Couple quick updates from Florida this week:
First, as most of you probably already know, it was uncovered earlier this year that a World War II veteran had been buried at Florida National Cemetery in a cardboard box. This sort of neglect and disrespect would have demanded action no matter where it had occurred in the United States, but as fate would have it, the burial occurred in the district I represent.
When the news came out, I made it my mission to ensure it never happened again -- I met with the VA, met with the Cemetery Director and so on. I also got together with the members of the Veterans Affairs Committee to introduce legislation that would prevent this sort of thing from happening. I am happy to report that the week before last, that legislation passed the House. This past Monday, I went back to Florida National Cemetery for a follow up meeting to make sure everybody is on the same page and that things are on the right track. So far so good.
One final note on this: One of our fellow 5th District residents is part of a woodworking club and has volunteered to provide high-quality urns in the event that a veteran has no means and no next of kin. As a military father, the dedication that some individuals have to supporting our veterans and military families really hits home and I just want to thank all of you out there for doing what you can to welcome these kids home and for continuing to support the veterans of prior conflicts. It really means a lot.
Changing gears for a minute, I also wanted to draw your attention to an identity theft issue that has been coming up more and more in recent months. A growing number of people have seen their direct deposit from Social Security disappear. As it happens, thieves are contacting individuals pretending to be a company or government representative. They request personal information under some pretense and once that information is provided, they can do all sorts of things -- like changing the bank account attached to your direct deposit.
There are literally thousands of these cases occurring, so it's important to keep your guard up. Chances are very good that my staff and I can help correct such a problem once it has occurred, but obviously, it's a heck of a lot better not to have the problem in the first place.
Additionally, my office continues to encourage all individuals, especially older beneficiaries, to take basic preventive steps to protect their personal information from improper use. We urge everyone to be aware of the prevalence of phishing and lottery schemes--no reputable financial institution or company will ask for upfront money in exchange for additional winnings; or for personal information like a Social Security number or bank account number via phone, mail, or Internet. Moreover, when Social Security beneficiaries become aware that they are victims of identity theft, they can block electronic access to their information in SSA's records, a service available at www.socialsecurity.gov/blockaccess. By knowing how to protect ourselves, we make life much more difficult for identity thieves.
The government will not request information like your SSN or bank account number unless you proactively call the government agency first. If you get a strange call like that, please let me know. We'll make sure that you get in touch with the proper authorities to report it.
As always, if you are having any issues with a federal agency, or you have any questions or concerns about what's going on with federal policy issues, please don't hesitate to call.