Veteran health benefits are reserved for individuals who actively served in the U.S. military and were discharged or released under honorable conditions. An unscrupulous man, formerly from Green Bay, Wisconsin, used his status as a U.S. Army veteran to dishonorably bilk more than $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by claiming he was 100 percent disabled. (But, the impostor who went to great lengths to commit disability fraud failed to keep up his injured image 100 percent of the time.)
The Army veteran’s scheme transpired over 13 years, starting with an injury that occurred while on duty at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1978. (According to court records, he apparently drove his jeep into an unmarked “tank trap” ditch. That had to hurt.) Somewhere around the same time and at the same base, he was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Fast forward to 1990 when the Wisconsin veteran claimed that the jeep accident left him with a debilitating back injury that caused worsening pain and increasing mobility issues. (His monthly VA payments rose over the years and by 2002 amounted to $917 per month.) By 2013, he had declared 100 percent disability, claiming his wife had to help him get in and out of bed and use the bathroom. (His total VA compensation at that time was $2,973 per month plus payments for the PTSD.)
Around this time, he paid a visit to a VA medical facility in Milwaukee, showing up in a wheelchair and claiming he could only take a few steps due to severe back pain. However, he left the facility after his appointment that day and walked across the parking lot with a normal gait. (Unfortunately for him, he was spotted without a cane and observed folding up his wheelchair and putting it into his van. Oops.)
As you might guess, suspicions arose after the Milwaukee VA doctor appointment, so investigators used camera surveillance to track the man’s activity. Camera footage showed that over several months, the only time the man used a cane was when a contractor visited to check on a request to make his home more handicap-accessible. (The veteran had applied for a $67,000 grant to build a new kitchen and a first-floor bathroom from the VA.)
The 60-year-old man was convicted of disability fraud and sentenced to 21 months in federal prison. (The prison term was actually six months longer than prosecutors requested.) The judge, who called this man’s crime a “massive and blatant fraud,” also sentenced him to three years of supervised release and will require him to pay $201,521.41 in restitution to the VA. In exchange for a guilty plea to one count of fraud regarding back claims, the government dropped the PTSD charges. (The veteran had received more than $215,000 for the PTSD claims over the 13 years.)
While the veteran was declared to have a legitimate injury and suffered from PTSD, his claim of 100 percent disability did not hold up. He’s been dialed back to 20 percent disability for his back injury and is entitled to receive alcohol and mental health treatment through the VA. (I think we can agree with 100 percent certainty that this dishonorable man is getting exactly what he deserves for trying to divert public money from deserving veterans.)
Source: Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Judge sends veteran to prison for ‘massive and blatant fraud’ in VA disability program,” published by Journal Sentinel on December 7, 2017.
When he showed up for a Veterans Affairs appointment in Milwaukee, Dean D. Young came in a wheelchair and told officials he could only walk a few steps due to severe back pain.
But as he left, according to federal prosecutors, Young walked across the Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center parking lot with a normal gait, without using a cane or the chair, which he folded up and put in his van.