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115th Congress     }                                         {   Report
                          HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session        }                                         {  115-599

======================================================================



 
             PREVENTING CRIMES AGAINST VETERANS ACT OF 2017

                                _______
                                

 March 14, 2018.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

   Mr. Goodlatte, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 506]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the 
bill (H.R. 506) to amend title 18, United States Code, to 
provide an additional tool to prevent certain frauds against 
veterans, and for other purposes, having considered the same, 
report favorably thereon with an amendment and recommend that 
the bill as amended do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
The Amendment....................................................     1
Purpose and Summary..............................................     2
Background and Need for the Legislation..........................     2
Hearings.........................................................     3
Committee Consideration..........................................     3
Committee Votes..................................................     3
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     3
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures........................     3
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate........................     3
Duplication of Federal Programs..................................     4
Disclosure of Directed Rule Makings..............................     5
Performance Goals and Objectives.................................     5
Advisory on Earmarks.............................................     5
Section-by-Section Analysis......................................     5
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported............     5

                             The Amendment

    The amendment is as follows:
    Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act 
of 2017''.

SEC. 2. ADDITIONAL TOOL TO PREVENT CERTAIN FRAUDS AGAINST VETERANS.

  (a) In General.--Chapter 63 of title 18, United States Code, is 
amended by adding at the end the following:

``Sec. 1352. Fraud regarding veterans' benefits

  ``(a) Whoever knowingly executes, or attempts to execute, any scheme 
or artifice to defraud an individual of veterans' benefits, or in 
connection with obtaining veteran's benefits for that individual, shall 
be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than five years, or 
both.
  ``(b) In this section--
          ``(1) the term `veteran' has the meaning given that term in 
        section 101 of title 38; and
          ``(2) the term `veterans' benefits' means any benefit 
        provided by Federal law for a veteran or a dependent or 
        survivor of a veteran.''.
  (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections at the beginning of 
chapter 63 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the 
end the following new item:

``1352. Fraud regarding veterans' benefits.''.

                          Purpose and Summary

    H.R. 506 creates a new section 1352 in chapter 63 of title 
18, United States Code, to penalize fraudsters that knowingly 
execute, or attempt to execute, a scheme or artifice to defraud 
a veteran of his or her benefits, or in connection with 
obtaining that veteran's benefits, by imposing a fine, 
imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

                Background and Need for the Legislation

    Under current law, only agents or attorneys who have met 
all standard qualifications and standards prescribed by the 
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may charge a small fee to 
assist a veteran or claimant in an appeals case.\1\ A person 
who is not a VA-approved agent or attorney is prohibited from 
charging any fee for assisting a veteran in filing a claim or 
appeal with the VA. However, there is no criminal or financial 
penalty for breaking this law.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ 38 U.S.C. Sec. 5904.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Consequently, in recent years financial predators across 
the country have targeted veterans, many of whom are elderly 
and live in low-income housing. These criminals offer to help 
veterans with their cases, claim to get their benefits approved 
in record time, charge fees that are often in the thousands of 
dollars, and then provide them with little or no assistance. 
This specific conduct--holding in-person seminars or meetings 
at a veteran's home or assisted living facility--probably does 
not fall within the confines of the mail or wire fraud 
statutes, as it would if the fraudster called a veteran on the 
phone, sent them an email, or mailed them a letter with the 
intent to defraud.
    The introduced version of H.R. 506 addressed this problem 
by creating a new section 1041 in chapter 47 of title 18, U.S. 
Code, to penalize fraudsters who knowingly engage in a scheme 
to defraud a veteran of his or her benefits, or in connection 
with obtaining that veteran's benefits, by imposing a fine, 
imprisonment of up to five years, or both.
    During markup, the Committee adopted a manager's amendment, 
offered by Chairman Goodlatte, which made two major changes to 
the bill. The manager's amendment was developed following 
technical assistance provided by the Department of Justice. 
First, the amendment replaced the phrase ``engages in a scheme 
or artifice to defraud'' with the phrase ``executes or attempts 
to execute a scheme or artifice to defraud.'' That latter 
phrase, ``executes,'' is more commonly understood by the courts 
and is well-defined in case law. In contrast, the term 
``engage'' is vague and could lead to unnecessary litigation. 
The term ``executes'' is also the term currently used in 
existing fraud offenses. This change was made for clarity and 
to ensure consistent application of the statute.
    Second, the amendment placed the new criminal statute in 
chapter 63, ``Mail Fraud and Other Fraud Offenses,'' rather 
than in title 47, which is home to false statement crimes. This 
change will promote consistency in title 18, by ensuring the 
statute (which will be section 1352 of title 18) is 
appropriately placed alongside other offenses criminalizing 
fraudulent conduct.

                                Hearings

    The Committee on the Judiciary held no hearings on H.R. 
506. However, nearly identical legislation passed the full 
House in the 114th Congress, by a vote of 411-0.

