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Military Document Corroborates Jailed Vet's Story

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Message Michael Leon

- via MAL Contends

Madison, Wisconsin—A February 6, 1969 “Special Enlisted Personnel Performance Evaluation” corroborates the version of events of Airman Keith Roberts (1968-74) who sits behind bars, serving a four-year sentence for federal wire fraud after seeking VA disability benefits.

The document (at MAL Contends) lists his duties at the Transient Line Operations Division, and Roberts was recommended for advancement to 3rd Class Petty Officer, two days after Roberts’ colleague and friend, Airman Gary Holland, was crushed to death in the wheel well of a C-54 airplane at a U.S. base in Naples, Italy on Feb. 4, 1969.

The document (exceptional in nature) is significant because it was given to Roberts and put in his service file two days after the death of Holland as the military equivalent of a pat on the back for Roberts’ performance at the scene of Holland’s death by Lt. Commander H.R. Truesdale, Roberts’ commanding officer.

Holland had trained with Roberts in New Jersey and they both came to the small Italy airbase as young airmen within weeks of each other.

The document undercuts the theory advanced by US Atty Stephen Biskupic’s office (Eastern Dist. of Wisconsin) that Roberts engaged in a “scheme” to “fabricate” events at Holland's death that led to his granting of disability benefits in 1999, retroactive to 1992.

Bush Policy

After being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and granted disability benefits, Vietnam-era veteran Keith Roberts had no idea that an array of political and bureaucratic forces allied with VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in 2004-05 was determined to adopt the policies of the rightwing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, ultimately resulting in Roberts’ prosecution after Roberts phoned the VA and complained that the VA were engaging in fraud in the processing of his PTSD disability claim.

Roberts’ benefits were ultimately cut after his phone call, and US Atty Biskupic's office used the VA benefits-severed administrative fact as a means of prosecuting Roberts in a criminal process.

Under the Bush administration, the VA is using well-crafted propaganda to defend a reduction in benefits to veterans with PTSD, and redirect blame towards the troops themselves, or dismiss the PTSD as a mere pre-existing personality disorder, not requiring VA disability benefits.

On Memorial Day at a peace rally in Madison, one Vietnam veteran seeking PTSD benefits, Terry Collins, said, "The VA is trying to drive me crazy. They are just dragging this out and trying to frustrate me to death."

The Bush VA wants Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) disability benefits slashed, as returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets' and Vietnam-era vets’ claims have spiked.

Jim Henning

Roberts was advised by the late Jim Henning, a Shawano County (Wisconsin) Veteran’s Service Officer with an impeccable record, to apply for an earlier retroactive date for his PTSD disability benefits in an official VA document.
Henning’s advice laid out in the document in Roberts file cut no ice with VA higher-ups and US Atty Stephen Biskupic (Eastern Dist. of Wisconsin).

Henning’s document was never introduced at trial.

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Michael Leon is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. His writing has appeared nationally in The Progressive, In These Times, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at
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