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Representative Payee Fraud Prevention Act of 2019

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 5, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5214, the Representative Payee Fraud Prevention Act.

Federal employees often dedicate decades of their lives to public service. When they retire, those Federal employees receive their hard-earned retirement benefits. Currently, the Federal Government issues payments to more than 2 million retirees and more than half a million survivor annuitants each year. Annuitants receive an average of $2,500 a month.

If a Federal annuitant becomes incapacitated in some way, a representative payee may be appointed. A representative payee is a person who receives and manages benefits on behalf of another person who is not fully capable of managing their own benefits. Certainly, things like mental illness, disability, or long-term illness are just a few examples of situations where a payee may step in and provide that counsel.

Obviously, as we look at this, a representative payee has a duty to use financial benefits to assist with the care and well-being of the intended beneficiary. Surprisingly, though, it is not a crime for a representative payee to commit financial fraud against an incapacitated Federal retiree. However, under the Social Security Act, it is a crime to do so.

I have always assumed that this type of financial abuse of retired Federal employees was also a crime. But right now, under Federal law, it is not.

As the chairwoman from New York mentioned, this is a commonsense piece of legislation. I would like to thank my colleague, Ms. Tlaib, for her leadership on this.

This bill will make it a crime to embezzle Federal retirement benefits as a representative payee. If convicted, the representative payee could be subject to criminal fines and up to 5 years in prison. Obviously, this is a protection for our Federal workforce.

Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York. Tlaib).

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Mr. MEADOWS. Mr. Speaker, I certainly would rise in support of this legislation. I thank the gentlewoman from Michigan for her kind words. Ms. Tlaib has been leading on this.

The gentlewoman is right. Chairman Cummings had an infectious way of bringing people together, and I rise in support of this legislation as a tribute to his leadership and to her leadership.

Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York. Mr. Speaker, I urge passage of H.R. 5214. I thank Elijah Cummings for his hard work on this bill, too, and my colleagues, Mr. Meadows and Ms. Tlaib, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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