I have spent years advocating for veterans and their families. I am used to the major news agencies that report just facts and leave opinion pieces to others to write, Rueters, AP even Bloomberg News, but this is the most opinioniated piece I have ever seen from the AP In tide of new PTSD cases, fear of growing fraud written by By ALLEN G. BREED AP National Writer.
He used a few examples of extreme lies and fraud to justify his thoughts, in some cases he is absoulutely right, the VA Regional Offices failed to do their jobs properly and awarded PTSD claims that should never have been approved. Are veterans incapable of committing fraud? No all government programs that award money are going to have some fraud, some programs more than others. But with extensive reviews it has shown that the fraud rate with veterans claims are in the 2% average, I think Medicare fraud is above 10%.
But ask any veteran you know that has ever filed a VA claim for compensation and they will tell you that it normally becomes a marathon contest and it can take years for a veteran to obtain the benefits they and their families deserve. In my own case I began my claim process in October 2002 and it was not finished until June 2009, six and a half years. I had to prove and obtain the documents on my own that proved what happened to me while I was in the Army and all of my medical treatment since. The VARO was not aggressive at all in helping obtain the general court martials of the men who attempted to kill me in Alaska in February 1975. With the help of a very nice lady at Department of the Army JAG in Washington DC it took her all of about 5 minutes to find the names of the 4 men who were sent to Leavenworth Prison for the attack and robbery using my name as the witness. She mailed them to me a week later and my case was approved. Not all PTSD is caused by combat.
There is one case Mr Breed used to show how bad the claims process is, it was the case of Keith Roberts, I don't know the specifics of his case but what Mr Breed ignored was the legal process of the veterans rights were totally ignored before he was prosecuted by the US Attorney in Wisconson.
But these cases can be difficult to sort out, as the case of Vietnam-era veteran Keith Roberts illustrates.
Roberts was stationed at the U.S. Naval Air Facility in Naples, Italy, in February 1969 when Airman Gary Holland was crushed to death in the wheel well of a C-54 Skymaster transport plane. Roberts, then a 20-year-old aircraft lineman, said he tried to rescue his "very good friend" by having a forklift raise the craft's nose, but that superiors nixed the plan to avoid damaging the plane.
Starting in 1987, Roberts filed a string of disability claims with the VA, eventually blaming PTSD for everything from smoking addiction to arthritis. In 1999, Roberts was declared 100 percent disabled and got a lump sum payment, retroactive to August 1993.
But investigators later determined that Roberts didn't even participate in the rescue effort and was not as close to Holland as he'd claimed. The Board of Veterans Appeals concluded that Roberts "elevated the rather mundane facts ... into what appeared on the surface to be a bona fide PTSD stressor (his best friend died in his arms)."
The board said the VA's regional office "simply conceded" Roberts' claims "without obtaining credible supporting evidence." After losing his benefits, Roberts was convicted of wire fraud, sentenced to 48 months in prison and ordered to pay $262,943.52 in restitution.
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims concluded in a 45-page ruling that Roberts "committed fraud in securing VA benefits for his PTSD" and affirmed the BVA's decision to sever them.
When the VA moved to revoke Keith Roberts benefits the normal process is the veterans appeals the revocation to the Board of Veteran Appeals which can take 2 -3 years and if they lose at the BVA, then the veteran has the right to appeal to the Court of Veteran Appeals in an attempt to show the BVA made a mistake in the revocation.
Then if the vet loses at the CAVC they can then file a court case against the VA in Federal Court whioch would then exhaust their appeals process, then when the veteran had lost all of their appeals then they should have been prosecuted for fraud.
But in Keith Roberts case the US Attorney for Wisconson charged Keith Roberts with fraud before these appeals took place and won an conviction for fraud which then tainted the appeals process thru the VA administrative appeals. He was guilty going into the administrative appeals.
Mr Roberts was given bad advice to ask for back pay to when he was discharged the VA does not compensate back to when a veterans incident happened when they file a claim decades later, they pay to the date the claim was filed.
In 2005 the VA reviewed 2100 cases of PTSD claims that were approved, the reviews upset a lot of veterans with PTSD as they feared they would be on the wrong end of the wirtch hunt and lose the benefits they had long fought to obtain, in some cases the outcome was suicide as in this VA Still Plans to View All PTSD Claims article shows.
