If you're among the more than 85,000 Ohio veterans receiving disability payments, you might be tempted to heed the advice once given to America s 19th-century fortune seekers.
"Go west, young man . . . "
Say, to New Mexico, where 27,010 veterans get an average annual disability benefit that is $4,801 higher than the $8,090 Ohio gives to its vets.
Or to Oklahoma, where disabled vets receive $4,185 more than Ohio's in average yearly payments.
Or west. as in West Virginia, where the compensation is $3,857 higher.
According to the latest annual report issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Benefit Administration, Ohio ranked second-to-last in the nation in disability compensation in 2006.
The state average annual disability benefit was only $112 higher than Indiana's, here 47,693 vets receive payments. It's a step up from 2005, when Ohio was dead last.
The longstanding issue of disparity in average annual disability payments between states heated up last year in hearings before the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Last week, Rep. Zack Space of Ohio, a member of the committee, introduced the Veterans Disability Fairness Act, which calls for increased scrutiny of the VA's compensation program.
"The veterans living in Ohio sacrificed as much as veterans living elsewhere," Space, a Democrat from Dover, said at the time. "There is no reason that a veteran here should receive less than veterans in other states."
Monthly tax-free disability payments are awarded to veterans for injuries they receive or diseases incurred while on active military duty.
Compensation is based on the severity of a disability, which is assigned a rating depending on a veteran's earning capacity. That rating is set in 10 percent increments, up to 100 percent for total disability.
Still, payment disparities exist between states. One factor cited by government reports is the difference in the way some VA workers evaluate disability claims. For example, a veteran with a post-traumatic stress disorder claim can be evaluated as being a little disabled in one state and a lot disabled in another.
Such a subjective process could result in a different disability-percentage rating and thus different benefit payments for veterans.
Government reports also note that disability benefits can vary according to a veteran s period in the military and branch of service and the degree of training for claims officers, as well as the percentage of veterans applying for and receiving compensation.
Also, those retiring from military careers tend to get higher payments, as do enlisted versus officer veterans.
"There should be a standard rate for all veterans across the U.S.," said Frank Anderson, 54, of East Cleveland, adding that he has a 100 percent disability from an automobile accident that occurred during his service in the Army.
Disabled veteran Hank Vasil said the lack of an effective method of transferring medical records from the military to the VA makes it harder to file disability claims and therefore can result in a disparity in payments.
Vasil, 60, who said he has worked as a veterans service representative for the state of Ohio, believes some vets don't get the benefits they should because they don't know how or choose not to apply.
"Veterans are ill-educated as to what their rights are," said Vasil. "Other times a lot of it has to do with a person's pride. He may feel he doesn't warrant it [a disability award], that somebody more severe should have it."
Space's bill would require the VA to collect and monitor regional data on disability ratings, review and audit the system used to rate disabilities and periodically evaluate the performance of individual raters.
"It's simply a matter of equity and fairness . . . standing up for what's right for those who stood up for our country," he said. "It's kind of hard to contest that."
"Gov. Ted Strickland is well aware that Ohio has historically been behind other states in the collection of veterans benefits, and that's why he has proposed establishing a Cabinet-level department of veterans affairs," said Keith Dailey, a spokesman for the governor.
He added that this department -- currently under consideration by the state legislature -- would work closely with county and local veterans service organizations to better provide our veterans and families with the tools they need to obtain the benefits that they have earned and which they deserve.
Additionally, the VA says it has taken steps to address the disparity of benefits between states, according to agency spokesman Steven Westerfeld.
Those steps include implementing national standardized training for rating specialists, standardizing the medical evaluation of disability claims, increasing oversight and review of rating decisions, and designing a procedure for routine monitoring of claims data to check for consistency.
The VA also is exploring ways to consolidate parts of the rating process into one location and developing a skills-certification process for the specialists who determine disability ratings, Westerfeld said.
But Army veteran Larry Scott, who runs the Web site vawatchdog.org, said there may be practical limits to what the VA can do.
Scott said the VA lacks a common training program and supervisor structure for claims officers.
"In theory, there should be one huge office handling all claims for all vets. That's physically impossible. It'll never be done," he said. "So what you have is kind of like McDonald's technically, all the restaurants have the same recipe, but you'll still get disparities in various parts of the country."
Vietnam vet Richard Healy, 61, of Lakewood, fears that legislative attempts to address the disparity issue would result in a one-size-fits-all rating system and remove interpretation of a disability based on an individual's medical or psychological condition and needs.
Healy said he has helped veterans file claims for the past 31 years on behalf of Disabled American Veterans and that energy should be put into making the current system work better and faster.
"Every one of us is different," he said. "If a doctor, for instance, says a veteran is minimally disabled for [post-traumatic stress disorder], what does 'minimally' mean?"
Interpretation is a big factor.
Ohio veterans on low end of totem pole for disability benefits
Friday, April 11, 2008
If you're among the more than 85,000 Ohio veterans receiving disability payments, you might be tempted to heed the advice once given to America s 19th-century fortune seekers.
veterans claims nightmare
Melvin served honorably in the U.S. Navy for more than 10 years before he got hurt falling down a stairwell on ship. He was making the Navy a career and was a good sailor. He was medically separated and given a zero percent disability from VA for each of his injuries; a damaged knee and a severely wrenched back. He had fallen in love with our area, and a young lady from Lauderdale County, so he married her and stayed. He got a job and tried to start a new life. Melvin was a mechanic in the Navy, and that was all he knew how to do. He obtained work as a mechanic and went on with his life. But the "slight" injuries (that is the definition of zero percent under VA) to his knee and back were not so slight. Within a couple of years of his separation Melvin was declared totally disabled by Social Security. That was 1992. He has been fighting since 2002 to just get that zero percent increased. Zero percent means, "yes, it is service connected, but not bad enough for any payment." Melvin is now in a wheelchair because of these "slight" disabilities. His wife is also on Social Security disability. So these folks who have worked all their lives, and paid a lot of taxes, are now living on less than the national poverty level.
