House Republicans Call For VA-Led Campaign to Help Protect Vets from Cyber Risks

Kiyoshi Tanno/istockphoto

A new deep-dive study and public website would stem from the efforts.

Legislation introduced Thursday by Reps. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., and Mike Bost, R-Ill. would direct the Veterans Affairs secretary to steer a broad communications campaign to educate America’s former military members on the modern digital dangers they could encounter.

The Veterans’ Cyber Risk Awareness Act lists disinformation, identity theft, scams and fraud—spread via the internet or social media, specifically—as cyber risks to vets worth confronting.

"Over the past several months, we've learned a great deal about the prevalence of violent extremist groups in our country and their efforts to prey on our nation's veterans," Mace said. "Veterans are not only targets of scammers and con artists for financial purposes, but also victims of extremists looking to take advantage of our retired troops.”

People with internet access increasingly use various forms of social media to share information about their lives or connect with their broader networks. But such platforms can also connect them to threats within online environments. Last Congressional session, the House Veterans Affairs Committee looked into and were told how American veteran communities, in particular, have become popular targets for online manipulation. More recently, some involved in the deadly storming of the Capitol in January were confirmed to be veterans who organized their moves online.

In a document summarizing the bill, officials wrote that while the FBI and Homeland Security Department, among other agencies, are working to address such the internet-based threats on a national scale, there’s room for the Veterans Affairs Department to “proactively provide veterans with information about how to protect themselves online and assess whether [they] are uniquely vulnerable to cyber risks.”

If passed, the four-page bill would require the VA to link up with other federal entities and social media companies for the production and dissemination of materials to inform veterans about the various cyber risks they may face and how to go about reporting them. The department would also be expected to maintain a public website detailing this information. Further, the legislation would direct the VA to work with a federally funded research and development corporation to conduct a comprehensive study on veterans’ vulnerability to such threats and the resources that exist to combat them—as well as other topics.

“Our bill will make sure veterans have the information and resources they need to protect themselves,” Bost said. “It will also provide an objective look at the potential dangers they face online.”

The legislation was referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, of which Bost is a ranking member.

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