with benefits that they likely qualify before and haven't been receiving. so, when vet to vet contacted me, i went in and connected me background check and got me trained up and connected me with a veteran force veteran. he was a maintainer on jet aircraft. over the course of several weeks, i was in his house once a
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week meeting with him and his wife. you know, conversation, coffee, taking him out to lunch, getting out of the house. it was clear to me they were isolated. they lived in wyndham, maine, which is not a metropolitan area. i was able to have a good connection with them. and i became aware that he had never in 60 years of being out of the military, been connected with the va in any way. i became aware his wife had had contact with the vet to vet maine program as a way to get respite care as he was in declining health. he had significant health problems, including physical issues, chronic pain and diabetes. at the time i saw him, they were spending hundreds of dollars on diabetes medication alone and living off a small pension from a telecommunications -- his work in telecommunications and his social security benefits. that became my first order of
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business, get him connected to the va and get the medical care, pharmaceutical care he not only qualified for and deserved, but really needed. in the process, i was able to help them fill out the paperwork. i contacted the vet to vet maine program to get him a case manager, make them aware of his needs in the home and see if there were other organizations that could help them out. in that process, she continued -- as paperwork was slow to process, as it always is, she continued to reach out. she saw an ad in the newspaper, i think it came with the coupons, for a program that was advertising free home care and respite care for veterans. free sounds really good to a person on a fixed income, so she contacted this organization. she had the foresight to reach out to me to sit in on this conversation. i accepted. the nature of this was two
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gentlemen showed up to the house offering free respite or in home care to them. their sales pitch was what they were going to do is they were going to assist them in obtaining a pension from the va and that would also allow them access to the aid and attendance program as you previously mentioned. what they wanted and what struck me, sort of the first red flag in the situation was that how they're going to finance this. they wanted my veteran to open up a separate checking account they had draft rights on so they could autodraft. the v.a. pays you direct deposit and they were going to auto deduct whatever pension and benefit they got. that's not out and out illegal or anything, but that's -- there's no conversation as to why that existed instead of regular payment methods. i started to ask questions. they then continued and said how they were going to get him to qualify the means test, which all these pension and benefits are means tested.
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he was slightly over. at which point, he started to describe a method they could report medical bills to the va to lower their total income and pass the means test. that's fine. except that even with medical bills, even with the hundreds of dollars in insulin, they weren't going to pass it. he suggested that they employ, in air quotes, their daughter, as a medical aide, which she was not qualified, trained or certified in, to do things like filling their prescriptions over the phone or going and picking up prescriptions and this sort. they could pay her, which they weren't going to, a stipend and then put that into their account. the fuzzy math is where i really threw down -- this wasn't a good idea. luckily, they had trusted me, i said they really shouldn't do this. and they were able to avoid the scam. they ended up going through the regular process.
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they got benefits, in-home care and respite care through va and other organizations. ultimately, he was moved to hospice and then passed. at least in the later stages of his life, he had that care and it didn't put significant financial strain on the veteran. thank you. >> thank you so much for intervening and caring enough to do so. i can't imagine what the final years of life would have been for this couple if they hadn't followed your advice. i'm sure that they would have lost everything they were getting that was in that separate checking account. mr. foreman? >> chairman collins, members of the committee, i thank you for inviting me to testify here today.
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it is an honor to be here and talk to you about veterans scams. my name is laverne foreman, and i'm 82 years old. i live in the hernden area in pennsylvania. i'm retired both from the civil service as well as the military. having served in the air force, the army reserves and the army national guard. i'm proud to be a veteran. for most part, people thank me for my service. it never occurred to me that someone would be so cold hearted to make a call and claim to care for veterans when in reality all they're doing is lining their own pockets. five years ago, i learned how reckless they can be. when i received a phone call from senator casey's office inviting me to testify before you today, i was pleased to accept the invitation and share with you what happened. it isn't easy for me to talk
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about this scam. what i'm doing today is an extension of my service. i feel a sense of responsibility to warn others who served and to be vigilant against scams. let me explain. in september of 2014, i received a call from an organization disabled and paralyzed veterans fund or dpvf requesting a donation. i was told in the conversation that the organization was dedicated to helping disabled and paralyzed veterans. it raised funds to support va hospital and veteran homelessness. i've donated to similar organizations in the past because of my concerns for and the sensitivity of my peers. i pledged at that time to send a
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one-time donation to dpbf for $20. however, when i received a pledge leter, the organization they sent me it showed i had pledged $25. i thought this was odd, however rather than arguing with them, i sent the $25 as listed. the following year, in 2015, dpbf called me again to request a donation. i pledged to give an amount that was given previously. again, when i received a pledge letter, it was a few dollars more than i had pledged on the phone. this time, $35. i grew even more suspicious, and
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-- but believed it was was just the way the fundraiser is trying to get more money. i tried calling the organization in washington -- they listed a washington, d.c. telephone number. but it was of no help. i ended up writing a letter to them to explain that i had agreed to a lower amount and i questioned their approach. i enclosed the check for the $35. i didn't want to get into an argument and i asked them at that time to remove my name from their contact list. i didn't want to hear from them again. in february of 2016, when i received my statement from my credit union, i noticed a check listed with a number that's not within the number sequence of my checks.
