VA Inspector General’s Office picking up pace on going after fraudulent compensation claims

 
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VA Inspector General’s Office picking up pace on going after fraudulent compensation claims

Rather than start with the fairly long IG report itself, let me start with this news story from yesterday:

It’s amazing to me that people would do something like this, and especially so that it was a Master Sergeant, who should have learned the Army Values: 

Loyalty
Duty
Respect

Selfless Service
Honor
Integrity
Personal Courage

Think about it, with this one scam he managed to violate every single one of those values.  Remember, this isn’t a non-zero sum game where some people win, and everyone else stays at the same place they were.   When one person is awarded this stuff fraudulently, all taxpayers end up paying for it, and all veterans pay the cost not only in taxes, but in their ability to get time and healthcare provided at the level one should expect.  For every appointment this guy went to, some other veteran wasn’t able to.  Further, when a person from one group gets caught doing something illegal, it taints every other person in that subgroup.  

Recently there was a story about Baltimore police in the NY Daily News:

A bodycam video showing a second group of Baltimore cops apparently planting evidence has been uncovered, the Maryland public defender’s office announced Monday.

The video shows seven officers “working together to manufacture evidence,” according to The Baltimore Sun.

Police said the video includes “two arrests and the recovery of drugs from a car during a traffic stop.”

Think about all the victims of this one dastardly deed.  Obviously the person that was framed, but now he’ll sue the Baltimore City Government and police, and he’ll likely win.  Where do you think that money comes from?   And next time a police officer in Peoria or Walla Walla finds evidence on a person, what are the odds that person will claim they were planted, and point out what happened in Baltimore.  It’s a bit of a social contract: man can’t live without individuals upholding the rule of law, and then all of a sudden those tasked with it are caught violating the rule. 

And just how prevalent is this in the veterans world?  Well, you should go read the IG report, but this will give you a pretty good idea of the scope of what we are talking about.  This is what the executive summary said about investigations of VA personnel and practices only:

OIG issued 115 reports and work products on VA programs and operations during this reporting period. OIG investigations, inspections, audits, evaluations, and other reviews identified over $974 million in monetary benefits, for a return on investment of $14 for every dollar expended on OIG oversight. The OIG Hotline received over 17,000 contacts from sources concerning VA programs and operations. OIG investigators closed 384 investigations and made 150 arrests for a variety of crimes including fraud, bribery, embezzlement, identity theft, drug diversion and illegal distribution, and personal and property crimes. OIG investigative and Hotline work resulted in 732 administrative sanctions and corrective actions. Highlighted below are some of the key findings and conclusions that were the result of our work during this reporting period.

 

As for veterans defrauding the system, this is literally just a few they found:

Veterans Indicted for VA Compensation Fraud

A veteran was indicted for false statements pertaining to health care matters. An OIG investigation resulted in the defendant being charged with misrepresenting to VA his ability to walk and fraudulently receiving approximately $570,000 in VA benefits based on his reported loss of use of both feet. In a second case, a veteran was indicted for theft of Government funds. The defendant is alleged to have altered his Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD-214) in order to fraudulently receive VA compensation benefits. The loss to VA is $142,284.

Veteran Sentenced for VA Compensation Fraud

A veteran was sentenced to 30 months’ supervised probation and was ordered to pay $19,950 in criminal restitution towards a $270,575 civil debt the defendant incurred with VA. The defendant previously pled guilty to making false statements. An OIG investigation revealed that the defendant falsely claimed to suffer from symptoms of narcolepsy and received a medical discharge from the Navy in 1997. The defendant subsequently applied for VA compensation benefits for service-connected narcolepsy, claiming the condition rendered him homebound and unable to work, which was granted at 100 percent. The defendant later became a Federal employee for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and utilized his Federal Employee Health Benefits to obtain treatment and medication for the fraudulently claimed condition in furtherance of his scheme to defraud VA. The defendant also provided material false statements to OIG agents, a VA physician, and an RVSR about his condition and symptoms. As a result of this investigation, the defendant was also terminated from his position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Veteran Pleads Guilty to Theft of Government Funds and Social Security Fraud

A veteran pled guilty to theft of Government funds and SSA fraud. A VA OIG and SSA OIG investigation revealed that the defendant served in the military and received VA pension benefits under one Social Security number, but earned income under a separate Social Security number. The defendant’s earned income, if reported, would have made him ineligible for a VA pension benefit. The loss to VA is $205,534.

Veteran Convicted of Theft of Government Funds and False Statements

A veteran was found guilty at trial of theft of Government funds and false statements. A VA OIG, SSA OIG, and Health and Human Services (HHS) OIG investigation revealed that the defendant fraudulently applied for and received VA, SSA, and HHS disability benefits, claiming loss of use of her right hand since January 2009 when in fact she had full use of both hands. During the course of the investigation, the defendant also provided false statements to VHA and SSA medical staff regarding the extent of her disabilities. The loss to the Government is over $300,000, to include a loss to VA of $187,656. Veteran and Wife Arrested for Conspiracy and Theft of Government Funds

A veteran and his wife were indicted and arrested for conspiracy and theft of Government funds.

An OIG investigation resulted in charges that alleged the veteran provided false information to VA regarding his vision loss. The veteran had been granted Special Monthly Pension based on the need for Aid and Attendance for blindness. The investigation revealed that the veteran has a valid driver’s license, drives himself, and performs normal daily activities without the assistance of another person or low vision aids. The loss to VA is $63,352.

Veterans Sentenced for Theft of Government Funds

A veteran was sentenced to 5 years’ probation and was ordered to pay $313,276 in restitution after pleading guilty to theft of Government funds. An OIG investigation revealed that in 1998 the defendant provided VA with a medical report from a non-VA ophthalmologist reporting that his visual acuity was “hand motion only,” his vision would not get better, and that his vision could not be corrected by surgery. Based on this information, the defendant was rated 100 percent service connection for blindness. The investigation further revealed that defendant possessed a valid driver’s license, rode a motorcycle, and worked for 6 years as a mail clerk at a private business. A VA ophthalmologist examined the defendant and determined that he was not and could never have been blind. The loss to VA is $518,486, with $205,210 being recovered administratively.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.