It’s time to protect our veterans

America’s veterans have contributed greatly to our nation’s success. Their service — and in many cases exceptional sacrifices — are a source of pride to all right-thinking citizens. It’s hard to believe that as aging veterans seek to avail themselves of the government benefits, earned through their patriotic endeavors, some unscrupulous individuals and companies seek to exploit their vulnerability.

Unfortunately, a new report from the federal Government Accountability Office, usually referred to simply as the GAO, reveals a disgusting scandal. The GAO concludes that as many as 200 companies are charging veterans excessive fees for assistance in helping them secure essential benefits to which their service entitles them. All too often, entities not properly accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs are taking advantage of the need aging veterans have for assistance to impose unreasonable and unmerited fees for that help.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst is demanding government action to protect these American heroes. She is urging her colleagues in Congress to quickly pass the Financial Refuge for Every Elderly (FREE) Veteran Act.

“Veterans in Iowa and across the country are owed the benefits they’ve earned in service to our country, and anyone attempting to take advantage of these heroes for financial gain should not only be ashamed of themselves but face serious consequences,” Ernst said. “This bill will protect our veterans from these ‘pension poachers,’ assist those veterans who have fallen prey, and ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely at the VA.”

The Iowa Republican also chastised her fellow lawmakers for failing to address this problem sooner.

“There’s simply no excuse for that and I hope my colleagues will take action now,” Ernst said.

The Messenger strongly agrees. This legislation needs prompt approval.

The proposed legislation would provide education to veterans about these unsavory scams to alert them to the danger. It also establishes severe penalties for individuals or companies found guilty of exploiting veterans. Those offenders would be subject to major fines and possible imprisonment.

Ernst, herself a combat veteran, has become an important champion of the U.S. military and of those heroes who have worn or nation’s uniforms. Her tireless efforts on behalf of veterans help make sure that others in Congress don’t overlook the importance of government action to aid veterans. She also is determined to protect veterans from charlatans who would exploit their vulnerabilities as they grow older. We commend Ernst for her important work on behalf of these American patriots.

The above editorial was published Nov. 27 by the Fort Dodge (Iowa) Messenger. Its views are its own.

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