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i thought it was strange, so i called my credit union and they confirmed that it was a remotely generated check from paralyzed and disabled veterans fund. i was kind of shocked that they must have made a copy of my check and kept the routing and account number information. i hadn't spoken to this organization or sent a recent donation and i realized i was scammed. there's a lot of legitimate organizations that can serve as organizations, you know, like paralyzed veterans of american, disabled american veterans. i realized there's no such organization as the disabled and paralyzed veterans fund. at that point, i reported this matter to the pennsylvania attorney general's office. i was later contacted by the
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u.s. postal system, and i was glad to hear that there's an investigation and that there will be some kind of action taken against this organization. i know that i'm not -- i can be considered one of the lucky ones. i did not give a scammer a lot of money. and i noticed the fraudulent check immediately, but i know not everyone is as lucky as i am. the phony organizations and people who steal money by pretending to help veterans must be stopped. i never believed someone would stoop so low as to steal money and veterans from a veteran. these scam artists rip off innocent people and as a result contributions are diverted away from organizations that are actually trying to do something for the veterans. my loss may seem small, but i'm
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certain that these scammers have targeted thousands, if not millions, of more people. the total sum probably far exceeds anything i'll ever learn -- ever earn in my lifetime. and that is wrong. on behalf of veterans, i ask everyone to play their part. thank you again for inviting me to testify today. i hope by sharing my story, i can help someone from losing money to these types of scammers. i thank you. thank you, very much, mr. foreman, for coming forward and warning others. that's courageous of you and i'm sure you'll save others from going through what you did, even though you were able to stop it pretty quickly. district attorney richardson, welcome. >> chairman collins, ranking member casey, and members of the committee, i'm district attorney dwayne richardson.
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i represent the fourth judicial district of mississippi. thank you for the opportunity to testify before this committee about our office's investigation and prosecution of crimes committed. my office first became aware of these actions due to a single bad check. this check led to the unraveling of a fraud that amounted to millions of dollars stolen from the elderly, veterans and their families. -- was introduced to 89-year-old grace ward. she promised the ward family she would provide a 10% return of their investment, along with securing medicare benefits which would be used to offset the cost of living at the facility. the family presented them with a check for grace ward's life savings. when grace ward passed away, the family contacted who were
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sure they would repay their man se -- would repay their money. promises, theye delivered to the ward family on september 30th, 2011, in the amount of $192,000. this was to include the initial investment as well as $3000 in interest. and it was at this moment when she committed the crime of check fraud. grace's son contacted my office as the business had a location in my district. after learning the depth of these crimes, my office became determined to do everything possible to make this family whole and attempt to recoup their funds. my office's investigation lasted almost five years. she was tracked down after being listed in the riverside county mental health board's monthly meeting agenda. she was operating a senior veteran's consulting in riverside, california. with the assistance of the u.s.
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marshal service and other law enforcement agencies she was , arrested and brought back to mississippi. it was also at that time due to media publicity i began to receive phone calls from other victims from across the state. it was also at that time i learned of an investigation being conducted by a u.s. postal inspector. one of the additional victims i spoke to was a world war ii air force veteran. as he grew older and begin to show signs of alzheimer's, his children began to look for assisted living locations for him. staff members at one location introduced the family to the woman in 2011. the family was made the same fraudulent promises as the wards and she was able to convince that family to hand over control of $340,000 of their funds. she guaranteed that he would receive veterans benefits as well as the same return on his investment as she promised the wards.
