In the fiscal year of 2018, the Department of Justice obtained more than $2.8 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government, according to Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt.
According to Panuccio, “Every year, the submission of false claims to the government cheats the American taxpayer out of billions of dollars. In some cases, unscrupulous actors undermine federal healthcare programs or circumvent safeguards meant to protect public health. In other instances, deceitful contractors overcharge our military or sell faulty equipment to our law enforcement agencies.”
The False Claims Act was initially designed to respond to fraud against the United States military during the Civil War. Since then, fraud has expanded to areas beyond the military, including health care, national defense and security, import tariffs, and small business programs.
The most common types of False Claims Act cases occur in the area of healthcare.
Of the $2.8 billion recovered, $2.5 billion involved the healthcare industry, including drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, hospice organizations, laboratories, and physicians. Medicaid and Medicare fraud is common, as some healthcare providers try and cheat the government by overbilling for services.
Since Medicare processes over a billion claims each year, it is impossible for the government to discover all of the Medicaid and Medicare fraud cases.
Fortunately, there are individuals within these systems that report healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, or others who are defrauding the government. These individuals are referred to as “whistleblowers.”
Government Contractor Fraud
Coming in at a close second to healthcare fraud is government contractor fraud.
Whistleblowers in these areas report contractors who defraud the government through bribes, kickbacks, or false certifications of compliance to win government contracts.
In addition, government contractors who do not follow federal laws and public policies such as equal employment, wage laws, and environmental protection fall under the False Claims Act as well.
Environmental fraud comes in third for recovered monies under the False Claims Act. The government oversees environmental regulation, and some entities intentionally violate statutes and regulations regarding environmental regulations and policies.
Often, whistleblowers in these cases are employees who are aware of unsafe or illegal practices that could adversely affect the environment.
In this regard, there is protection for whistleblowers who report environmental violations, allowing them to report an employer without fear of retaliation. Laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act provide protection for whistleblowers.
Additionally, environmental fraud occurs when contractors overcharge the government for toxic waste cleanup, work never completed, or falsely certifying compliance with environmental regulations. Such actions are in violation of federal law and are subject to legal action.
Individuals who are whistleblowers could receive a percentage of the amount the government recovers in a False Claims Act case. Whistleblowers are an important asset to the public and government, as they help uncover fraud that might otherwise remain undiscovered. The US government has regulations in place to protect whistleblowers from retaliation. This is so whistleblowers can keep helping keep corporations honest, and keep our system working to its best ability.