When Melvin's claim for an increase was denied the first time, a service officer told them "sign this." "This" was a VA form 9 — which automatically sends the claim to the Bureau of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. The BVA has a three year backlog. That means they don't even look at the paperwork for at least three years! In Melvin's case it has been almost six years, because someone in Washington lost the claims file! The problem is Melvin didn't have to go to the BVA. He had a choice — which was not explained to him by either of the Veteran Service Officers to whom he went for help. One of them worked for his county and the other worked for the State VA Claims Office. He could have requested a Decision Review Officer Hearing at the Regional Office; but he didn't know — and they didn't volunteer the information. To get a DRO hearing dates takes about three to five months — not three years. The DRO can overturn the denial and award the claim. In the meantime, he doesn't qualify for a "disability pension" because his 10 years of honorable service did not include at least one day when the country was "legally at war." So the taxpayers' dollars are saved; Melvin's family starves, and his oldest sons fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
George also served, in the U.S. Army, for eight years before he was medically separated. In George's case, he was given a "separation severance payment." He went before a "medical evaluation board." They recommended he be awarded 20 percent disability, but said he was "medically unfit for retention." If the board awards over 30 percent disability, the service member must be medically retired instead of medically separated. Medical retirement means his family has health care, he receives a portion of his base pay after separation, and the family can use the base shopping facilities. To a family with small children, those benefits mean a lot in re-adjusting to civilian life — and paying the bills until the service member can get a job! George knew the severance pay would offset VA, but his family needed the money until he could get a job and start working.
That was 19 years ago! George's offset should have taken eight years; then his VA checks should have automatically started. But there was a "computer glitch." In the meantime, George's disease has become much worse. His other medical problems, all of which are documented to have started on Active Duty but were not considered at the time of his separation, have all become worse. George has a wife, and four children. He is "hanging in there" on his job through sheer determination and the "true grit" of a career soldier. His wife is working, but doesn't earn enough to support the family until he can get a Social Security Disability claim processed. Last week we filed a claim for all the medical problems that are documented in his military medical records; and filed for an increase in the 20 percent that was awarded for his disease; and requested that someone look into the "computer glitch" and at least pay him the 20 percent whose offset was finished 11 years ago! Right now the VA Regional Office in Jackson says that a "normal" processing time is 180 days (six months!) So hopefully, George doesn't die before he gets his deserved increase and retroactive payment. By the way, to further save taxpayer dollars, the retroactivity on George's problems that were not listed by the medical evaluation board can only give back to last week when we filed the claim.
There are several other "offsets" in the 38 Code of Federal Regulations (the law that governs VA). These offsets "save your taxpayer dollars." We will discuss more of them in future columns. This is an election year, and it is important for the public to know how their taxpayer dollars are spent-and saved.
• Submitted by Bobbye C. Jerone, Independent Veterans' Advocate and President, American Legion
Auxiliary Unit No. 257 in Meridian. She can be reached
CNN story on Homeless vets
SHERRY LONG firstname.lastname@example.org
WILKES-BARRE – The plight of Luzerne County’s homeless veterans is going national.
CNN staff members conducted interviews in Wilkes-Barre Thursday with Bob Zarnoch, of Kingston, and Michael Keslosky, of Old Forge, about the men’s experiences. The two said they were homeless after completing their active duty assignments with the U.S. military.
The news network will air a two-minute video segment Saturday night highlighting the homeless veterans issue as part of a larger piece being hosted by CNN chief national correspondent John King. The issue is part of the station’s coverage of the Pennsylvania primary election on April 22, according to CNN senior producer Francesca Fifis.
Keslosky, who is now an advocate for homeless veterans, said is glad the issue is receiving attention.
“This is a godsend. It was not a coincidence. This was God’s hands at work in the lives of the men, pointing out the homeless and homeless veterans in our community,” he said.
Zarnoch, an Army veteran of the Iraq War, said he lived under the Market Street Bridge after returning from a nearly one-year deployment in Baghdad where he went on a 1,000 combat missions. He led the film crew under the bridge and pointed out where he used to sleep and where some homeless veterans still seek refuge.
Keslosky, a former Pennsylvania National Guardsman, was interviewed at the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen.
Keslosky works closely with Gary Clark, director and founder of the Northeast Pennsylvania Alliance Against Homelessness.
Pushing to bring this issue to the attention of nationally elected officials, Keslosky has contacted U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke, and U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Philadelphia, and Robert Casey, D-Scranton.
Keslosky has also tried to gain the attention of presidential candidates.
One in three homeless men in Wilkes-Barre is a military veteran, Clark said. He considers this a disgrace.
“I can’t understand a country that can spend billions of dollars in wars and can’t take care and shelter its veterans,” Clark said.
The CNN program looking at issues affecting this year’s Pennsylvania primary election will air at 10 p.m. today.
WW2 planes on display
Dan O'Connor, For the Tribune
For some, a bird is just a bird by any other name. But for others, the stories they have carried through the wind speak volumes.
SLIDESHOW: See the planes on display with the Wings of Freedom Tour
For surviving World War II veterans and enthusiasts alike, aircraft names like B-17, B-24, B-25 and TP-51C bring to mind tales of victory, patriotism and freedom.
And as Scottsdale Airport hosts the three vintage bomber planes and one fighter today through Monday, visitors are able to observe - or actually take flight in - one of the restored planes that many hail as the bird-like machines that ended WWII.
Event coordinator Jack McIver said that as he rode from Albuquerque, N.M., to Scottsdale in the B-24 Friday, he was freezing cold. But instead of complaining, he said he was reminded of the young pilots that flew in the plane decades before him, defending his country.
"I was thinking about the 19- and 20-year-old kids in 1944 and 1945 flying in eight-hour missions over Nazi Germany," McIver said. "When it's below freezing in the airplanes with German planes shooting at them, a lot of them weren't as lucky to come home."
The B-24 he rode in is the only one in the world still in flying condition. The bomber, named Witchcraft, flew 130 successful combat missions and never lost a crew member.
Each aircraft carries its own miraculous tale of triumph. The B-17 bomber, for example, was subject to three nuclear blasts as a test subject, McIver said.
The goal of the tour is to allow people to partake in a tangible history lesson outside of the readings and teachings they may have been subjected to in school, said Hunter Chaney, director of marketing for the Collings Foundation.
"It's very difficult to learn what was going on (in the war) in a classroom experience," he said. "But when you're flying in these things, it's a very effective way to teach a younger generation about this particular time in history."
