Showing posts with label Wisconsin Navy veteran Keith Roberts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wisconsin Navy veteran Keith Roberts. Show all posts

Dec 10, 2013

Wrongfully Convicted: Keith Roberts Redux

PTSD fraud at the VA is like voter fraud on a national level, there is no 'there' there

Had an interesting exchange with Attorney Robert P. Walsh, a Vietnam War Army combat veteran, who devotes his life to helping military veterans in his law practice.

Walsh was the attorney of Wisconsin's Keith Roberts, a Navy Vietnam-era veteran, unjustly convicted of wire fraud in 2006. [The conviction was upheld on appeal to the federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a July 2008 decision reading in part: "The record might also have supported a jury determination that Mr. Roberts sincerely believed that his statements were true and that he had no intention to defraud the Government," by Justice Kenneth Ripple. But Ripple notes of the guilty verdict, that, "It is beyond our authority to disturb such a finding on appeal."]

Roberts' real crime, in the eyes of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, was hounding the VA (DVA) and taking seriously his right to pursue a disability benefits claim—a dangerous practice for veterans during the Bush-Cheney administration.

And to listen to Walsh, this is a danger that has been carried on in the Obama administration.

Personally, I though the embedded neocons at the VA and Veterans Benefit Administration and the corrupt US attorneys were mostly gone.

Walsh doesn't give a damn about anything except helping veterans, so he is someone worth listening to, if one takes helping veterans seriously.

Some edited notes from Bob Walsh on veterans and VA:

The VA has used and continues to use the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) as their enforcer, a private police force.

Wisconsin's Keith Roberts is only one example.

The probable cause that a crime had been committed in the Roberts case: "there were inconsistencies in the VA benefits claims file."

Since the benefits disability system is ex parte and non-adversarial and dozens of employees have access to the file, that should not warrant a criminal indictment in Federal District Court, as it did.

Had the VA Office of General Counsel not been a No Show in the entire process (who knows what closet they were cowering in during the criminal proceedings) there would not have been an indictment.

The VA Regional Counsel in Detroit, Michigan, with jurisdiction over Wisconsin, had no knowledge of the indictment at the time Roberts' criminal trial began, as required by administrative law regulations.

The VA Regional Office in Detroit and the VA OIG had attempted the same ploy on a decorated WW II veteran in Michigan a few years earlier. We were able to increase that veteran's benefits to the Special Monthly Compensation rate for his war wounds. When he died he was receiving about $3,500.00 per month.  We were never able to recover the $ 50,000.00 that VA stole from him and his family when they created the false overpayment in his case.

The VA had put him in overpayment and then attempted to have him prosecuted for fraud like Roberts.   Our U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan had the integrity to tell the VA OIG to go to hell. The political hacks in Milwaukee were only too happy to do the bidding of the Bush-Cheney White House and make an 'example' of Keith Roberts.

Roberts was to be the poster boy for PTSD fraud.  The 'welfare Cadillac' of veterans benefits.

PTSD fraud at VA is like voter fraud on a national level. There is no 'there' there.

Most of the real fraud turns out to be VA staff and Service Officers, not individual veterans.

Most of the real waste to the taxpayers is in executive compensation and bonuses. 

Where else but VA can you have an 85 percent error rate and get a promotion and bonus in the same year?

Maybe on Wall Street in a mortgage unit. Other than that, can’t think of an example.

Justice delayed is not justice in full measure. Veterans are not third-class citizens. They are entitled to the same due process a mass murderer is afforded.

High time the basic due process and the protection of the Administrative Procedures Act is imposed on the VA.

The path through which American citizens can impact the regulation-rulemaking process is through the federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act, mandating federal agencies solicit public comment before instituting new rules and regulations that implement legislative acts such as the Veterans Judicial Review Act and other statutes intended to help veterans, their families and our country.

Apr 6, 2013

Obama takes hits on veterans from hypocritical GOP

It was not that long ago (Feb. 8, 2004) that George W. Bush declared on Meet the Press, "I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind."

Bush got his wars, the media delivered his lies, and as predicted by veterans' advocates 100,000s of veterans came home disabled.

But the war president was not the veterans' president.

And President Obama is still cleaning up the mess made of troops and Marines when we make wars.

The Obama administration has—in direct opposition to the administration of George W. Bush and its allies in rightwing thinktanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)—called off Bush's war on veterans.

But now, Republicans and even liberal groups are savaging, unfairly in my view, President Obama for VA backlogs, even as the GOP blocks administration calls for increases in the budget of the Veterans Benefits Administration.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla; 2001-present) chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, says no more money increases for veterans, but he is all-so-concerned now about the claims backlog.

Miller said exactly nothing about the wars Bush had others wage, and the lack of policy preparation for the troops and Marines coming home. So, Republicans are now appalled at the backlog of benefit claims, though this new-found concern never surfaced during the Bush-Cheney administration. This is just GOP crap.

It didn't get much coverage, but during the Bush administration the GOP chickenhawks did declare war on veterans, at least those who file disability claims.

Massive disability benefits claims backlogs were ignored and the hostile VA went after veterans politically, especially Vietnam veterans, calling them what is the equivalent of Romney's 47 percent.

Veterans with PTSD were specifically targeted.

In an infamous comment made in 2005 at the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) meeting, recounted by a former VBA analyst, Paul Sullivan, VA bureaucrats in the Bush administration blamed a lack of belief in God as the cause for PTSD. Typical.

In Wisconsin, one Vietnam-era veteran was even criminally convicted and imprisoned for filing a disability claim after being diagnosed with PTSD, a warning shot against veterans.

The war on veterans' new front on PTSD was predicated upon the GOP's philosophical abhorrence of veterans' receiving benefits, displayed well in the last presidential campaign, as the Ayn Rand nonsense of Romney-Ryan and the Republicans actually came out in the open after being taped surreptitiously.

Romney-Ryan was just a continuation of the past administration's war against veterans.

"[I]t’s also very likely that some of the veteran baby boomers who have filed claims in recent years did so not out of medical need but out of a desire for financial security … [T]he rush of applications for long-term disability entitlements reflects the extent to which the culture of the DVA since Vietnam has become fixated on PTSD," piped Dr. Sally Satel, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute on March 1, 2006 in a piece typical of actual disdain for veterans.

President Obama expanded the VA's disability programs, and in 2010 changed the PTSD rules for obtaining benefits, a move that drew criticism from the chickenhawk neocons and their allies for making it easier for PTSD victims to obtain benefits. And Obama also expanded rules for Agent Orange claims, again in 2010. Both of these moves were made when the Democrats controlled both Congress and the Presidency. The GOP-controlled House of Representatives' message to veterans now is loud and clear: Go to hell, folks, you're just part of the 47 percent.

That's not the message we get from Obama.

Obama is bringing home troops and Marines; expanding veterans' benefits and taking responsibility for the treatment of our veterans. And Obama's DoJ does not prosecute veterans like Bush-Cheney's DoJ.

George W. Bush and the Republicans did the opposite:  Made war; and ignored and attacked our veterans.

Nov 11, 2012

Happy Veterans Day

Keith Roberts - Jailed and convicted
thorough prosecution
by
Wisconsin U.S. Atty, Steven Biskupic
for tenaciously pursuing
his disability benefits claims

"I had this conversation with a guy in the [George W. Bush] White House, the liaison to the Department of Veterans Affairs. This was during the Bush Administration. He said, if we were to keep every promise that we made to the veterans, it would bankrupt us as a nation."
- Veterans' advocate, Steve Robinson (U.S. Army combat veteran, Rangers and Special Operations) [Quote is from a piece in the Executive Intelligence Review (subscription required)]

This is Veterans Day. Not Austerity day.

It's absurd to contend we cannot afford as a society to make good on the promises we make to our service members.

Lest we lose our soul as a nation, we can cannot afford not to keep our promises.

So, please consider this when the Third Way, Alan Simpson and company push President Obama to trash Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' benefits and education.

Committing this travesty has been the policy objective of the American Enterprise Institute, the Bush administration and neocons for decades, and has been rejected thoroughly in our elections last week, with Republicans hanging onto to the House only through gerrymandered congressional districts.

This Veterans Day, I salute my father, Tony Leon (U.S.Army), Keith Roberts (U.S. Navy), Robert Walsh (U.S. Army), the UW-Madison Veterans Law Center and Gordon Duff (U.S. Marines).

Thank you for your service.

Mar 14, 2012

Wisconsin Veteran Awaits Word from U.S. Supreme Court

C-54 Aircraft killed veteran's friend, began the VA vendetta
against Keith Roberts

Update: Court shoots down veteran; won't hear case.

Innocent man wrongfully convicted, stripped of PTSD benefits for tenaciously pursuing his disability claim. The U.S. government has $1,000,000s at its disposal to pursue a vendetta; a veteran’s family in northern Wisconsin has his service to our country.


The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to soon announce a decision on whether Navy veteran Keith Roberts's case will be granted cert.

Roberts was targeted by top officials of the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs for in the words of the human rights attorney, Scott Horton, "tenaciously pursuing a claim for VA disability benefits," an alleged crime that led to an indictment on wire fraud.

In a bizarre prosecution, Roberts was specifically accused of not knowing his fellow airman, Gary Holland, and exaggerating his efforts to save his fellow airman who was crushed to death by a C-54 aircraft in a Navy air base in Naples, Italy in 1969.

Weak grounds for a federal prosecution? These are the grounds on which the government successfully pursued a prosecution against this honorably discharged Navy veteran who served during a combat era.

Roberts and Holland

Roberts and Holland were both on line duty when Holland was killed, and served together during their time in the Navy:
  • Took two weeks-long classes together while stationed together in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968
  • Were quartered in the same barracks at Lakehurst, NJ where they also trained together for weeks
  • Went into the Naval Air Force base in Naples, Italy together as two young airman
  • Slept in close quarters (feet away from each other) while at the base in Naples, Italy
  • Worked in the same and only base air hangar together
  • Took an advancement test together on the morning of the day Holland was killed on Feb. 4, 1969
Roberts, like everyone else on duty, rushed to save Holland who slowly was being crushed to death by the aircraft in a gruesome scene.

