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Vincent Ochoa, left, Patrick McGuire, center, and Mark Melancon, right, all veterans of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, pose for a photograph following the All American Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the military base then called Fort Bragg, on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, in Fort Liberty, N.C. (AP Photo/Michelle R. Smith)

The White House announced on Nov. 10 that President Joe Biden launched a task force designed to protect military veterans from scams and predatory actors. The announcement follows recent warnings from the Department of Veterans Affairs about scams targeting veterans who are newly eligible for benefits under the 2022 PACT Act.

“Supporting those who wear the uniform is a commitment that unites all Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – and it’s why the President has made supporting our veterans a core pillar in his Unity Agenda for the nation,” the administration said in a statement.

The new Veteran Scam and Fraud Evasion (VSAFE) campaign and task force will be part of an all-hands effort involving the Departments of Veterans Affairs, State, Education, and Defense, along with the Social Security Administration, Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The VA will produce public service announcements and a fraud tool kit to educate the public about scams and to provide tips designed to prevent veterans from being defrauded. The Federal Trade Commission will share scam reports on its nationwide database, which is used by federal and state law enforcement agencies. The FCC will work with phone companies to prevent robocalls that are used to cold-call veterans and defraud them.

According to data published by the Federal Trade Commission in February, military retirees and veterans reported $292 million lost to fraud in 2022. There were more than 73,000 fraud reports among that group in that year, compared to over 7,000 reports filed by active-duty members and over 5,000 reports filed by  reservists and National Guard members.

Among military consumers, the most frequently reported type of scams were imposter scams, where a scammer pretends to offer a service or benefit in exchange for money, usually when that service or benefit is freely available.

The VA released a warning in Nov. 2022 telling veterans that scammers were taking advantage of the PACT Act, which expanded veterans’ benefits, as a new opportunity to commit fraud.

Biden signed the legislation into law in August 2022, increasing VA health benefits to service members who have been exposed to toxic burn pits (used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) and Agent Orange (used in the Vietnam War).

The department reported in August that it had processed a record 1.65 million claims in the 2022 fiscal year and attributed part of this increase to the new law.

Those claims can be directly filed with the government, but scammers have been misinforming veterans and attempting to solicit payments in exchange for filing claims.

A July 2023 poll released by AARP found that 63% of veterans surveyed said they were not aware that they could receive free assistance from the VA to sign up for PACT Act and other benefits. One in six respondents also told AARP that they had been contacted by someone claiming to be from the VA offering assistance to sign up. Many of those contacted were told they could secure a lucrative payout if they followed through with the process.

“Information and outreach are key to veterans protecting themselves and family members from scams and fraud,” AARP said.

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