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National VA Director Pushed US Atty Biskupic to Indict Critical Veteran

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Message Michael Leon

Top VA Officials Plotted to Indict Vet in Violation of Federal VA Rules
[Please credit Michael Leon at MAL Contends]

Madison, Wisconsin—The Bush administration has refused to prosecute even one case of contractor fraud despite the multi-billion-dollar swindling and war-profiteering scandals in Iraq, but pursues a vigorous enterprise to marginalize, investigate, and prosecute veterans receiving disability benefits in an attempt to fabricate a fraud crisis among veterans who were injured and traumatized during their service to their country.

One administration initiative to investigate 72,000 cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was halted in 2005 after a storm of outrage from veterans’ groups and democrats.

In the PTSD case of U.S. Navy Airman Keith Roberts (1968–71) the U.S. Dept of Justice in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Stephen Biskupic, decided to indict a Wisconsin Vietnam-era Navy veteran (who was diagnosed with PTSD by at least five different mental health professionals), using the power of his office to convict and jail the vet on trumped-up charges of wire fraud in 2004-2005.

The case has potentially vast repercussions because if Roberts’ criminal conviction and denial and reduction of benefits stand, every veteran who has a disability case pending in the VA bureaucracy is theoretically in legal jeopardy.

Were the current VA administrative rules allowed to be rendered inoperative and a new standard for benefit claims to be enacted demanding that every veteran must verify beyond a reasonable doubt the circumstances surrounding his disability claim, every veteran claimant could face criminal wire fraud indictments, assuming they resided in a jurisdiction with a US Atty exercising the same lack of prosecutorial discretion as Biskupic.

Exercising an appalling lack of prosecutorial discretion, the U.S. Atty, after prodding from U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials, drew fire for the bizarre prosecution from veterans’ groups, such as Colonel Daniel K. Cedusky’s, AUS, (Ret.), a critic of both what he calls Bush administration “chickenhawks” and anti-war activists.

Adding insult to injury, the VA also began immediate collection actions against the veteran and his two young daughters who had received education benefits related to their father’s service in the Navy.

Who or what prompted the U.S. Atty’s office is a puzzle to many readers who have followed the case of Airman Keith Roberts who has been serving 48 months in a federal prison since last March, as well as incurring associated costs of some $500,000.

But several VA e-mails point to top officials in the VA engineering a criminal prosecution while gaming the veteran’s VA benefits adjudication, and subsequently putatively financially assaulting the veteran’s family.

Roberts is but one victim of a stacked-against-the-veteran benefits system that is now the subject of an unprecedented class action law suit by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as veterans’ PTSD claims surge.

But Keith Roberts is indisputably a political and legal VA target.

Roberts’ difficulty began as he hounded the VA to distraction over his claim for an earlier effective date for his disability benefits. When he accused the VA of outright fraud in November 2003, one VA Special Agent Raymond Vasil of the regional Inspector General’s office in Chicago retaliated against this Vietnam-era veteran for seeking retroactive PTSD-related disability benefits [Roberts sought a new retroactive date per the advice of Roberts’ own Shawano County (Wisconsin) Veteran’s Service Officer.]

VA and Airman Keith Roberts

Like 100,000s of veterans, Roberts engaged in the convoluted process of the U.S. Dept of Vet Affairs (VA) bureaucracy seeking disability benefits in what is supposed to be a non-adversarial process under the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (1988) that empowers veterans the right to judicial review of decisions involving their benefits under the exclusive authority of the legislatively created VA adjudication procedures.

Roberts’ benefits claim—related to his PTSD was diagnosed as occurring because of the in-service stressor event of witnessing and trying to prevent his friend (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, and an unrelated assault by the Navy Shore Patrol—was granted at the 100 percent disability level.

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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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