But even more amazing than the story of the sheet metal and Plexiglass that survived the war are the tales from the pilots who live today to tell about it, Chaney said.
"These are guys that flew their planes and lost most of their friends in the war," he said. "On average, one out of every three planes were lost.
"These were just kids that were flying in these planes."
For some, the thought of such sacrifice brings forth a sense of gratitude that transcends time.
"I want to thank you for the sacrifice you guys made. I owe everything I have to you. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you," a teary-eyed spectator said Friday, paying his respects to a decorated WWII veteran.
"I'm nobody. He's the one you want to talk to - he's the hero," said the man, who did not give his name.
The veteran, Homer Moeller, stood proudly next to Witchcraft. He said he flew in 13 missions over Germany and Vienna, Austria.
At the time, the Scottsdale resident was only 21 years old.
"I'd get in one day and didn't know if I would make it out," Moeller said of his experience as a B-24 co-pilot.
Although his missions over Europe are more than 60 years behind him, he said that his memories are fresh and he enjoys sharing them with anyone who asks.
Many of the planes he flew in were reduced to scrap metal after they served their purpose in the war, he said.
"They'd take a bulldozer and smash them and melt them down," he said. "They gave us some aluminum pots and pans out of them."
But Moeller's memories of the birds won't be reduced to kitchen utensils.
His memories will live on with him forever, he said.
slideshow pics of the planes
another fake war hero
Carl Anthony Nissen claimed he had served 12 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, served three tours of duty in Vietnam and earned numerous medals and decorations, including the Silver Star. Trouble was, it wasn't true.
Nissen, of Billings, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to a misdemeanor charge of false wearing of medals. U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby fined him $250, which he paid immediately.
Appearing on a summons, Nissen said he did not want an attorney. At times barely audible, Nissen admitted he altered documents about his military record and wore medals he didn't earn.
The case was part of a national investigation called Operation Stolen Valor to investigate and prosecute those who lie about their military service to receive financial benefits or for other reasons. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr said that last December, the FBI in Billings received a tip based on the national investigation that Nissen was wearing ribbons and badges that he had not earned on his Marine Corps dress blue uniform. Nissen allegedly wore these decorations on numerous occasions while attending events sponsored by the local Marine Corps League.
The FBI got a copy of his discharge documents and compared them with the copy Nissen provided to the Marine Corps League. Nissen's document had altered information, including his discharge date, decorations, medals, badges, commendations, citations and campaign ribbons. The altered document also claimed additional education and training, Fehr said.
Investigators found that Nissen had been interviewed for a story about the fall of Saigon that appeared in The Billings Gazette in April 2005. Nissen claimed in the story to have served three tours of duty in Vietnam and to having served 12 years in the Marine Corps. Nissen actually served three years in the Marine Corps and one tour of duty in Vietnam, Fehr said. Nissen also falsely claimed to have served in Operation Desert Storm.
The medals and decorations Nissen claimed to have been awarded included the Silver Star, Combat Action Ribbon with two devices, Navy Commendation with device, Navy Achievement Medal and Navy Unit Commendation.
When interviewed, Nissen confessed to altering his discharge document. He sent the medals he wore to the FBI along with a letter of apology, Fehr said. Nissen did not use the altered document to obtain veterans' benefits or preferences.
Nissen faced a possible penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Fehr recommended the $250 fine.
Published on Friday, April 11, 2008.
Last modified on 4/11/2008 at 1:11 am
Thursday, April 10, 2008
GI bill reintroduced in the House with 54 co-sponsors
WASHINGTON - Virginia Sen. Jim Webb touted growing suport Thursday for his G.I. bill that would pay the college tuition of many military veterans who have served since Sept. 11, 2001.
House backers of the bill said they are hopeful of attaching the measure to a supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war that is coming up for a vote in coming weeks. Coupling of the two measures, if successful, could pave the way for speedier approval because of the necessity of funding the war.
But the Bush administration and Defense Department have raised concerns about the bill, which is expected to cost anywhere from $2.5 billion to $4 billion per year. Military officials have questioned whether the measure would hurt re-enlistment rates if troops leave the military earlier than planned to reap college benefits.
But bipartisan support for the measure appears to be growing in both the House and Senate.
Webb, a freshman Democrat, said his bill now has 54 co-sponsors, including 10 Republicans. That list includes Sen. John Warner, R-Va., an influential voice in military matters.
And in a new sign of strength, Webb said Thursday he has won the backing of the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D- Hawaii. That committee has not yet acted on the bill.
"I think we have a very good shot at getting this bill done this year," Webb told reporters in a conference call.
"It needs to be done this year," he said, to help military personnel transition to civilian life.
The Young Lions of Able Troop
To the Cadre on the Front Lines Of Improving Care at Walter Reed, The Challenge Can Rival Combat
Watchful Eyes at Walter Reed
The new warrior transition brigade at Walter Reed Army Medical Center imposes needed order on its 700 outpatients.
By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 10, 2008; Page B01
Army Maj. Steven Gventer stuck his trusty Garmin GPS on the windshield of a white van idling in a garage before dawn at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The Young Lions of Able Troop
Watchful Eyes at Walter Reed
Special Report: Walter Reed and Beyond
"Take us to Glen Burnie, darling," Gventer instructed.
An Army lieutenant, a hospital outpatient, was missing. Gventer was angry that an officer under his command hadn't shown up at Walter Reed for four days -- normally the lieutenant would be considered absent without leave -- but he was also concerned: Doctors had diagnosed depression in the young man after he served in Iraq.
"I need to look him in the eye and find out what's going on," Gventer said.
A year ago, the officer's absence might not have been noted, much less have prompted a search. Case managers, each with dozens of outpatients, were overwhelmed. The lack of accountability, including soldiers left to live in broken-down apartments and mired in medical bureaucracy, was documented last year by The Washington Post.
The Army's response included bringing in combat veterans to impose military order on the medical task of tracking recovering soldiers. The approach, which the Army is replicating across the country, depends on the decisions of a small group of officers such as Gventer, a cavalry trooper without a medical background, and on young squad and platoon leaders new to the world of helping heal physical and psychological wounds.
As commander of Able Troop of the Walter Reed Warrior Transition Brigade, Gventer was responsible for 240 of the medical center's 700 outpatient soldiers. In the two weeks before he searched for the missing lieutenant, he and his sergeants had saved the lives of two soldiers, including one who tried to kill himself with alcohol and pills.
