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Remembering the Origins of the False Claims Act on Veteran’s Day

It’s Veteran’s Day here in Washington, DC and just outside our office the crowds are already beginning to gather for tonight’s celebration. Hundreds of thousands, and perhaps even millions, are expected on the National Mall.

The weather by the way is really cooperating which is unusual for big DC Mall-type events.

Check out this post for a preview of tonight’s festivities.

Given this deserved celebration of and for Veterans, what better time for us to discuss the importance of fighting against contracting fraud committed against the Defense Department.

OK, I know, it was not your first thought when you got up and saw that HBO was planning a huge event to honor those among us who have fought for our country. Still, it’s worth remembering why fighting fraud is the patriotic thing to do.

We ask our service people to go in harm’s way, on our behalf. Service people generally have no option but to go once they have agreed to serve. Most of the rest of us get to sit in our offices where it is usually safe.

Given that commitment, we owe them a lot. One of the things we owe them is the knowledge that somebody is not able to compromise their ability to serve to make a fast buck. That is why way back in 1863 the first version of the False Claims Act was enacted. It was enacted to prevent fraudsters from making money at the expense of the Union Army during the Civil War. Times change. Big contractors names have evolved. Most contractors who serve the military are ex-military themselves. They may want to make a living, but they would no more compromise the safety and health of a service person than they would sacrifice members of their own families.

Which is why when we find the real fraud perpetrated against the Defense Department, it deserves to be reported and prosecuted. I would like to tell you that it is an easy thing to do. I’d like to tell you that there have been many successful cases.

There have been some. Even meritorious cases are subject to all the problems of bringing a case that exist in any forum. Perhaps more so since defense contractors are rarely small defendants and will fight them with vigor. Nonetheless, today especially it is worth remembering what is at stake when a defense contractor defrauds the defense department. Of course the treasury is out the lost money. That is true in any False Claims case. I think though there is a special duty to “turn square corners” when those affected in the field are out there for us. How is the defense department supposed to provide food, medical services, equipment, and every other thing the soldiers in the field may need, if a contractor can steal from them?

Hopefully the reason there are not too many cases in this area is that there simply is not that much fraud. Still when there is, it’s a good thing that Abraham Lincoln decided he would sign into law a strong mechanism to fight it.