The Representative Payee Fraud Prevention Act of 2015 gives federal attorneys the power to prosecute retiree representatives who misuse funds from the Federal Employee Retirement and Civil Service Retirement Systems.
It also provides federal employees with the same protections as veterans and Social Security recipients. The bipartisan bill — introduced on June 15 by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) — classifies the misuse of retirement funds as a felony.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the bill on June 24.
Lankford and Heitkamp’s bill cites an increase in embezzlement of government benefits as the reason for introducing the legislation.
“I’m pleased the Senate has passed this bill to protect the retirement and annuities of federal employees all across America from caretaker misuse and fraud,” said Lankford in a June 15 statement. “We must fight against the embezzlement of federal government civil worker benefits to ensure a stable retirement for them and their families.”
Under the representative payee program, a person or an organization manages benefits for recipients who are unable to do so for themselves.
Prior to the bill passing, retirees needing financial representatives to manage payments, minors and those with mental disabilities receiving federal benefits were not protected from fraud misuse.
“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.” Lankford said.