Mr Breeds article says Senator Obama was the critic that stopped the review, this article shows otherwise, how can I find this and Mr Breed could not?
VA Still Plans to View All PTSD Claims
Stars and Stripes | By Leo Shane III | October 22, 2005
WASHINGTON — Veterans groups and House Democrats blasted VA plans to review all post-traumatic stress disorder claims because of irregularities in their compensation system, calling it insulting to heroes who have served their country.
"To the VA, this is simply a process seeking out voids in paperwork," said Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M, at a Thursday hearing on Capitol Hill. "But to veterans, it’s a jolting realization that their day-to-day struggles are being questioned again."
In August, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to review 72,000 cases where veterans had received a 100 percent disability rating for post-traumatic stress disorder, after an investigation of 2,100 such cases found that more than 25 percent lacked justification for those claims.
Jon Wooditch, acting inspector general for the department, said Thursday that the goal of the comprehensive review was not to cut benefits but to find reasons behind inconsistencies in the way claims are rewarded.
For example, in Illinois, only about 2.8 percent of PTSD cases receive the 100 percent rating, and the average yearly payment for treatment is $6,961. But in New Mexico, more than 12 percent of PTSD receive that highest disability claim, and the payment average there is $12,004.
"We want to make sure everyone is receiving what they’re entitled to under the law," he said.
But critics called it a way for the department to save money by shirking its duty to care for disabled veterans. Quentin Kinderman, deputy director of legislative service for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, called the IG report flawed and the proposed review a waste of money.
"There is very little potential to reduce the number of cases here," he said. "And we’ve very concerned about the impact of the review and publicity on veterans, especially those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, who need the kind of counseling that the VA can provide."
Democrats echoed those concerns, and called for a halt to plans to review the cases.
Udall said in one case, a veteran in his district committed suicide after hearing about plans for the review. Officials from New Mexico found the man, a Vietnam veteran, with information regarding the review beside his Purple Heart when he took his life.
"The manner in which [VA officials] have proceeded has done more harm than good," he said.
I remember watching the VA hearing where then Senator Obama spoke about this incident where he told Senator Larry Craig Chiarman of the Senate VA Committee "he would rather see one veteran get a check that he did not deserve rather than see one veteran denied the benefits he did deserve."
I am surprised at the intesity of this article towards veterans committing FRAUD, normally the AP had a very good reputation to just reporting the news, and using facts rather than innuendo. The writers have taken some very bad cases of a few veterans that have used fraud to obtain benefits which in any program the government has there will be some fraud, in other programs a lot of fraud.
In the case of the 2100 cases of PTSD review mentioned yes there were errors what the article ignored was the fact that the errors were not the veterans fault but rather the VA officer workers themselves, not properly documenting the veterans files, it doesn't say the stressors (incidents) never happened just that the VA employees improperly documented them.
The case of the New Mexico veteran who killed themselves upon learning the review was taken to Congress by the New Mexican Congressman Udall not Senator Obama, now Senator Obama may have used it during the Senate VA Committee hearing to get then VA Chairman Larry Craig to bring an end to the witchhunt for fraud, there were many voices in Congress demanding that mentally ill veterans stop being the focus of the Bush Administrations attempt to cut the VA expenses.
This article is not the work of the caliber I have grown used to reading for the past 54 years, this is more of the style of the AEI's DR Sally Satel, where they think PTSD is not a problem at all.
Yes, veterans should be checked and the stressors should be checked and verified before awards are made, but it has been my experience that is exactly what is done 99.9% of the time, yes mistakes are made but it is not only the veterans committing the fraud but the VA employees handling that claim that allowed it to happen.
Normally a veteran can NOT walk into the VA and walk out a few weeks later with a check for the rest of their life, in many cases it turns into a years long battle for benefits which is rather the normal experience in veterans claims. These cases described in this article are the exceptions that give all veterans a bad name,but I know very few disabled veterans that had this easy of a time getting disability benefits especially for PTSD.
I do not know any veterans that would encourage fraud and on the veterans boards I have never met anyone that encourages anyone to distort their records and in fact attack people who attempt to suggest "tricks". Like most Americans veterans are honest but there are some frauds but not the huge amount this article suggests.