TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Monday that will allow for harsher penalties in fraud cases against veterans and military families.
HB 1223 was passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate this spring and went into effect Monday as Scott signed the bill at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
"I'm very appreciative of anyone who is willing to put on the uniform, defend our freedom and put their life at risk," Scott said. "We must do everything in our power to protect those who serve our nation from these predatory practices."
Scott pointed to examples of funeral homes and services that targeted veterans and charged extra fees for services like burial in a national cemetery, which is available for free to all veterans.
The bill will create a civil penalty for fraud against veterans and military families, along with guaranteed restitution in those cases.
"We're sending a message here today. If you try to scam our military, you are not going to get away with it," Attorney General Pam Bondi said. "If you're over there fighting for us, we are going to be here fighting for you every single day."
Bondi worked alongside legislators and Holly Petraeus, military affairs specialist with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and wife of former-CIA director David Petraeus, to get the bill passed.
"This law is aimed to give them some extra protection," Petraeus said. "I think we can all agree it is pretty disgraceful when people will use someone's military or veteran status to take advantage of them."
The bill will add up to $15,000 in civil penalties to incidents of fraud against veterans or military families and ensures restitution payments to those victims.
"This new layer of protection will send a strong message to the rest of the nation that in Florida we'll do whatever it takes to protect our veterans and their families," Scott said.
Charles Scudder can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 225-3111.