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he went on to live three more years and it was not until his passing his family learned of the fraudulent scheme. on the same day of his funeral, a postal inspector contacted his son and told them of the schemes and on the same day that they gave control of their dad's $340,000, she used their money to purchase a race car and advertising for her son. ultimately, she was convicted in three counties in mississippi. wayne, pike, and sunflower. she was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison for all three counties together. in addition to the mississippi convictions, she was charged later in a 19 count federal indictment in 2015. she pled guilty to one count of indictment and was sentenced to 53 months in custody to run at the same time as she served the mississippi time. in the federal conviction, she
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was also ordered to pay over $2 million in restitution. after speaking to the victims, words cannot express the level of devastation she imposed on their lives. all of her victims were elderly citizens, some of whom were veterans. for the ward family, the crimes imposed a severe financial hardship. grace ward's one desire was that she would be able to provide for family after her death. in total, she was ordered to pay over $2.5 million in restitution between state and federal courts. to date, she has not paid one cent in restitution. she's only paid in all her crimes $50 towards a $100 mandatory federal assessment. a well-respected prosecutor has often said it's our duty to care for our widows and our elderly. what began as a complaint for a felony worthless check has grown
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into a greater problem in our society. victims describe her as smart, connected, and conniving. she found her victims at the very institutions that should have cared for and protected them. but when she presented them her proposals, she came to the meetings with all the right credentials and the right connections to achieve the results that the victims desired. in the end all she left each , family was an empty bank account and broken promises. thank you for the opportunity to testify before this committee. i look forward to answering any questions. >> thank you very much. i am very grateful for your compassion for the victims of these crimes in your determination to put these criminals behind bars. thank you. inspector harris? >> good morning, chairman collins, ranking member casey, and members of the committee. thank you for holding this hearing on veteran related
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scams. i'm the acting inspector in charge responsible for communications within the u.s. postal inspection service. the law enforcement crime prevention and security arm of the postal service. i started my career in government service when i joined the marine corp in 1990. i served 10 years of active duty including, duty in iraq. i continue to serve as a marine corp reservist. according to a recent survey veterans are twice as likely to , unknowingly participate in a scam as compared to the general population. the survey found that the vast majority of veterans encounter scams that have been tailored just for them. these would be veteran pension buyouts, fake charities and scams that offer special access to veterans benefits but for a fee. in these cases, the scammer makes it appear they represent a government agency or veteran organization or claim that they themselves serve in the military so they can create a sense of affinity. impostors like these know that members of the military have
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been trained to trust other service members and to honor the bonds of service. another finding from the survey found that veterans experience post traumatic stress at a rate more than double the general public. it can be difficult for a veteran to recognize when their otherwise good judgment has been temporarily clouded by what an experienced fraud operator is selling. in one case, postal investigators investigated a woman, who led vets to believe she was a certified advisor affiliated with the department of veterans affairs. she told veterans she could boost their pensions by making it appear they had fewer assets and could qualify for greater assistance. she offered to reinvest her clients' money in financial products that she would control. she failed to warn them she was jeopardizing their benefits with clever moves like these. in reality, the fraud operator never reinvested the money on the veterans' behalf. she took the money and spent it on herself. that is until she landed in jail.
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in another case, a fake charity led people to believe their donations would help disabled and paralyzed veterans, especially vets who are vulnerable to suicide. mr. foreman, another witness here, received one of those solicitations. he generously gave his donation that never went toward helping anyone the scammers who have been referred to the department of justice for prosecution. in 2017, aarp and the u.s. postal inspection service launched operation protect veterans. since that time we've been sharing tips on how vets can protect their personal information with the help of veterans organizations, library senior centers and 30,000 post offices across the country. we distribute these customized brochures and surveys. the survey has served two important purposes. first, it's a means for veterans to tell us what kinds of scams they're seeing, but more importantly, by filling out the survey and returning it, it's raised their awareness.
