Kathy Welsh

Kathy Welsh

WASHINGTON – Two pieces of legislation authored by Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) passed the House of Representatives as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Passed by a vote of 344-81, the NDAA reauthorizes important national defense programs and included Rep. Maloney’s legislation to cut down on veteran’s disability claims wait times, and his bill to protect servicemembers from predatory debt collectors.

After a 2016 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs found that an alarming number of members of the armed services were targets of predatory debt collection methods, Rep. Maloney authored the Protecting Servicemembers from Debt Collectors Act to ensure the Department of Defense provides clear protections for servicemembers from these predatory practices. The report pointed to the fact that, of all of their complaints received for the year, a shocking 46 percent of complaints from servicemembers were regarding debt collection practices. Last year, Rep. Maloney’s legislation was included in the FY 2017 NDAA and passed the House but was not passed by the Senate.

“I was disgusted when I heard that debt collectors were targeting our nation’s heroes by calling their superior officers. Third party debt collectors aren’t allowed to just call up someone’s boss in the private sector and harass them, in fact all Americans are protected from overly aggressive tactics by these guys. These protections aren’t being extended to our servicemembers and that’s ridiculous and it’s wrong. That’s why I got this legislation going to make sure the DoD updates its policies and ensure these debt collectors cut it out and stop inappropriately harassing our servicemembers and their commanding officers,” said Rep. Maloney.

Rep. Maloney’s Disabled Veterans Red Tape Reduction Act of 2017 also passed as part of NDAA. This legislation allows veterans to have their medical examinations done by physicians outside the VA system to help process veterans’ disability claims faster. Currently, 20% of claims are processed through physicians outside the VA system, but the program is set to expire this year. Without action from Congress to extend this important authorization, the VA system would be even more overburdened and we could see a return to the days of massive disability claims backlogs. Rep. Maloney has passed similar versions of this bill in 2013 and 2015.

“As the son of a disabled veteran, I know our veterans deserve better than long wait times and bureaucratic red tape standing between them and the benefits they earned while serving our country. This legislation makes sure we keep in place a critical tool the VA needs to continue fighting the backlog of disability claims,” said Rep. Maloney. “Because of this program our veterans are able to see doctors outside the VA system and get the care they need and deserve.”

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