Initially, the combat cadre had trouble adapting to the civilian atmosphere at the hospital and clashed with the medical system. Soldiers complained that some improvements were cosmetic. The brigade was criticized for pursuing criminal charges against a lieutenant recovering at Walter Reed who had attempted suicide in Iraq.
But a year into it, the Army can point to progress: Congress and government auditors say the system is improving. In a poll of recovering soldiers released last month, 71 percent said the military health system is on track.
"There's more we want to do," said Col. Terrence J. McKenrick, the brigade commander, who is recommending that the Army beef up the Walter Reed unit. The ratios -- one squad leader for every 12 soldiers, one caseworker for every 18 and one doctor for every 200 -- are still too high, he said.
Army leaders have enough confidence in the approach that they have set up similar units at 34 posts. Gventer has been assigned to the Army surgeon general's office to help with the broader effort. As he left Walter Reed last month, commanders credited him with helping turn around outpatient care. "Steve has always been at the center of gravity," McKenrick said.
Monday, 8:30 a.m., Wagner gym
This is a 5 page article and you really should go to the Washington Post site to read the entire article, my hat is off to them on this story. Thank you
Fox news takes position on "Tiger Woods" comments
Bloggers are having a field day picking apart the words of a John McCain supporter who introduced the Arizona senator and former Vietnam POW as a hero he’d prefer over Tiger Woods.
Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia made the remarks at a Vets for Freedom rally Tuesday in Washington, D.C. At no point did he mention Barack Obama, but his word choice while talking up McCain as a role model he wants his kids to follow has been interpreted as an Obama dig.
“Senator John McCain has spent a lifetime in service to our nation. His example of unwavering courage is a model for every American,” he said, talking about McCain’s five and a half years as a prisoner of war. “Rest assured that men like Senator McCain will be the goal and the men that my two young boys will emulate and admire. You can have your Tiger Woods, we’ve got Senator McCain.”
The Internet response was swift.
“What’s with the Tiger Woods Comparisons?” was the headline on one blog for The Hotline, which cast Bellavia’s remarks as a direct slap at Obama. The blog, noting an apparent trend, mentioned an old quote from GOP media consultant Alex Castellanos, who told told the Politico in March that Obama is “not the Tiger Woods of politics.”
An entry on The Huffington Post saw the same racially charged insult, but joked, “considering the rate at which Tiger Woods is winning golf tournaments these days, McCain’s camp may be hoping the analogy doesn’t prove true.”
A FOX News producer at the Vets for Freedom rally did not interpret Bellavia’s remarks as a tacit jab at Obama or an underhanded racist slur, saying the soldier focused on McCain’s being a hero and standing up for his beliefs in the face of public opinion.
Bellavia did take one jab at Obama, however, saying of McCain, “My friends, this is the real audacity of hope.”
So much for "fair and balanced" "we report you decide" is BS here they are reporting and deciding the comments about Tiger Woods were out of place and meant as a slap to Democratic voters, even Lindsey Graham recognozed this when he made the comment "that if he could play around of gold with Tiger, he would drop John McCain in a heart beat" and he is John McCains shadow, in Iraq and every where else these days. SGT Bellavia was out of line as his comment on "the Audacity of Hope" shows now you decide with all the facts, even the ones Fox left out of this report
Fake Purple Heart
A Wichita man pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to making a false claim that he had been awarded the Purple Heart.
Albert Barker, 58, admitted that in January of 2006, he caused his American Veterans representative to submit a fraudulent Army General Order 164, which had been altered by Barker to represent that he had received a Purple Heart Medal.
A Purple Heart is a medal awarded by the President of the United States to members of the military who are wounded or killed in the line of duty.
Sentencing is set for July 2, 2008. Barker faces a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison and a fine up to $100,000.
War Veterans Suffer in Silence
Updated: April 9, 2008 06:49 PM EDT
Many War Veterans Suffer in Silence
Iraqi vets with 2-tours, like Stephanie Breaux, are 50 percent more likely to suffer from acute combat stress. That's according a study by the U.S. Army. Breaux is the woman just identified as the murder victim inside a Sheveport home.
That Army study also shows 1- in 8 returning vets suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, commonly known as PTSD. Those figures strongly suggest that many returning soldiers suffer in silence. "The other night I had a helicopter come over the house and I just, I woke up, woke up sweating," described 24-year old Johnie Gamble.
We met Gamble during a visit to the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center off Stoner Avenue in Shreveport. Gamble's case of PTSD is all-too-common as Loretta Leavitt explained. As a licensed, clinical social worker with Overton Brooks, Leavitt gave us her 'gut feeling' on the percentage of combat veterans she sees who suffer some form of post-traumatic stress: "Into the nineties; ninety, ninety percent."
Official figures for PTSD may be far less, but Leavitt sees many vets struggling every day. She continued, "sleeping problem is the biggest issue with this population." "Pervasive is probably the word I would use," said VA psychiatrist Dr. Dean Robinson, in describing the number of PTSD cases.
"And what I'm particularly worried about is their families," especially said Dr. Robinson, for guard and reserve members. Unlike active duty military, they don't have the same comprehensive family support network.
At a prisoner of war recognition ceremony, POW's recognized what younger veterans are now going through. George Gray survived nearly three years as a prisoner of war during Korea. "I had several friends just went off the deep end because they couldn't take any more of it."
Wesley Browning survived the Bataan Death March. That ceremony at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center on Wednesday, April 9 coincided with the 66th anniversy of Bataan. He reflected, from his experience and to that awaiting our newest veterans, "they will have problems forever. (pause) It'll never end."
For veterans feeling isolated, disconnected or thinking of harming themselves, there is help out there. Call the mental health unit at Overton Brooks at (318) 221-8411.
Story by Jeff Ferrell
Guinea pigs tell a testing tale
Geoff Plunkett uncovered the untold history of soldiers exposed to chemical weapons.
Picture: PETER KELLY
THEY were guinea pigs for mustard gas and had excruciating burns yet were ribbed for not getting their hands dirty.
They were the Australian soldiers whose job it was to test chemical weapons in World War II and they were, until recently, the forgotten men of our war history.