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even more we believe it's , boosted their immunity to fraud. when postal inspectors are asked how can consumers stay safe financially? we tell them just remember to stop and talk. if you receive a request to invest money or pay a fee, or speak to someone you've only known online, find a friend before you reach for your wallet. people who operate fraud schemes are successful because they're persuasive and because they've convinced us to keep it a secret. why? because scams only work when we're isolated from the people we know and trust at any age, but especially after we retire. we all need to make sure there's an extra pair of eyes on the decisions we make about our money. we need a trustworthy friend or family member. in the military, we refer to this as our foxhole buddy. we like to say, i have got your six. think of a clock face. i got your six is another way of saying i've got your back. when i was in a foxhole, my
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trusted toe person i be my eyes when i couldn't see. my buddy was up when i was down and when he was down, i was up. i use a lot of military jargon. i grew up in a household where it was used freely. my father served in combat in vietnam and my grandfathers served in world or two. -- in world war ii. service, honor and duty were household terms. i share this brochure with my dad. i told him dad, you have me to , talk to about money matters. but not everyone has someone to confide in. maybe you can help others. pass this brochure to your friends. be a foxhole buddy for someone else. before i conclude, i want to thank the committee for its efforts to stop fraudulent phone calls. we know the scams don't just happen over the telephone line. but the ease with which a telemarketer can influence others over the phone is unparalleled. postal inspectors tell consumers work with their phone service
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providers to stop robo and other unwanted calls. thank you for helping to keep fraudulent calls from ever ringing our phones in the first place. i appreciate the opportunity to share with you the work of the postal inspectors to help veterans and safeguard the american public from fraud. >> thank you very much, inspector harris. i know firsthand what a great job the postal inspection service does and i appreciate your passion for this cause. so thank you. mr. wells, mr. harris talked about how important it was to have someone that an older veteran can talk to. as i understand it, that's exactly what you did. could you tell us a little bit more about the vet to vet program and the training you received? >> absolutely.
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the vet to vet program does provide its volunteers with training to understand first and foremost how to connect with the veterans. contact them weekly, send them e-mails, follow up, see how they're doing. because they're going to be the eyes and ears in the household. how can you recognize if your veteran has a bunch of food that's in the refrigerator going bad, can you recognize if they're able to maintain an d upkeep themselves. maybe recognize some signs or symptoms of cognitive decline or mental health issues. really just sort of to be the eyes on the ground. should be eyes on the ground. nd as far as scams go, i offered training on how to recognize financial scams and nformation that had been perpetrated before. nd then, the big focus of what hat training was to allowville lun tears to understand the and r of organizations
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benefits that elderly and for in this ified state. we didn't have to have an intimate knowledge but recognize if there is a need we can refer back to the agency and they'd be ct people for legal benefits, for health care or fits, whatever the va state or just in the community. that they're the resource. t's talk about the scams that you helped prevent. a lot of times, the conartists or the internet to send an e-mail or solicitation comes as a phonyeman mentioned pr charity. if i understood you correctly, in this case, it was a flyer included in the local newspaper. and press harold, i assume. with other flyers is that
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correct? >> yes, ma'am. agency news letter for on aging and that is something ent out, like anyone, people junk mail andy as free care scams in the mail. so i think in many ways people ss on guard for that approach. was it difficult for to you veteran that older
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d you built m or ha up a relationship at that point? >> i don't think it was difficult. it was sad so-to-see the veteran was excited about this. relief. had some not mobile. and she was in her 80s so he was rtunity about the oppo and his wife, almost immediately said once i laid out why this is likely a bad idea and sounded se them at theexpo legaleast, expose them to roblems she, because of our relationship and what she'd seen and was on her husb
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board. >> one advantage is that there in post offices everywhere communities so tell us how this important formationyou can get in and they get more educated. advertising just this program. >> thank you for the question. already over 30,000 post office the country. real e lobby is valuable estate for the community. t's part of efforts to help spread the word and raise awareness beare placed brochures in lobby as cross the country.
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nd did that back this 2018 a we have received many responses believe that nd we've helped not only veterans but population by highlighting and and schemes out there to serve other hz in the community. >> listening to your story again, and hearing and telling reminded that this with easy for people to extra dollars after you knew it's more than you'd promised because of the dollar amount, you can see how easy it
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or someone to fall into a trap. without that, i probably would the same thing. and when you think about the u.s. number s, the is about 18 million veterans. 800,000.ate, it's over that i is the last mum connect 1200 the
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military on is from organizations. it on the balize phone. more net to ask question. as you referred to, use information to create a quote, remotely generated check, unget. art this,erm raise of type of check is legal but only had the account holder gives
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permission to be withdrawn in this way. shocked had ou're it. found out about o i brought to it your attention. there anything you wish credit union could have done to confirm id not give your consent? >> it would be nice if the financial inat this time yugs, the know the sequence of hecks that start by numeric sequence. there is ane is an asterisk to
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the check.check.
