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Senators Lankford and Heitkamp Introduce Bill To Punish Fraudulent Use of Federal Retirement Benefits

WASHINGTON, DC— Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, today introduced the Representative Payee Fraud Prevention Act of 2015 (S. 1576), a bill that would crack down on federal retirement benefit fraud and misuse.

Specifically, the legislation would give U.S. Attorneys the statutory authority to prosecute retiree representatives who misuse funds from the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Because of an increase in embezzlement of government benefits by dishonest representatives of retirees, legislative solutions are needed to help prevent the misuse of these retirement funds that the government pays.

Just as millions of Americans do, many individuals across the country work for decades as federal employees to earn a living and save for retirement. When they retire, those saved funds and pensions help them support themselves and their families. However, retirees who require a financial representative to help manage these payments – as well as minors and those with mental disabilities who receive needed federal benefits – currently don’t have the protections they need to make sure their payments are handled properly. 

“It’s important that the Federal Employees Retirement System and Civil Service Retirement System work as intended for federal employees and are protected from fraud,” said Lankford. “Sadly, caretaker misuse of these benefit payments is becoming more prevalent. The Representative Payee Fraud Prevention Act of 2015 gives U.S. Attorneys the statutory authority to prosecute those who steal funds of retirees. Many government workers devote their lives to public service – we must fight the embezzlement of their benefits to ensure a more reliable retirement for them and their families.”

“Many folks in North Dakota and throughout the country dedicate their careers to public service, from reviewing oil and gas drilling applications to catching criminals and keeping our communities safe. Just as so many other Americans do, federal workers rely on their savings and pensions which they worked hard for to retire with dignity,” said Heitkamp. “Most financial caregivers are loved ones who selflessly step in to manage the finances for retirees who are unable to do so, but we have heard about a few bad actors who are stealing that money from retirees. Such harsh actions deserve harsh punishments. Our bipartisan bill would help deter these activities by imposing criminal penalties on financial caregivers who prey on some of our most vulnerable federal retirees and beneficiaries. By taking this commonsense step, we can provide needed protections for these individuals and families and make sure they are treated with the respect and care they deserve.”

This bill classifies the crime of misusing federal retirement funds as a ‘felony’ which will deter deceitful caretaker behavior and provide the same protections that Social Security and Veterans payees currently receive.

The Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management jurisdiction includes the federal workforce and federal employee issues. FERS and CSRS are the primary retirement funds of federal workers and they’re managed by the Office of Personnel Management.