That is, until a Berowra resident stumbled across a document detailing the dumping of hazardous materials at sea. In 1994, while working for the Environment Protection Agency, research scientist Geoff Plunkett found a reference to mustard gas cyclinders dumped off Morton Island in Queensland.
"I wrote a report which was picked up by the Defence Department and I thought, 'how did this stuff get here and why', and that's what led to the book," he said.
Chemical Warfare in Australia, published by the Australian Army History Collection and Australian Military History Publications, focuses on personnel involved in the maintenance and testing of chemicals imported as a retaliatory plan against Japan.
It documents the secrecy of production, storage, transportation and disposal of chemicals.
"Initially my driver was research," Mr Plunkett said of his motivation to write the book.
"Everyone has an interest in chemical weapons. Then I saw a small piece written by a member of the Chemical Warfare Unit and he said there were 'more of us'. I got hold of 35 veterans."
As Mr Plunkett delved deeper, he said the book became personal.
He said many of the veterans he spoke to were angry because, 65 years on, there was still ignorance about what they did.
They were accused of being bludgers because gloves kept their hands lilly white and were denied benefits because they were forced to stay at home.
Some died from the toxic chemicals and many have related illnesses today.
"Much of the equipment was designed for use in the UK ... not for temperatures of 40C," he said.
"They couldn't wear full gear and were often exposed to vapours."
Frank Burkin, one of 19 soldiers left from a unit of 124, said Plunkett's book was great.
"To know the story has been told provides a sense of closure. I was under a 30-year silence and if I mentioned it, people looked at me like I was telling tall tales."
Mr Burkin is happy mustard gas was never used in battle.
"I'm grateful it proved it was not a useful weapon in World War II, because it was a hindrance and would have cost more lives," Mr Burkin said. Details: www.warbooks.com.au
Australia's Guinea pigs
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Florida vet fights VA for compensation
By JOHN W. ALLMAN
The Tampa Tribune
Published: April 10, 2008
Updated: 12:12 am
TAMPA - Edgar Freyre knows about being at war.
Despite never seeing military combat, the U.S. Army veteran has spent nearly a decade fighting an unlikely foe: his own government.
Freyre, 78, of Tampa, says he is entitled to medical benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He contends that he got sick while training to fight in the Korean War and that the illness continues to affect his health today.
The federal government has repeatedly denied his claims and appeals, citing, in part, a lack of medical evidence.
"They claim it hasn't been proved yet, but that has nothing to do with me. I am here. I know it happened to me," he said. "I'm not lying. I don't have to lie."
Freyre first applied for benefits in 1967. He was denied at the time and didn't challenge the decision for more than 30 years. Since 1999, however he has aggressively pursued compensation after being diagnosed with nutritional hepatitis with cirrhosis, which his doctors link to his previous illness.
In December 2007, the VA's decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington.
Now Freyre is awaiting a new ruling from the VA after submitting new evidence in January.
He is hopeful that this time will be different. He fears that time is running out. His health, he said, is deteriorating. He wants his benefits approved before he dies so his wife might be eligible to receive widow's compensation.
And he's angry.
He said he was unable to work for most of his adult life because of his illness. He has spent as much as $190 a month for years on medication he believes should have been covered. And he doesn't understand why VA officials won't take responsibility.
"That evidence is under consideration, so he will be getting another decision," said Collette Burgess, assistant service center manager at the VA's regional office in St. Petersburg.
The average wait time on claims at the St. Petersburg office is about 106 days, less than the 180-day national average.
If his claim is denied, however, and he has to file another appeal, the average wait time for an appeals ruling is nearly a year.
Freyre said he has researched and found a number of cases in which veterans died before their cases were resolved. He vowed not to let that happen to him.
"I'm going to continue pursuing it. They're never going to stop me. Who are they to deny me something that is right?" he asked. "I have a claim. I know it's true. They can't tell me it never happened like they did before."
It shouldn't be this hard to prove.
Freyre has medical records showing various treatments he has received. He has blood work. He has medical opinions from three Tampa specialists, all supporting his claim.
And he has the facts.
In 1948, Freyre joined the Army and was sent to Puerto Rico, his birthplace, to train for two years. He spent time digging ditches and working in streams, immersing himself in the water and drinking it.
He was discharged two years later, in 1950, and moved home to New York. That's when the problems began.
Freyre suffered severe abdominal pain and frequent bouts of diarrhea, he said, starting in 1951. By 1957, he was diagnosed with schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms.
Schistosomiasis is not common in the United States, but can be contracted in places such as Puerto Rico, particularly when people are exposed to contaminated water. Freyre said he was not sick with the condition as a child.
His doctor at the time injected him with Fuadin, a drug used to treat schistosomiasis.
The injections worked, but his symptoms continued. Freyre says he believes the parasites had already damaged him internally, which is why he kept having problems.
When Freyre filed his first claim for benefits in 1967, the VA said he showed no signs of illness when he was discharged, nor had he complained of being ill.
Freyre presented medical opinions that said such illnesses could go undetected for years.
The claim was denied, in part, because no medical records existed from his treatment in 1957.
That's because all record of Freyre's treatment in the late 1950s was destroyed except for a doctor's certificate, which says he was treated for schistosomiasis.
Steve Westerfeld, a VA spokesman in Washington, said it's a common problem the VA faces when dealing with older veterans. Many records simply no longer exist.
Freyre said he decided not to fight the denial at the time because he had a wife and a growing family to support.
However, his condition continued - and worsened - for nearly 30 years.
Freyre is like thousands of veterans who seek compensation every year.
During fiscal year 2007, which ended in September, the department received more than 838,000 claims, a sharp increase over past years, Westerfeld said.
The department also is seeing more reopened claims, he said, from veterans such as Freyre who make another attempt to receive benefits.
If Freyre's claim were approved, officials would calculate his monthly compensation based on factors such as the severity of illness or disability. They also would look to see whether he was eligible for any retroactive payment.
"It's a very open-ended system," Westerfeld said. "A veteran has the right to appeal any decision we made, whether it's a decision to grant or a decision to deny."
Appeals take longer to reach a decision, however. As of September, the department had 140,000 pending appeals, each of which can take an average of 300 days to resolve.
The St. Petersburg office, on average, can process an appeal in 244 days.