                        Committee Consideration

    On January 12, 2018, the Committee met in open session and 
ordered the bill (H.R. 506) favorably reported, with an 
amendment, by voice vote, a quorum being present.

                            Committee Votes

    In compliance with clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, the Committee advises that there 
were no recorded votes during the Committee's consideration of 
H.R. 506.

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee advises that the 
findings and recommendations of the Committee, based on 
oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the 
descriptive portions of this report.

               New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures

    Clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives is inapplicable because this legislation does 
not provide new budgetary authority or increased tax 
expenditures.

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee sets forth, with 
respect to H.R. 506, the following estimate and comparison 
prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office 
under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974:
                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                  Washington, DC, January 18, 2018.
Hon. Bob Goodlatte, 
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary,
U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 506, the 
Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2017.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Mark 
Grabowicz.
            Sincerely,
                                                        Keith Hall.
    Enclosure.

cc:
        Honorable Jerrold Nadler
        Ranking Member




        H.R. 506--Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 2017


As ordered reported by the House Committee on the Judiciary on January 
                                10, 2018




    H.R. 506 would establish a new federal crime against 
defrauding individuals of veterans' benefits. As a result, the 
government might be able to pursue cases that it otherwise 
would not be able to prosecute. CBO expects that the bill would 
apply to a relatively small number of offenders, however, so 
any increase in costs for law enforcement, court proceedings, 
or prison operations would not be significant. Any such 
spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated 
funds.
    Because those prosecuted and convicted under H.R. 506 could 
be subject to criminal fines, the federal government might 
collect additional fines under the bill. Criminal fines are 
recorded as revenues, deposited in the Crime Victims Fund, and 
later spent without further appropriation action. CBO expects 
that any additional revenues and direct spending would not be 
significant because the legislation would probably affect only 
a small number of cases.
    Because enacting H.R. 506 would affect direct spending and 
revenues, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. However, CBO 
estimates that any such effects would be insignificant in any 
year.
    CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 506 would not increase net 
direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four 
consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.
    H.R. 506 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Mark Grabowicz. 
The estimate was approved by H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                    Duplication of Federal Programs

    No provision of H.R. 506 establishes or reauthorizes a 
program of the Federal government known to be duplicative of 
another Federal program, a program that was included in any 
report from the Government Accountability Office to Congress 
pursuant to section 21 of Public Law 111-139, or a program 
related to a program identified in the most recent Catalog of 
Federal Domestic Assistance.

                  Disclosure of Directed Rule Makings

    The Committee finds that H.R. 506 contains no directed rule 
making within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. Sec.  551.

                    Performance Goals and Objectives

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee states that H.R. 506 
creates a new section in title 18, United States Code, to 
penalize fraudsters who knowingly execute, or attempt to 
execute, a scheme or artifice to defraud a veteran of his or 
her benefits, or in connection with obtaining that veteran's 
benefits.

                          Advisory on Earmarks

    In accordance with clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, H.R. 506 does not contain any 
congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff 
benefits as defined in clause 9(e), 9(f), or 9(g) of rule XXI.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

    The following discussion describes the bill as reported by 
the Committee.
    Section 1. Short Title. This section cites the short title 
of the bill as the ``Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act of 
2017.''
    Sec. 2. Additional Tool to Prevent Certain Frauds Against 
Veterans. This section creates a new section in the ``Mail 
Fraud and Other Fraud Offenses'' chapter of title 18, United 
States Code, to prevent certain frauds against veterans, i.e.:

``1352. Frauds regarding veterans' benefits.

    ``(a) Whoever knowingly executes, or attempts to execute, 
any scheme or artifice to defraud a veteran of veterans' 
benefits, or in connection with obtaining veteran's benefits 
for that veteran, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned 
not more than five years, or both.
    ``(b) In this section--
          ``(1) the term `veteran' has the meaning given that 
        term in section 101 of title 38; and
          ``(2) the term `veterans' benefits' means any benefit 
        provided by Federal law for a veteran.''.
    (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections at the 
beginning of chapter 63 of title 18, United States Code, is 
amended by adding at the end the following new item:

``1352.  Frauds regarding veterans' benefits.''.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (new matter is 
printed in italic and existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

TITLE 18, UNITED STATES CODE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *



PART I--CRIMES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


            CHAPTER 63--MAIL FRAUD AND OTHER FRAUD OFFENSES


Sec.
1341. Frauds and swindles.
     * * * * * * *
1352. Fraud regarding veterans' benefits.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 1352. Fraud regarding veterans' benefits

  (a) Whoever knowingly executes, or attempts to execute, any 
scheme or artifice to defraud an individual of veterans' 
benefits, or in connection with obtaining veteran's benefits 
for that individual, shall be fined under this title, 
imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
  (b) In this section--
          (1) the term ``veteran'' has the meaning given that 
        term in section 101 of title 38; and
          (2) the term ``veterans' benefits'' means any benefit 
        provided by Federal law for a veteran or a dependent or 
        survivor of a veteran.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *