Senator Chuck Grassley today said that the federal government has approximately 1,040 qui tam cases that remain unresolved because the federal government has failed to make a decision about whether to get involved. This number is up from 1,000 cases in January 2008.

“These cases were brought forward by patriotic individuals who are sticking their necks out to do what’s right. We can’t just let these whistleblowers sit in limbo for years while the federal bureaucracy takes its time deciding what to do,” Grassley said. “I want to know what the Justice Department needs in order to speed up these decisions. People who put everything on the line to speak up when they think there’s fraud against the taxpayers can’t live their lives this way.”

According to the figures released to Grassley from the Justice Department, there are 985 qui tam health care fraud cases pending, 200 qui tam cases have to do with pricing and marketing pharmaceuticals, and 205 qui tam cases allege procurement fraud with the Defense Department. In addition to cases pending a Justice Department decision to join the case, there are 130 pending qui tam cases the Justice Department has joined and about 490 cases that the Justice Department has declined to intervene. The Justice Department data also shows that, on average, it takes 12.3 months for the Justice Department to make a decision on whether to join a qui tam case.

The amendments Grassley championed in 1986, along with Rep. Howard Berman of California, strengthened the Civil War-era False Claims Act which was originally signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. The Grassley-Berman qui tam amendments empowered whistleblowers to file suit on behalf of the United States against those who fraudulently claim federal funds, including Medicare, Medicaid, contract payments, disaster assistance and other benefits, subsidies, grants and loans. One of the strengths of the False Claims Act is that ability of individual whistleblowers to pursue these cases even if the Justice Department chooses not to join a case.

Grassley said that amendments to the False Claims Act have empowered whistleblowers to help fight fraud against the government. Fraudulent claims by defense contractors during the 1980s prompted the initiative. Today the qui tam amendments recoup billions that would otherwise be lost to health care fraud. Since 2005 there have been 580 settlements and judgments in False Claims Act cases totaling over $10.8 billion in recoveries. In FY 2009 alone, 65 settlements and judgments under the False Claims Act have recovered more than $2.8 billion in taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be lost to fraud.

Last year, Grassley along with Senator Dick Durbin introduced legislation to update the False Claims Act. Grassley said the update is needed to respond to recent federal court decisions that threaten to limit the scope and applicability intended by Congress in the 1986 update. Many of the provisions of that legislation were included in the Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act that was signed into law earlier this year by President Barack Obama overturning many of those court decisions ensuring that no fraud will go unpunished because of legal loopholes.

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