Westerfeld said the department is trying to improve its ability to deal with a growing population. It is hiring 3,000 new employees and rehiring retired employees to help train them.
The entire process can be overwhelming for a veteran.
"They want to say, this is all connected to my service and the government should help me out," he said. "We certainly get that."
The VA agreed to discuss Freyre's case with The Tampa Tribune after he signed a privacy waiver.
There was much officials can't say, however, including whether other veterans received benefits for the same medical condition.
The VA also can't say how much has been spent to deny Freyre's claim. Those costs aren't tracked either, Westerfeld said.
Freyre also couldn't provide an estimate, but said he has spent thousands of dollars on medical care, tests and medications since he was diagnosed in 1957.
Officials also declined to say whether the length of time Freyre has spent trying to receive benefits is normal.
"I'm not going to speculate on that," Burgess said.
Freyre left New York in the 1970s and moved to Tampa. He continued seeking construction jobs, but said his health made work difficult.
By 1998, he was still sick, but he had new hope. He had been diagnosed with nutritional hepatitis with cirrhosis, which his doctor said could be linked to the schistosomiasis.
Freyre filed a new claim for benefits in November 1999, but that, too, was denied.
He requested a hearing. He provided testimony. He hired a lawyer. He collected multiple medical opinions.
"I feel unable to disregard the thought that this patient has both illnesses as a mere coincidence," Margarita Cancio of the Infectious Disease Associates of Tampa Bay wrote in 2004. Cancio is a former chief of staff at Tampa General Hospital.
The veterans department sought its own experts in 2000, 2004 and 2005 to counter Freyre's claims. One was Rathel Nolan, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Nolan was paid $500 in 2005 to address two questions: Was it possible Freyre contracted schistosomiasis, as he said, while in the Army? And could his nutritional hepatitis with cirrhosis have occurred as a result? The answers: Maybe, and no.
"If he indeed had schistosomiasis, it is a reasonable conclusion that he contracted it during his service," Nolan said, saying no record of Freyre's initial diagnosis was available. "Since that time, there have been no definitive tests to show that the patient had schistosomiasis."
Nolan argued that nowhere in Freyre's medical exams was there any evidence of the disease. Freyre has contended in his appeals that the Fuadin injections in 1957 cured the schistosomiasis, but that the damage to his liver and intestines had already been done because it went undiagnosed for years.
A year later, in February 2006, the Board of Veterans Appeals denied his appeal.
Most people likely would give up, but Freyre's attorney, Michael Steinberg, said he disagreed with the decision.
"It's just my opinion that they could have said circumstantially, more likely than not, his current condition could be related," Steinberg said. "They gave more weight to the opinion of their doctor."
Steinberg told Freyre he still had options. He could appeal to federal court, or he could submit new evidence.
In 2006, while his appeal was being considered, Freyre submitted to a new blood test to detect schistosoma antibodies. The test was positive.
For the first time, doctors had found evidence in Freyre's system of the disease that the VA's expert essentially questioned whether he ever had.
Three months ago, Freyre reopened his claim.
It's no longer about money, he said. He just wants to prove finally that he hasn't been wrong all this time.
And, he said, "That's what I'm going to do before I die."
Reporter John W. Allman can be reached at (813) 259-7915 or email@example.com.
Bob Woodruff to receive award
LOS ANGELES—Bob Woodruff, the ABC news correspondent nearly killed by a roadside bomb while working in Iraq, has been named the recipient of the Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism, the Los Angeles Press Club announced Wednesday.
"We couldn't find a more deserving recipient of this award than Bob Woodruff," Chris Woodyard, USA Today reporter and president of the Los Angeles Press Club said in a statement. "Woodruff showed courage not only by going in harm's way to report in Iraq, but then bravely facing a long and difficult recovery after being wounded."
Woodruff will receive the honor named for Daniel Pearl, the late Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in 2002, during the Press Club's 2008 Southern California Journalism Awards on June 21 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.
Woodruff suffered serious brain injury in January 2006, when a roadside blast in Iraq tore off part of his skull and sent shrapnel into his head. He spent 36 days in a medically induced coma, but returned to the job 13 months later and recently won a Peabody Award for his series "Wounds of War—The Long Road Home of Our Nation's Veterans."
"Bob has become an iconic role model, not only of journalistic courage and integrity, but also of the capacity of the human spirit to turn injury into challenge," Daniel Pearl's parents Judea and Ruth Pearl said in a statement. Their foundation is a co-presenter of the award.
Past recipients include the late Michael Kelly of Atlantic Monthly, Time Magazine journalists Michael Weisskopf and James Nachtwey and Jesus Blancornelas, editor of the Mexican weekly Zeta. Last year's award was won by veteran war correspondent Kevin Sites.
The first award went to Pearl, who was researching a story on alleged links between al-Qaida member Richard Reid—the so-called shoe bomber—and Islamic militants in Pakistan when he was kidnapped and killed.
On the Net:
Los Angeles Press Club: http://www.lapressclub.org
Congratulations Bob, I know I can say many if not all veterans are proud for you and offer you our SALUTE's. Hoooooooah
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
No Peace From War
The mother of a 24-year-old soldier who returned from Afghanistan sleepless, agitated and suicidal arrives on Parliament Hill today to press for better care for troops with severe psychological battle scars.
Ann LeClair of Sarnia said her son, Cpl. Travis Schouten, returned from Kandahar in the fall of 2006 a "changed man." She said the Canadian Forces is not doing enough to help soldiers like him who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She will testify in-camera today before MPs on the Commons defence committee studying the scope of the problem.
When Schouten returned from tour of duty, he started drinking heavily and became easily frustrated and angry. The gunner based at CFB Petawawa suffered nightmares, depression and wanted to be left alone. Eventually LeClair gave up her job to care for him.
"He didn't want to sleep anymore because he didn't want the dreams," she said. "We had to leave the lights on for him at night."
Schouten's depression eventually led to a two-day vanishing act and an attempt to kill himself with a mix of pills and alcohol. LeClair said she has been battling the military for help ever since.
"I was appalled at the treatment he received, or should I say, didn't receive," she said. "I was astonished. It was beyond my wildest imagination or my wildest nightmare. In all honesty, Afghanistan was hard. But this is hell."
