Veterans receive benefits for basic healthcare and education, as well as long-term care, caregiver support, disability compensation, pensions, housing, job training, and so on. You can also apply for benefits for your family members and dependents.
All veterans need to make applications for these benefits, and in some cases, fraudulent applications are made. In many cases, people have simply made a mistake in their application, but sometimes the fraud is deliberately carried out. In 2018, Darryl Wright admitted to scamming state and federal governments out of more than $700,000 in benefits and was sentenced to three years in prison, stripped of his medals, and ordered to pay $600,000 in restitution. If you have been charged with veterans’ benefits fraud, it’s important to recognize that many different Federal crimes can apply to these kinds of acts, and you may be subject to serious consequences.
What is Veterans’ Benefits Fraud?
Section 38 U.S. Code § 6103 deals with veterans’ benefits, and forfeiture in the case of fraud. This section sets out that a you can forfeit all your rights, claims, and benefits if you:
- Knowingly make, conspire, combine, aid, assist in, agree to, arrange for, or in any way procure the making or presentation of;
- A false statement or fraudulent affidavit, declaration, certificate, statement, voucher, or paper;
- Concerning any claim for benefits.
In addition, any payment that is accepted through fraud is covered by 38 U.S. Code § 6102, which states that:
Any person entitled to monetary benefits … whose right to payment thereof ceases upon the happening of any contingency, who thereafter fraudulently accepts any such payment, shall be fined in accordance with title 18, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
This means that if you were entitled to veterans’ benefits, and for any reason you were no longer entitled to payments but continued to accept them, you have committed a Federal crime. Under 18 U.S. Code § 1035, if you knowingly and willfully make any false statements or falsify a scheme or material fact, in connection with the delivery of or payment for health care benefits, you can also be subject to fines or imprisonment up to 5 years.
Another potential crime that you can be charged with is 18 U.S. Code § 669: theft or embezzlement in connection with health care. Under this section, if you knowingly and willfully:
- embezzle, steal … or intentionally misapply any of the monies, funds, securities, premiums, credits, property, or other assets;
- of a health care benefit program;
You can be fined or imprisoned for up to 10 years, or both. Even for amounts of money stolen under $100, you can still be fined or imprisoned for up to one year.
It’s clear to see that all of the potential penalties can add up quite fast, and you can be charged with multiple counts of any (or all) of these offenses, among others. If you have been involved in a large scheme relating to veterans’ benefits fraud, or have been making fraudulent statements for a long period of time (relating to large amounts of money), the penalties can be very high.
What to Do if You are Accused of VA Benefits Fraud?
One of the issues with benefits fraud is that it is very hard to defend. If you claimed a benefit that you were not entitled to, it is difficult to prove that you did not intend to make a claim, or to misrepresent your status.
In any event, if you have been accused or charged with benefits fraud, or with making a false statement in relation to health care matters (or fraudulent statements more generally), contact a lawyer. These cases can be difficult with serious penalties, and having a defense lawyer to help you with your case can make a big difference.
Also consider whether you have any information that can show that any mistake or inaccuracy was not knowingly or willfully performed. You can also show that any material fact that is inaccurate now, was not inaccurate at the time that you claimed the benefit. Any communications you have with Veteran’s Affairs may be useful to show the process that was carried out when claiming your benefits.
One of the saving graces of the law is that if you forfeit your benefits due to fraud, your spouse, children, and parents can still receive any benefits that they are entitled to, though the amounts may be reduced. If any of these family members also participated in carrying out the fraud, their benefits will be forfeit also.
Call Stechschulte Nell For Help
If you have been charged with veterans’ benefits fraud or any related crimes, the law office of Stechschulte Nell can advise you. Don’t wait. Call our top-rated Florida law firm at (813) 280-1244 to speak to an experienced federal defense attorney. We’re available 24/7 to take your call.