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getting worse? is it getting better? here are tools out there death logically if the institutions were on their game, you can figure this out comes rampant. >> from what i can tell it's depending on whether or not the scammers call it. what i've seen in this investigation is is started this action over ten years ago. seven it wasn't until
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years later she was convicted for crimes and i learned in cam she'd made contact with scammers and so who knows to r at extent they've done it o may still be doing it. that issing to be similar to madeov in this case so there is alot to be said we need to do of getting more
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involved in it. this?is agent for hat is the prognosis for down the road? interest and as long as there is commerce, there will be scams and schemes. alive and ght still well. example of a evolution had will work the way into
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our web. government ole approach. do you have methods and tarting to u're s it?vent messaging we bif to the public and american awssumer and we enforce the l this is e written so both. we've been doing both for decades. >> thank you. enator.ou s witnesses i work with the u.s. attorney a lot. of scams lp but think
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ring for cting and ca widows and elderly. and i can't help but think about elimination of the widow's tax.litary and i appreciate your work so much on helping us and i'm we can get that in our so i would like on my da buddy. i know these are difficult to prosecute. and
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is changing and ike add guys were two steps ahead. u need?ols do yo there other tools aware. it's going to continue what. additionalto give you tools on both state and federal to stop these guys in their tracks. >> thank you for questions, senator. the inspection service has been in consultation with the stice to seek ju
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xpansion of our subpoena so we canto be on par do more quicker to fight frauds we enforce to es maximize our resource. so what is something we're in consultation with the department f justice and we believe exploring that approach. your continued support of our every efforts, i applaud. i believe we're fersing criminal conspirators to evolve. right? >> thank you for the question. ehere what i've in thessed ther are a lot of businesses that
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g resourcesid plannin and specialists. ting chlth fit consul i think if confidence is register or have providing ions benefits services if they're reparer to ke a tax p sign off and put their names on they'reed lines and say so. nsible
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>> i urge you to look at the bill to update our money laundering statutes and we're hoping to get through and would actress just that issue of ben require a ship and list out there. so thank you. >> thank you. so much. rtant r having this impo hearing and thank you for you your testimony especially mr. foreman. i know many of you are not willing to come forward and share your testimony so thank and there for that
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is a special place in hell for these people scamming on our right who raise their hands and took an oath of office and they're now in a vulnerable place or older years, whatever age these people are going after them. ed to hole them accountable. these scams come this different forms as you shared. one of which is highlighted in arizona. have you civilians think they're meeting a military member on a they're serving overseas and need help this, is being roped inre
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o tieing love for veterans and military and willing to say we'll scam other civilians. so i don't know if you can share nything on thisser suspective so any e can perspectives on that? what else we can do to protect es.eran identifi everybody is getting scammed in this. > continuing expansion of the messaging in order to protect pii is something we should do. hearings like this. ft is a national epidemic. rom the government side, it's outside of government.
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hole buddy and having someone to check before decision. nancial >> thank you. now.you don't trust anyone you don't trust charities calling you and that can make an our t on those who need support. this is when i get letters and i brought them with me. d your trative notice an has been iting period marked as expired. nsense. and i knew something was off. my name is sally martha mick.
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this is a bank. savings bank and this is raying upon veterans. someone getting this, it looks government.om the you think something expired. like a legitimate loan but it's misleading and confusing. we're seeing more complaining things.ese these peretting one of week. imagine refinancing from closing robbing them of their resources, are you aware of
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these activities going on? they're robbing our veterans? >> yes. i have a punch of those and i throw them out. about my home and plenty of them that up ortgage is going to go i need communication. i have the where with all to nt and recognize it's not official but if i think veteran is would this comes and across, why not? ery much.you v senator cinema. >> thank you. that senator had
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come back. >> thank you for having this a aring as long as i've been prosecutor i was attorney general in connecticut. s i've tried to help veterans. e referred to his dad and comments about our seeking to be of our f service areas where i e tectinghat we fail is pro them from scams. secretary tter to
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wilke. thank you for being here and your service. i appreciate you sharing experience with us. and i imagine it's frustrating to be here. ou share you donate to veterans. that support this is if you
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legitimate ify a verses fraudulent one what would signs you'd point out to them? there anyway of tell something. >> some of those that i'm with.iar with a charity i never heard of i'm not going to donate. va do more in your
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experience? >> i'm thankful. recipient of care at the va. can always do more. any care reciate they're given. whether they ing resources.gh hud they be doing more?