LeClair recently brought her concerns to the top, meeting with Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier. He told her the military is doing its best but grappling with a tremendous "volume" of such cases.
Figures from Veterans Affairs show the caseload is now 10,881 veterans or armed forces members with a psychiatric condition, of whom 7,106 are diagnosed with PTSD. Numbers include vets from previous conflicts, but have been climbing quickly since Canada's Afghanistan mission began in 2002.
Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson said his department is taking care of those in need with financial and clinical programs.
"This was recognized long before my tenure with previous ministers, the need to address that," he said in a recent interview, adding his government is always striving to meet the changing needs of traditional and "new force" vets.
But LeClair said she will demand the government do better when she speaks to the committee today.
"My son has gone through hell," she said. "He didn't anticipate feeling like he was nobody because he has an occupational stress injury."
It appears the Canadian government is treating their war deployed soldiers like the DOd and the VA is here in the states........
THIS IS AN OPEN INVITATION TO ALL TO ATTEND THE FIRST CONVENTION OF THE UNITED FEMALE VETERANS OF AMERICA AT THE ST LOUIS MARRIOTT WEST ST LOUIS MISSOURI. JUNE 26 TO JUN 29. DETAILS ARE IN THE LINK BELOW.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO PASS THIS ALONG. ANYONE WHO WISHES TO SEND A COPY OF PHOTOS TO ME TO BE DISPLAYED AT THE CONVENTION AND AT THE END WE WILL DONATE THEM TO THE WOMEN'S MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON DC.
UFVA IS WORKING ON GUEST SPEAKERS AND COORDINATING WITH VETERANS GROUPS TO DISPLAY MATERIALS FROM THEM.
PLEASE SUBMITT YOUR IDEAS AND WISHES TO ME AT
AGNES M "IRISH" BRESNAHAN
US ARMY CAPTAIN SIG C 10 SEP 1971 TO 10 JUN 1977
10 MARBLEHEAD ROAD WINDHAM NH 03087
LIFETIME MEMBER UNFVA DAV VVA AND AMERICAN LEGION
Just spreading the word of the "First convention" of this group
Monday, April 7, 2008
An innocent and reportedly depressed Navy Airman Keith Roberts (1968-71) suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and serving a four-year sentence for wire fraud since March 2007, has for reasons unclear been moved and caged in solitary confinement in a federal prison in Minnesota for almost a month, according to the veteran's wife.
Roberts was targeted by the US Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 2003-05, and became the central figure in an Alice-in-Wonderland tale, after U.S. Attorney Stephen Biskupic of Wisconsin and top VA officials schemed to convict Roberts’ of fraudulently receiving VA benefits (by wire transfer as the VA requires).
Despite hostility from high quarters of the VA, Roberts may be again granted the benefits for which he is federal prison for receiving.
U.S. Atty Biskupic is the same U.S. Atty who infamously prosecuted an innocent Wisconsin woman in a political prosecution, and several innocent Wisconsin citizens for voter fraud in apparent service to the needs of the national GOP.
The honorably discharged Roberts, from Gillett, Wisconsin (Oconto county)veteran, has a criminal appeal pending before the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and simultaneously has an administrative appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims’ (CAVC) on his VA disability case, litigating the same set of facts before two judicial forums.
Roberts and his veteran allies hope for a decision this sometime this year.
Roberts’ U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) claim for his diagnosed PTSD (granted and since challenged repeatedly and denied by the VA) is related to, among other stressors, trying to save his friend, Florida native Airman Gary Holland, from being crushed to death by a C-54 airplane while stationed at a naval air base in Naples, Italy in 1969.
The U.S. Dept. of Justice, in the office of US Atty Stephen Biskupic, made the unusual argument of contending (and convincing a jury in federal court) that Holland and Roberts were not friends (an assertion knocked down) and that Roberts was not part of an unsuccessful rescue effort to save Airman Holland, though Roberts was on line duty at the time and the base equivalent of general quarters had sounded as Holland slowly was crushed to death.
Roberts' wife, Delores, sent the following e-mail to this writer over the weekend.
There is nothing at my end of the world to relate to anyone that is good news. Keith has been in solitary for well over a month, no word yet as to why he is there, he can not make telephone calls and when we visited him one month ago he had just been placed there and no word as to why. He is allowed to make one telephone call per month. … He has not heard from the 7th nor from the CAVC. … If you know anyone that would be interested in going to national news on TV or otherwise, that would probably help. Don't know what to do or what to think. (Too) damn depressed, just (to) do the daily functioning, go to work, eat, sleep and occasionally clean house only when needed. Nothing else to report, the rest of the story is too damn depressing to even talk about.
Veteran-advocacy groups deride the delivery of health care and disability benefits to our veterans today as just another example of Bush administration incompetence in administering government services and entitlements to which it is ideologically hostile, a la FEMA and disaster relief.
Roberts had hounded the VA to distraction and when he accused the VA of outright fraud in 2003, one VA Special Agent Raymond Vasil retaliated against this Vietnam-era veteran for seeking retroactive PTSD-related disability benefits—administrative events by Vietnam-era veterans that are politically unpopular with the American Enterprise Institute and the Bush administration.
It is in this context that Roberts was reportedly argumentative and insulting to the VA, accusing the VA of fraud.
“[T]he only reason Airman Roberts was ever prosecuted was because he was a ‘belligerent ass’ who kept insisting that he get paid back to discharge. He was demanding an appeal in Washington,” said the source at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee who e-mailed the Lee Rayburn radio show in Madison in early June 2007 about the Roberts affair. “I'd have to say that you guys are TOTALLY (uppercase in the original) right about Roberts' conviction being bullshit ...”
On August 16, 2004, the VA halted the benefits being paid to Roberts based upon Vasil’s investigation; Roberts appealed the decision on September 14, 2004, and was indicted seven months later.
The case has also drawn the attention of Harper's magazine contributor and human rights attorney, Scott Horton:
(T)ake a look at another prosecution brought in Wisconsin against a wounded vet, whose claims for benefits was turned into a criminal prosecution for wire fraud. As Wisconsin Public Radio reports, Keith Roberts, a Navy veteran got into the U.S. attorney’s crosshairs by filing a claim for benefits related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosed as occurring because he witnessed and tried to prevent his friend from being crushed to death by a C-54 airplane while stationed at a Naval air base in Naples, Italy 1969, and unrelated assault by the Navy Shore Patrol—granted and then denied, has not yet been decided by the CAVC. But the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after being accused of fraud in 2003 by Roberts ignored the CAVC process and investigated and asked that Roberts be prosecuted for fraud by the US Attorney’s office.
