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Old 04-11-2009, 06:40 PM
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Thievery

AP: POW benefit claimants exceed recorded POWs

By ALLEN G. BREED, AP National Writer
1 hr 47 mins ago

Prisoners of war suffer in ways most veterans don't, enduring humiliating forced marches, torture or other trauma that may haunt them long afterward. In partial recompense, the government extends them special benefits, from free parking and tax breaks to priority in medical treatment.
Trouble is, some of the much-admired recipients of these benefits apparently don't deserve them.
There are only 21 surviving POWs from the first Gulf War in 1991, the Department of Defense says. Yet the Department of Veterans Affairs is paying disability benefits to 286 service members it says were taken prisoner during that conflict, according to data released by VA to The Associated Press.
A similar discrepancy arises with Vietnam POWs. Only 661 officially recognized prisoners returned from that war alive and about 100 of those have since died, according to Defense figures. But 966 purported Vietnam POWs are getting disability payments, the VA told AP.
Being classified as a POW doesn't directly increase a veteran's monthly disability check. There's no "POW payment."
But a tale of torture and privation can influence whether a vet receives some money or nothing at all in disability payments and the VA's numbers raise questions about how often such tales are exaggerated or invented altogether.
For one Korean War veteran, a made-up story helped to ensure more than $400,000 in benefits before his lies were discovered. A Gulf War vet told a tale of beatings and mock executions, though he was never even a POW. Four women Vietnam vets blamed disabilities on their time as prisoners even though there's no record of female POWs in that war.
At the root of the problem is a disconnect between two branches of government: The Defense Department determines POW status and posts the lists online; the VA awards benefits, but evidently does not always check the DoD list to verify applicants' claims. Result: Numbers of benefit recipients that are higher than the number of recognized POWs.
"They're either phonies or there's a major administrative error somewhere," retired Navy Cmdr. Paul Galanti, who is on a VA advisory panel for POW issues, said when told of the agency's numbers.
VA spokesman Terry Jemison says POW status is confirmed "in conjunction with Department of Defense authoritative records." But the agency has not explained discrepancies between its POW numbers and the DoD's, despite repeated requests for comment.
Galanti, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1966 and spent nearly seven years in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison, calls the discrepancy "outrageous" and adds: "Somebody ought to get fired for that."
But as service members return from Iraq and Afghanistan, he knows an investigation that could bog down benefits would be shouted down as anti-veteran. And so the investigating falls to private watchdog groups like the P.O.W. Network, which says it has outed some 2,000 POW pretenders.
Nothing could be more pro-veteran, such groups say, than to go after people who are taking money meant for their comrades and also, in effect, stealing their honor.
___
There's incentive to lie. A 100 percent disability rating can be worth more than $35,000 a year in tax-free VA benefits for a married veteran with at least one dependent child not to mention also making the veteran eligible for Social Security disability payments, and full health coverage and significant educational benefits for himself and his family.
And a POW designation in VA files puts a vet in a special category under federal regulations.
Normally a veteran's "lay testimony" about traumatizing events or stressors is not considered proof when applying for disability with the Veterans Benefits Administration, or VBA, the agency's claims arm. However, the regulations add: "If the evidence establishes that the veteran was a prisoner-of-war ... the veteran's lay testimony alone may establish the occurrence of the claimed in-service stressor."
So, if a veteran told a VA psychiatrist that he had been a POW, and that story, true or not, formed the basis of the doctor's post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis, what does that mean?
"I would probably accept the paperwork," says Richard Allen of Wichita, Kan., who retired from the VBA in January after 25 years as a claims specialist.
"They're home free if they're a confirmed POW," says Allen, himself a Vietnam-era Army veteran. "We don't ask any other questions as far as verification of stressors."
POWs are exempt from copays for VA inpatient and outpatient care and medications. And POWs are entitled to an annual evaluation at the Robert E. Mitchell Center for Prisoner of War Studies in Pensacola, Fla., travel and other expenses paid. That applies only to those on the Defense list, says Dr. Robert E. Hain, executive director of the Navy-run facility.
"That's essentially the gold standard," says Hain, a retired Navy captain.
Many states offer POWs free parking at public facilities, property tax exemptions and a waiver of vehicle registration fees. That can mean hundreds of dollars saved when buying a car and hundreds more in annual renewals with POW tags.
All it takes is a letter from a VA facility, which may or may not have verified the veteran's story.
The P.O.W. Network says most phonies are just braggarts puffing at the local Kiwanis luncheon or preening for women in bars, but many have received significant benefits while trading off their borrowed valor.
Edward Lee Daily of Clarksville, Tenn., collected more than $412,000 in disability and medical benefits over 15 years before being exposed.
Daily, who spent most of the Korean war as a mechanic and clerk, far from the front, took advantage of a fire that destroyed documents at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. He forged paperwork not only to show he was a POW, but that he'd been wounded by shrapnel and given a battlefield promotion to first lieutenant.
Daily pleaded guilty in 2002, and was sentenced to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution. After years of garnishing his monthly Social Security check, the government has recouped just $7,000. (Daily also gave fabricated information to the AP in interviews for an unrelated story in 1999.)
VA's Jemison says the Veterans Health Administration, the agency's medical arm, confirms a veteran's POW status using DoD records.
But that doesn't explain people like Daily or John Karl Lee, of El Paso, Texas.
Lee's POW tale is set at the time of the Gulf War in 1991. The Army reservist claimed in interviews that he and two comrades were taken while fighting was raging, and only after emptying their M-16s at the pursuing Iraqis.
"We were beaten with the butt of their AK-47s," he told El Paso Inc. in 2002. "Sometimes in the leg, head, even the groin."
The truth was that he and the other two were sightseeing in Kuwait after the war had ended, and their vehicle strayed into Iraq. They were arrested by Iraqi authorities and held for three days at a hotel, where they were fed well, his comrades later said.
"I was held against my will," Lee told the AP in a recent interview.
Lee told AP he received a VA medical card identifying him as a former prisoner. (His documentation included an application to the VBA for POW status.) For a time, he received full disability payments from the U.S. Labor Department, supposedly for injuries and PTSD from his three weeks not days in captivity.
When authorities discovered Lee was running a business, they charged him with fraud and making false statements. He was convicted and ordered to pay nearly $230,000 in restitution and fines.
Lee is now applying to have some VA benefits reinstated.
The phenomenon of the fake POW is nothing new frauds have been outed from conflicts going back at least to World War II. And it's not limited just to men.
When the landmark National Vietnam Veteran Readjustment Study came out in 1988, four of the 427 female veterans surveyed attributed their stress to their time as POWs. That's impossible, says B.G. "Jug" Burkett, co-author of the book, "Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation was Robbed of its Heroes and its History."
"There just plain weren't any," says Burkett, himself an Army officer in Vietnam.
___