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>> i can't speak to their say ams on that and i can hey've allowed us to extend blog.ging on their the postal st say and inspectors do great work. u.s. attorney that they're able to track
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down so i'm hopeful da can make better.them i appreciate your being here today. >> thank you. >> thank you. scott. tor vy and whoved in n you think about guys like my dad. sixth grade education and never had any money. someone came to buy one of his cars and never came back. he'd been an easy person to be a n2018ftc received 3
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million complaints can if you've g en a victim rather than goin on your record this goes on the record of the naern did it to you. i know va has a hot line to deal what else should we be doing? miss wells? we had a system to have it something that is kind of
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through the va so you get hoo this hoed of putting down name, social security number and have this aining at the end of urity on social sec your forms, always. so maybe, introduce a little bit as they're out there. >> a lot of us veterans don't computers and we aren't on new things. i've gone 21 years without a
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television. in the house.ter so i read the paper and to the radio. i get my ere information. imagea scenes, newspaper, radio. efforts being done on are going over my head. veterans re are older aren't in social media. >> i think similar to what of forman said it's a matter meeting victims where you find
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them. some may have opinion reached by mail. there are scammers out there because with veterans and our older population if they have money, scammers want that money finding and reaching veterans and reaching out for.r as what to look
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anced education and an e have they incredible infrastructure and i ppreciate you asking that question. >> thank you. >> thank you for today's hearing for protecting our receipt veterans from criminal broad sisters many one in ten arizona adult saz veteran. or than half of age 65 older. these men and women safe guard our freedom. one ible they target
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resident survived pearl harnor 2016 targeted by criminal fraudsters that robbed him of $43,000. jack watched his wife of nearly alzheimer's umb to disease but describes realizing when he had been a victim as the of his life. and last year i worked with seniors empouerring financial institutions to report suspected this abuse and fraud and year introducing the senior
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protect s act to seniors from financial crimes antispoofing robo calls but there is work to be done that leads to my first question. year, in this of ittee i shared a story magazine whose parents were stakes scam.weeps their family lost much of what they had saved. mily, are ike this fa there ways to help people financially recover after being robbed? requiring t help, restitution? if there are no ways to get iers tution what barr prevent from getting their live
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back?gs from criminal standpoint, one locate those assets. in instances they're spending it just as they get it. this is over a period of years and some of them she used money to pay benefits she told other victims they were receiving month to month. and she'd have spent money but others in order to pay aring interest him. if there is an avenue to tie
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to make payment. it's over a period of time. that familyily lost lost hundreds of millions of dollars. is that challenges they've spent what they had from before so assets do not exist. challenging.s it's i feel compelled to share network, if d watch they think they have a loved one
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getting victimized they may be work these lines and so is a they can help to get life. e back on track in >> thank you. you.k >> thank you for work to prosecute these scammers and bring justice to victims of financial fraud. and we know they're hard to track down. do you think we can be facilitating more coordination between investigation agencies?
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>> yes. more that we can do. in this instance i received line. later on down the no way to bring ictims or hold them accountable. > do you think we can centralize services? t them behind that? provide k resources to
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provide that service. we find it's not going to stop. if there is no communication to stop the ay and one moved to california. so. >> you know how to communicate but could you use help?
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do you think the federal government could be doing more to do you think the federal experts like you?to >> i will welcome help. our organization seeks to partner actively and we have ll in the past and will continue to do so. e believe in sharing information and using the whole of government approach to bring the full bear of law enforcement e best eration to get th impact. >> what else can congress do to ?rotect against fraudulent ones what roles should the federal ensure nt play to individuals that want to contribute can do so with full confidence that they're not scammed?
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> i do not know how they list.cate that >> thank you. wells, does the federal government need to step up and carry out fraud prevention activities designed to protect older americans? absolutely. run by one part time and one full time staffer. for is a drop in the bucket ow many veterans are in the state of main.
