VA disability fraud is a crime punishable with financial penalties and possible prison time, depending on the nature and egregiousness of the fraud, how much money was wrongfully taken, and the convicted person’s criminal history.
Every year, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Administration distributes approximately $60 billion in disability benefits, which are monthly cash entitlements, the majority of which go to veterans who have been wounded in combat or suffer other war-related injuries or disabilities such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
VA disability benefits are calculated on a scale of 0 to 100 percent, a number which is determined by VA medical professionals after assessing a veterans’ wounds and how those wounds continue to impact their lives.
At the lower end ten percent rating, a disabled veteran is entitled to receive a minimum of $143 a month, while 100 percent of disabled veterans receive over $3,000 a month. Additionally, and sometimes even more significantly, the percentage benefit also translates directly into medical services, including free prescriptions, access to all VA medical facilities, and advanced care. You can get a free case review at Disabledvets.com.
Most disability payments are going to exactly the people who deserve their just compensation for the wounds they sustained serving their country. In fact, far too many veterans remain underserved, in that they either have no percentage disability when they should be recognized for a physical or psychological complication from service, or their disability percentage is too low. This is especially the case for veterans who should be eligible for 100 percent disability for PTSD who are undiagnosed or underdiagnosed.
However, there are unfortunately limited cases of veterans falsely claiming benefits they should not be entitled to or non-veterans impersonating real wounded warriors or falsifying the history of combat service entirely in order to scam and defraud the government out of taxpayer dollars. So what exactly is VA disability fraud, what do you do if you suspect fraud, and what punishments do fraudsters face?
What Constitutes Disability Fraud?
When it comes to the definition of VA disability fraud, there are a number of different actions or claims which may constitute fraud in the eyes of the law. In essence, disability fraud means claiming benefits for problems that a person does not actually have.
Disability fraud can include:
- Making up an injury or disability that does not exist;
- Exaggerating the extent of an actual service-related injury and its impact;
- Claiming benefits for an injury or disability that is real, but is not in fact connected with the veteran’s service;
- Impersonating an actual veteran;
- Pretending to be a combat veteran.
Service providers can also commit disability fraud by double-billing the VA for services or misrepresenting the health care service that was provided in order to charge more money. You can read more about the types of provider or individual disability fraud on the VA’s website.
What to Do if You Suspect VA Fraud
Committing VA disability fraud is a serious offense for several reasons, not least of which because it takes valuable time and resources away from deserving wounded veterans who desperately need and deserve proper care after sacrificing enormously for their country.
Additionally, fraudsters often commit more than one type of fraud, which can do serious damage to victims, particularly if they are engaged in targeted fraud that deprives individuals of their money and savings. Therefore, if you suspect someone has committed or is actively engaging in VA disability fraud, you have a responsibility to report it to the Justice Department.
Consequences of Committing VA Disability Fraud
The VA Inspector General’s Office and other federal law enforcement agencies arrest well over a hundred people every year on suspicion of disability fraud, with convictions resulting in repayment of the amount defrauded from the government. Additional financial penalties will often apply as well, depending on the case.
Fraud of a certain amount is a felony, and as the VA is a federal agency, VA disability fraud constitutes a federal crime. Based on how much money was improperly siphoned out of the federal government, VA disability fraud often results in jail time for those caught and convicted. Generally, prison sentences for disability fraud can be up to five years.