Veterans being fleeced by VA fiduciaries
Already a convicted petty thief, Mildred Fedd had pressing bills to pay: parking tickets, a faulty sewage system, house payments and the impound lot holding her truck hostage. So she turned to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and promised — for a small fee — to watch over an 82-year-old disabled veteran.
With his $5,000, she agreed to buy him a burial plot. Instead, the Houston caregiver paid her own bills — and got caught only after she had spent all his money and went back for more, Harris County records show.
The Veterans Affairs' Inspector General has repeatedly warned about a plague of fraud and theft in a national program that appoints family members and VA-approved fiduciaries to protect a whopping $3 billion in assets belonging to veterans the government considers too disabled to manage their own money.
Wow. Seriously? No one verified that Mildred here wasn't a criminal before letting her handle someone else's money?
Since it mentioned previous IG reports, I went and looked around real quick, and found this delightful one which contains this teaser on the cover:
Enhanced fiduciary program oversight is needed to better protect the benefit payments and estates of incompetent beneficiaries.
And the date on that one? June of 2006. So they knew about this 6 years ago?
One recommendation from that report:
VBA needs to provide more effective program oversight to reduce the risk of misuse or theft of beneficiary funds. VA Regional Office (VARO) fiduciary program staff need to complete required field examinations to assess each beneficiary’s living environment and use of the beneficiary’s funds. VBA needs to better monitor fiduciaries that are required to submit periodic accountings of income, expenses, and assets and to follow up on questionable data, independently verify beneficiary assets, and require documentation of selected expenses reported by fiduciaries.
Did we really need a report to realize all this? And where did this report get filed?
Back to the original story, this paragraph just made me mad:
At least two Texans convicted in veteran scams had criminal records — but still got approved by the VA as fiduciaries. One Houston veteran's sister with prior petty theft convictions blew part of her brother's $30,000 in at least 20 casino trips, records show.
OK, so how about some specific examples of the perfidy of those who would steal from our brothers and sisters:
One San Antonio disabled vet's daughter got suspicious when a bill collector called about delinquent payments for a new Ford Focus. Her dad, permanently hospitalized in a VA treatment center for his dementia, no longer drives and knew nothing about a car. A subsequent investigation revealed that his sister, Rosa Avila, and his niece had for five years stolen $180,000 of his money while telling the veteran "all his VA benefits were being saved" and never bringing him more than $20 at a time....
Charles D. Stange Jr., a former jailor for the Bexar County Sheriff's Office and a Gulf War-era veteran himself, lost his house in a federal forfeiture action a judge ordered in an attempt to recover $272,000 in "loans" that Stange stole from the estate of his disabled veteran father. VA officials attempted to remove Stange as a fiduciary, but Stange refused to relinquish control, records show. Stange died last year after completing a 30-month prison term.
Another Houston businessman, convicted in federal court in 2004 for stealing approximately $14,000 from a disabled veteran, subsequently failed to pay and had his probation revoked in 2008. The second time around, a judge ordered Bohdan S. Welch to pay $40,600 based on additional evidence. Angela Dodge, a spokeswoman for the Southern District of Texas, said she could not confirm whether Welch is paying now.
The most recent Texas conviction involved a 40-year-old Fort Worth woman who got approved to manage her father's VA benefits in July 2008, then stuck him in a nursing home and spent his money on herself. Yolanda R. Robinson got probation and was ordered to repay $9,305 in January 2012.
Justice came too late to help her disabled dad. He died in 2010.