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Increasing fraud threatens VA benefits pool

Veterans in Georgia and across the country are becoming increasingly concerned about benefits fraud, which has the dual effect of depleting the limited pool of benefits that all vets have to share and besmirching the reputation that service personnel have earned in service of the United States. Such fraud not only takes veterans' benefits away from those legitimately in need, it also puts pressure on other resources, like service organizations, that help to pick up the slack for an already overburdened Department of Veterans Affairs. A quarter century of war and a younger generation of vets have contributed to the problems.

Since 1990, the U.S. has been involved in wars or military actions in Iraq, the Balkans and Afghanistan. There are now 600,000 more veterans from this generation of service personnel than there are from the Vietnam war. A surging veteran population has also contributed to an unfortunate increase in fraud. Some high-profile fraudsters have been uncovered, but investigation of such cases also saps resources that could be better used for those who legitimately deserve and need them.

Over the course of six months in 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Investigations arrested 80 people and recovered nearly $3 million in penalties, fines and restitution. A particularly egregious example involved a vet who defrauded the VA of $700,000 in benefits to which he was not entitled, including two medals that he did not earn. He lied about injuries he claimed to have received during his tour in Iraq.

Although he has been prosecuted and sentenced to prison, those legitimately entitled to benefits continue to experience waits and red tape. The claims process is slowed down when sham claims steer VA resources away from legitimate ones. Veterans who need help working through VA bureaucracy and delays to get their claims processed can count on an experienced attorney to help get the VA benefits they deserve.

Source: CNBC, "One veteran scammed over $700,000 and a Purple Heart in a rising wave of benefits fraud," Scott Cohn, Mar. 23, 2018

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