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Old 04-11-2009, 06:57 PM
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If guilty, restitution of all benifits since enlistment, and a kick to the face from each and every surviving POW would work for me...
This country doesnt have the balls for that though, even petty thievery gets nothing...
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Old 04-11-2009, 07:22 PM
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Wow I wonder how many fakes are buried at Arlington, and its not suprising the VA is screwing this up POW status is one of the easiest things yo check.
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Old 04-11-2009, 09:41 PM
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Wow I wonder how many fakes are buried at Arlington, and its not suprising the VA is screwing this up POW status is one of the easiest things yo check.
Have any fakes been discovered yet? What do you do then? Dig up the casket and toss it in the recycle container??
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Old 04-11-2009, 11:32 PM
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Have any fakes been discovered yet? What do you do then? Dig up the casket and toss it in the recycle container??
Some buried at Arlington have been relocated when they were found later to be ineligible to be buried there.
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Old 04-11-2009, 11:43 PM
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Have any fakes been discovered yet? What do you do then? Dig up the casket and toss it in the recycle container??
Some buried at Arlington have been relocated when they were found later to be ineligible to be buried there.
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Old 04-11-2009, 11:43 PM
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Some buried at Arlington have been relocated when they were found later to be ineligible to be buried there.
That is only fair
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Old 04-11-2009, 11:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Emmerich View Post
Some buried at Arlington have been relocated when they were found later to be ineligible to be buried there.

That is only fair
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Old 04-11-2009, 11:45 PM
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The dead didn't have the bone-ifides.
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Old 04-11-2009, 11:48 PM
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Some buried at Arlington have been relocated when they were found later to be ineligible to be buried there.
Who pays for the relocation?
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Old 04-12-2009, 12:20 AM
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Who pays for the relocation?
Good question. The one I remember is some guy died and I think he was a diplomat of some sort and claimed he had served in WWII. There was some issue about if he was in the Merchant Marine and that qualified. I think his widow agreed to relocation when it started to get a lot of press.

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