Two members of Congress recently submitted written testimony to leaders of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, citing exploitive child welfare practices exposed by University of Baltimore School of Law Prof. Daniel Hatcher.
Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Illinois, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, co-authored the May 24 letter to call attention to the practice of state child welfare agencies taking veterans’ survivor benefits from youth in their care and using those monies to offset the cost of their care, rather than save the funds for the children’s later use.
“This practice likely contradicts the expectations of the Veteran parents and amounts to charging the surviving children of Veterans for their own room and board, an obligation not imposed on other children in foster care,” the letter states. “We are working to stop this practice at the federal level, and we hope that the Committee will join us in protecting these benefits for the children of Veterans.”
In their letter, the congressmen ask the committee to consider three steps to limit this practice. They would like the Committee to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to collect data about these practices; to work with veterans affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that child welfare agencies notify adults connected to the youth what is happening with their benefits; and finally, to seek legislation that would prohibit states from using veterans’ benefits to offset their cost of care, and instead preserve those funds for the youth to use as they age out of the child welfare system.
The congressmen cite a recent three-part investigative series conducted jointly by National Public Radio and The Marshall Project that exposed this practice. Hatcher was quoted extensively in this series, sharing his continuing research into the exploitive practices of social welfare agencies charged with caring for abused, neglected, disabled and orphaned children. He detailed many of these abuses in his 2016 book, The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America’s Most Vulnerable Citizens. His next book, (In)Justice Inc., which continues his investigation into these kinds of practices, is forthcoming from University of California Press.