The prosecution smacks of retaliation and a plan to suppress veterans claims—Roberts was prosecuted for tenaciously pursuing a claim for benefits, which VA resisted and which is still in the benefits review process. It may be that the veteran is making claims which shouldn't’t be granted, but the decision to resist them by a criminal complaint is very heavy handed. What happens if the Veterans’ Appeals process rules for Roberts? As I read these papers, that seems possible. ...
Legal questions and legal comments can be e-mailed to Robert Walsh at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Much of the above piece has been previously published in numerous veteran advocates' media.]
Veterans' advocates ask that you please contact the following members of Congress expressing your objection that Roberts was:
- Singled out by the VA and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney because he spoke out against the fraudulent and slow VA
- Was prosecuted for wire fraud while his VA disability benefits claim was and is still being adjudicated in the VA claims process
Rep. John Conyers, Jr
Chair, House Committee on the Judiciary
(Phone) (313) 961-5670(Fax) (313) 226-2085
Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Member, House Committee on the Judiciary
E-mail: Field: http://tammybaldwin.house.gov/get_address.html
(Phone) (608) 258-9800
(Fax) (608) 258-9808
Contributions can be sent to:
Keith A. Roberts Defense Fund, Inc.
c/o Kentucky Neighborhood Bank
201 E. Lincoln Trail Blvd.
Radcliff, KY 40160
Media on Keith Roberts
- National VA Director Pushed US Atty Biskupic to Indict Wisconsin Veteran
- New Evidence in Jailed Vet Case, Witness Contradicts Prosecution in E-Mail
- More Evidence Clears Innocent Jailed Wisconsin Veteran
- Jailed Wis Vet Makes Due Process, Evidence Arguments in Appeal
- Fighting the US DoJ and the VA in Two Courts at Once
- DoJ Memo Conflicts with U.S. Atty Biskupic Address at Oral Arguments for Jailed Wisconsin Vet
- Harper's Magazine. Scott Horton: US Attorneys' scandal - US Atty Stephen Biskupic
- Wisconsin Public Radio News (May 10, 2007)
- The Lee Rayburn show (June 29, 2007)
- Keith Roberts' Atty. on the Lee Rayburn show (June 6, 2007)
- The Lee Rayburn show (May 24; 2007 begins at 44 min., 24 sec.)
Oral Arguments in U.S. v. Roberts
Access oral arguments. [Enter 07-1546 in the Case Number's fields by entering 07 in the "Year," and entering 1546 in the "Year Fragment's" field. Give the file some 45 seconds at least to load.]
Below is a piece from June 7, 2007 disconfirming much of the US Atty's case against Roberts.
June 7, 2007
More Dismantlement of Case Against Jailed Wisconsin Veteran
By Michael Leon
Madison, Wisconsin—An analysis reveals more corroboration of the account of a Vietnam-era airman who witnessed a colleague's death in a gruesome C-54 aircraft accident in 1969 at a Naval Air Facility in Naples, Italy and is now imprisoned for wire fraud.
The crushing death of Airman Gary Holland in the wheel well of the C-54 set in motion a chain of events that 36 years later led the US Veterans Administration (VA) and the US Atty for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2006 to indict and convict a veteran, Airman Keith Roberts (1968-71), diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), on charges of wire fraud, arguing that Roberts fabricated his role at the death scene and his relationship with Holland, defrauding the VA.
Roberts is currently is serving 48 months in federal prison.
The US v. Keith A. Roberts indictment on mail fraud (April 26, 2005) and later superseded by an indictment on wire fraud alleges in part that Roberts in his “(s)cheme to (d)efraud” the VA “falsely represented material information to the VA” including “that Roberts and airman Gary (Holland) were close friends and roommates.”In fact, an analysis obtained from Roberts wife, Deloris Roberts, of the service histories Gary Holland and Keith Roberts reveals parallel military careers that would make it unlikely that Holland and Roberts were not at least friendly in their relationship, and that contradicts the prosecution’s indictment and trial statements.
Holland and Roberts:
- Took two weeks-long classes together while stationed together in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968
- Were quartered in the same barracks at Lakehurst, NJ where they also trained together for weeks
- Went into the Naval Air Force base in Naples, Italy together as two young airman
- Slept in close quarters (feet away from each other) while at Naval Air Station base in Naples, Italy
- Worked in the same and only base air hangar together
- Took an advancement test together on the morning of the day Holland was killed on Feb. 4, 1969
“I’d say there was a pretty good chance that Keith Roberts and Gary Holland were friends,” said Deloris Roberts. “The prosecution must know this fact.”
Very little exculpatory information was introduced at Roberts’ trial by his court-appointed attorney, and much exculpatory information was not introduced.
After being diagnosed with PTSD and granted disability benefits, Roberts had no idea that political and bureaucratic forces allied with (then) VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in 2004-05 were determined to adopt the policies of the rightwing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), ultimately resulting in Roberts’ prosecution after Roberts phoned the VA and complained that the VA were engaging in fraud in processing his PTSD disability claim.
Roberts's phone call and accusation of VA fraud sounded the alarm bells at the VA.Under the Bush administration, the VA is using propaganda to defend a reduction in benefits to veterans with PTSD, and redirect blame towards the troops themselves, often dismissing the PTSD as a mere pre-existing personality disorder, not requiring VA disability benefits, as 100,000s of troops return home form Iraq and Afghanistan damaged and forgotten.
Roberts’ benefits were ultimately cut after his phone call, and US Atty Stephen Biskupic's office used the VA benefits-severed administrative fact as a means of prosecuting Roberts in a criminal process.
Biskupic is the enforcer of a new VA policy adopted from the AEI that veterans suffering from PTSD wallow in a "culture of trauma" and do not deserve "entitlements;" and what Roberts attorney calls "a VA culture of claims denial that has turned into a criminalization of the disability claims process."
Roberts remains a warning to other Vietnam-era veterans suffering from PTSD to not file for PTSD benefits.