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so anyone with funding and that more ould make rebust. hat options do they have for justice? could a victim be able to get money back? turn to for help? >> the dwe of whether or not is a sad oney back conversation to have. i couldn't find the words to say it is not going to happen but they can get some sense of justice in the victims that i all they wanted
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was to have some benefits back. and knew everything they weren't going to get it back. you.hank i'm sorry you're a victim and thankful you're here to illuminate this issue for others. state of t the great evada home to 220,000 veterans and 20,000 service members axe cording to the attorney general st common scams are this fraudulent loan scams and it's such a problem, nevada is one of the top lee states per cap pita of reported identity theft.
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there is excellent work. nior ve the nevada se medicare patrol program. had our third extraf dpanza and they try to empower and medicare, medicaid fraud. n.d so o would you talk about training s. r volunteer
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>> we're also given awareness of e rams that can provide benefits. that is an important part. e a lot is going to curv the looking for.
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>> i think yours does a great ope we can fine a way o package your training and and another question centers o, when senior and churches and synagogues or community centers have events how do rans or seniors they know? them anyone have an idea about that? perhaps?tice, >> yes. centralized ing
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data base. does the work.on need somethingwe au.e better business bure , you're going to have these these are the one that's get the stamp of approval. maybe a way. re to see a to a fa
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booth there you're going to assume that someone screened it, imate.egit with sound alike charities and re, and generosity towards veterans is u deserve great praise for putting the know palacini artist tammy behind bars. this was a great win. deal with had to california as well. i'm grateful to you for not
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giving up and critical role you and d in tracking her down ing to hank you courag know many lost their live savings. to these unscrupulous individuals. june of be as early as next year is when she'll be g served only a fraction of the 20 years she was ichntenced against her wh
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runs concurrently. that makes me feel whether we need to look at penalties for this kind of fraud. ce for us?advi >> i would and i do. if you like, yes, she was sentenced to run consecutive. i wanted to make sure our sentence was the last one and ran after the rest of them. you notice the crimes committed and st our elderly veterans. in mississippi you're only equired to serve 25% of your time and can receive other cked off. get kno
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what they're angered about. lang county in baptist minister practiced for 25 years. brother wright. we working in our case, the communications about wright family. page took her brother in law's life savings.
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a nursing home and what in mississippi on federal level i don't know if ut there is e b enhanced punishment for crimes against the elderly but only on violent offenses. support is mend and two and a half million was ordered and i can e are still her victims out there.
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e put out a notice if something to ensure that and this is a different problem. thank you. >> thank you for that recommendation. she is a criminal. and what is tragic about this is are elderly ims
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they need that money. hey're in a nursing home with long term care costs and it's is so wrong there is no enhanced penalty when victims iving restitution they are older americans and serve their country.
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and now there is a release date of may 15th, 2020. what is disheartening is that we e ent just this much if in th more time tracking her down and brought back to mississippi and justice as she would have served custody. that is not fair to our victim. >> i agree with you. that is a good summary of what is wrong. you.k >> we made reference to letters actressed to va ilke.able robert w
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here is the progression of facts and information. aarp said nearly eight #% of eing targeted ed b by a scam related to veteran made a number of findings. but here's the basis of the -- here is the crux of the findings. the gao says the va receives reports of potential fraud and exploitation, but and here's the problem, the agency does not centrally collect or analyze the information to, number one, assess the prevalence of the scams, number two, inform outreach efforts, or number three, help law enforcement
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pursue scammers. so the gao sends the findings to the va. the va's response in part was recommending that an alternative approach be pursued that would be a referral process to the federal trade commission. the reason why virtually every body, every member of the committee signed our letter to the va is because we all concluded, not good enough, va. we don't just, you know, criticize them on a regular basis, but when the va responds to a gao report like that, and suggests some other agency should be taking responsibility or the full measure of responsibility for it, we had to send this letter. just for the record, here's what we are asking the v.a. in this letter not tough questions but , important ones. basically five questions. i will summarize them quickly. number one, has the va examined the extent to which america's veterans have been victimized by this type of scam?
