Task Force agrees to pursue “no wrong door approach” for veterans and service members to receive resources and report fraud and scams
On Tuesday, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, National Economic Advisor Lael Brainard, and Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden convened the first meeting of the Veteran Scam and Fraud Evasion (VSAFE) Task Force to discuss implementation of a “no wrong door” approach for veterans and service members to access reporting tools and resources to combat fraud. Fraud against veterans and service members is widespread. From 2015-2019, the Federal Trade Commission received 163,000 fraud reports from veterans and nearly 13,000 from active-duty service members. Furthermore, veterans face particularly high risks for fraud with the median loss for veterans from fraud 44% higher than other civilians. In November, as part of his Unity Agenda for the nation, President Biden launched the VSAFE campaign and task force to combat fraud and scams perpetrated against veterans, service members, and their families. His announcement included a set of actions the Task Force will tackle including releasing a fraud prevention tool kit and creating a one-stop shop for resources and reporting tools.
At the meeting, Administration officials spoke to the actions their agencies are currently taking to address fraud against veterans and service members, as well as outlined next steps towards implementing the “no wrong door” approach.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced they will establish a new permanent office to coordinate the work of the VSAFE Task Force, ensuring a unified whole-of-government approach. VA has also stood up a new interagency planning team focused specifically on protecting Veterans from claims sharks and other fraudulent activities. This builds on the VA’s commitment to conduct a 10-stop nationwide listening tour of veterans in populations that are highly targeted by predatory actions, release a fraud prevention tool kit, and publish a series of public service announcements unpacking different forms of fraud.
- The Department of Defense (DoD) spoke to their work providing financial literacy training to all service members and optional financial literacy courses for families, including topics on military consumer and credit protection, throughout the military lifecycle and at personal milestones. Additionally, the DoD has included the VSAFE toolkit and VSAFE “Do’s and Don’ts” to their military support network, including on Military OneSource and to over 2,000 Military and Family Life Counselors to help ensure service members know how to access these critical resources.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) spoke to its ongoing work to serve the military community through MilitaryConsumer.gov, and the impact of their recently finalized Combating Auto Retail Scams (CARS) rule that prohibits bait-and-switch tactics and junk fees. Auto-related issues are in the FTC’s top ten report categories for military consumers, and on average servicemembers have twice as much auto debt as civilians. The CARS rule provides clear protections for members of the military and their family who are often targeted with junk fees and deceptive information.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) spoke to their efforts to crack down on scams and frauds that go after veterans’ benefits, rein in data brokers that may misuse the sensitive and personal data of service members and veterans, and root out digital payment app schemes that target veterans. The CFPB is working with the VA to address reports that unscrupulous actors have misled some veterans into paying thousands of dollars in claim preparation fees. The CFPB is also acting to address data brokers’ misuse of service members’ and veterans’ personal information. Finally, last month, the CFPB proposed to extend its oversight to larger nonbank companies that offer services like digital wallets and payments apps, which the CFPB previously found to pose a unique heightened risk to veterans and service members.
- The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) has already taken actions to block active robocalling scams that have resulted in a 99% drop in auto warranty robocalls and an 88% drop in student loan scam robocalls. The FCC will build upon these efforts by working to identify the originators of scam calls targeting veterans and service members to enable it to order phone companies to block these calls.
- The Department of Education discussed how they are implementing regulations to protect veterans from predatory for-profit colleges and created the most effective ever gainful employment rule that will support veterans and service members who enroll in career training programs. In addition, the Department has approved more than $22.5 billion in debt relief from more than 1.3 million borrowers whose colleges took advantage of them, closed suddenly, or are covered by related court settlements, which can often include veterans and service members that are aggressively recruited by these institutions.
Participants also agreed on new actions to implement the President’s vision of a “no wrong door” approach for veterans and service members to access resources and reporting tools to address fraud. Specifically, agency leaders agreed to collaboratively draft shared call scripts, training, and procedures for call center staff regarding fraud response routing and information to improve the veteran experience in the short term. Furthermore, the White House will convene an interagency working group to evaluate options to implement the no wrong door approach and report back to task force leadership by the end of the first quarter of 2024.
These actions build on Biden-Harris Administration’s work to support veterans, service members, their families, caregivers and survivors . In August 2022, President Biden signed the PACT Act, the most significant expansion of benefits and services for toxic exposed veterans in more than 30 years to strengthen health care benefits to veterans and survivors. VA has been committed to supporting veterans by delivering more benefits and services than ever before, this includes expanding eligibility for low-or no-cost health care to all living World War II veterans, awarding $105 million in grants for community-based organizations to deliver and coordinate suicide prevention programs, and issuing $1 billion in funding to community organizations to support housing, transitional housing, and case management for veterans experiencing and at risk of experiencing homelessness. President Biden has also taken executive action to support veterans, signing executive orders to strengthen the economic security of military and veteran spouses and survivors and to increase access to quality child-care and long-term care of Americans, including for veterans.
The discussion included the following participants:
- Denis McDonough, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary
- Lael Brainard, National Economic Advisor
- Neera Tanden, Domestic Policy Advisor
- Kathleen Hicks, Department of Defense Deputy Secretary
- Rohit Chopra, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director
- Lina Khan, Federal Trade Commission Chair
- Jessica Rosenworcel, Federal Communications Commission Chair
- Danny Werfel, Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service
- James Kvaal, Department of Education Under Secretary for Education
- Ben Mizer, Department of Justice Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General
- Dawn Bystry, Social Security Administration Acting Associate Commissioner