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number two, has the v.a. -- or how has the va working with federal and state agencies and stakeholder groups to protect veterans? number three, what has the va done to educate veterans? very important that they do that. number four, how will the va's proposed response in response to gao's recommendation proer vied -- recommendation provide the agency with the ability to assess the prevalence of scams foreting veterans and allow outreach and education? i think it's a very reasonable question. number five and finally what plans does the va have to increase these efforts? what further legislative or regulatory authority does the va need to do so? i think very reasonable questions. if the v.a. comes back to us and says, you the congress needs to give us more authority, we should work on that. if they say you, the congress
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needs to give us more appropriations, we'll work on that. but the response to say, this is a job for the federal trade commission or some other agency just isn't good enough. so that's why they're getting a letter. and we don't always agree on everything around here, but we agree on this. madam chair, thanks for the time for that. >> thank you very much. and you know that i totally agree with you that the v.a. could do more in this area. just because they're a central point of contact for so many veterans. and i know i said i'd asked my last question, but mr. harris, just a very quick for you. onethis excellent brochure that the postal service inspection service has collaborated with the aarp on, is this also in addition to being in post office lobbies, is it also at v.a.
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clinics, and hospitals and sea box community veterans centers? >> thank you for that question, chairman collins. we've been in consultation with the department of veterans affairs seeking to get distribution through their network. to date we haven't. >> well, that is something i can assure you we will follow up on that, because a lot of veterans have contact with the v.a. and with community based clinics. and this would be a great publication for them to pick up. so thank you for your good work. i want to thank all of our witnesses for their contributions to our hearing today. as we have heard, americans, veterans are now confronting a new enemy and that is relentless criminals. i am not going to call them scammers or con artists.
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let's call them what they are, they are criminals who are seeking to steal the life savings from our veterans, from those who have done their part and served our country. and to profit from their personal information as well. sometimes these criminals seek to perpetuate the same scams that we've examined many times, but even more insidious, oftentimes these criminals are targeting our veterans with the kinds of schemes that we've heard described today. and we've learned that there are many ways to fight these schemes that are targeting our veterans. operation protect veterans seeks to prevent scams through education. vet to vet in maine uses camaraderie between veterans as a way to fight back. veterans like mr. foreman who
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are also on the lookout for their fellow veterans and inspector harris as well, also play an important role. and of course there's no substitute for the kind of persistence that d.a. richardson and his staff demonstrated in tracking down and prosecuting these criminals. like senator casey, i want the v.a. to step up its game as well and assist us in protecting our veterans. i am very appreciative of your all being here today. committee members will have until friday, november 15, to submit questions for the record. and i will turn to senator casey for any final comments. >> chairman collins, thank you for holding this very, very important hearing today. in my second line of my closing
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remarks, i crossed out scammers and con artists and put criminals. so i'm going to read it as she suggested. the criminals, because that's the right word, the criminals who steal from our veterans are the worst kind. i said in an earlier interview the scum of the earth. , i don't know what more i can say. they're just so many ways to describe how bad they are. after a commitment to serve our country and defend our freedom, veterans should not have to fear answering the phone or being confronted by perpetrators of fraud. no one should, veteran or not. as i said to laverne earlier, i'm not a veteran, but i would have sent the 25 and the 35 or the 20, then the 25 and the 35. i think a lot of people would. this committee has consistently worked to combat frauds and scams and will continue to do so. but i am pleased that we held this hearing today ahead of the veterans day holiday coming up next week.
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have sent the 25 and the 35 or the criminals perpetrating these will undoubtedly double down in the coming days, which means those of us trying to prevent them from being successful must also double down. and i hope the v.a. will do that as well. so i want to thank the chairman again for her willingness to have this hearing and thank you to each and every one of our witnesses for being here today. and of course thank you to our veterans for what they have contributed to our country, and we'll say happy veterans' day early. thank you very much. as the daughter of a world war ii veteran who was wounded twice in the battle of the bulge, this is an issue that asd matters greatly to me as well. i'm sure we'll continue our efforts to combat it as i know our witnesses will. so thank you all for being here. this hearing is now adjourned. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the
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national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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announcer 1: earlier today adam schiff announced his committee will hold the first open hearings on the impeachment inquiry against president trump next week. on wednesday, november 13 and friday. a look at his comments now. good morning. we are in the middle of a deposition involving ambassador hale, who is the third most senior official at the state department and a top career official at the state department. so i will have to keep thi

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