Navy Airman Keith Roberts
Subsequently, Roberts followed the advice of his Veteran’s Service Officer (Shawano County (Wisconsin)) who had determined that Keith Roberts was entitled to an earlier effective date for his diagnosed PTSD.

Roberts is basing his appeal to the Supreme Court on the denial of due process, a long list of administrative law regulations thrown out the window, and an array of misrepresentations made at his trial.

The VA bureaucracy, a hell for many veterans, was the source of outrage for Roberts who reportedly treated the VA like dogs in phone conversations. The VA returned the treatment.

The August 2005 Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) decision [page A928] the BVA determined:

Keith Roberts Petition to U.S. Supreme Court

"The evidence cited by the RO (VA Regional Office) (the death certificate) does not refer to the veteran's participation or presence at the time of Gary (Holland's) death. The death certificate, alon, in no way supported the claimed stressor event and was patently inadequate to meet the requirements of Sec. 3.304(f). THE ONLY OTHER EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF THE CLAIM WAS THE VETERAN'S OWN UNVERIFIED STATEMENTS WHICH ARE INADEQUATE TO ESTABLISH SERVICE CONNECTION AS A MATTER OF LAW (emphasis and capitalization added)."

Of course. The whole base was on the equivalent of a general quarters alarm, and frantic efforts to save Holland went unnoticed. But a lot of officers were at pains to save their careers.

The BVA's decision raises the question since when is a veteran's unverified statement sufficient to form the basis for a bizarre fraud prosecution, but not sufficient to establish service connection for a claim.

Doesn't this bureaucratic admission constitute a formal waiver of proof that relieves the VA from having to prove the admitted fact and bars the VA from disputing it.

A decision by the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recognizes the weakness of the government argument of the intent of Roberts to allegedly devise a scheme and defraud the VA.

"The record might also have supported a jury determination that Mr. Roberts sincerely believed that his statements were true and that he had no intention to defraud the Government," reads the opinion by Justice Kenneth Ripple. But Ripple notes of the guilty verdict, that, "It is beyond our authority to disturb such a finding on appeal."

The hurdle for an appellate court to overturn the judgement of a jury is high.

At the jury trial, Roberts was faced with knocking down the arguments and investigations of the United States Attorney's office and top VA officials who were determined to get Roberts, as veterans' advocates have said since the inception of the Roberts criminal proceedings.

"[T]he only reason Airman Roberts was ever prosecuted was because he was a ‘belligerent ass’ who kept insisting that he get paid back to discharge. He was demanding an appeal in Washington," said a background source at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee who e-mailed the Lee Rayburn radio show in Madison in early June 2007 about the Roberts affair, and asked to remain anonymous out of fear of losing his job. "I'd have to say that you guys are TOTALLY (uppercase in the original) right about Roberts' conviction being bullshit ... ."

Up to now, the Roberts affair reflects that a veteran can win on the merits (alleged criminal intent for pursuing a disability claim) but still lose on procedure. The U.S. government has two federal agencies and $1,000,000s at its disposal; a veteran's family in northern Wisconsin not so much, except his service to the country.

Dec 6, 2011

Jailed for Receiving PTSD Benefits, Wisconsin Vet Takes Case to U.S. Supreme Court

An innocent man looks to
U.S. Supreme Court

I still can't get over the fact that Vietnam-era veteran, Keith Roberts was targeted by the U.S. Dept of Veteran Affairs (DVA), convicted and then jailed in 2005 for receiving PTSD disability benefits.

By Michael Leon

His crime? According to the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Stephen Biskupic (2001-08), Roberts did not know his fellow airman, Gary Holland, [an absurd suggestion] who was crushed to death by a C-54 airplane at a U.S. base in Naples, Italy in 1969, and that Roberts who was on line duty exaggerated his efforts to save his friend's life.

Furthermore, Roberts was wrong to follow the advice of his Veteran’s Service Officer (Shawano County (Wisconsin)) who had determined that Keith Roberts was entitled to an earlier effective date for his diagnosed PTSD.

Roberts hates the VA, and rightfully so.

In fact, Roberts had been a thorn in the side of the Milwaukee Regional VA’s office as well as the Illinois-based regional VA Inspector General’s office for insisting on his rights as a veteran to his benefits in less-than-diplomatic tones and language.

“Keith Roberts was granted a 100% compensation rate for PTSD from his date of claim. To grant PTSD, we need both a.) a current diagnosis and b.) a verified in-service stressor. We found not only a stressor, but an in-service diagnosis for Airman Roberts,” said a source at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee who e-mailed the Lee Rayburn radio show in Madison after a broadcast of a show on Roberts. “[T]he only reason Airman Roberts was ever prosecuted was because he was a ‘belligerent ass’ who kept insisting that he get paid back to discharge. He was demanding an appeal in Washington. I'd have to say that you guys are TOTALLY (uppercase in the original) right about Roberts' conviction being bullshit. ...”

So, in response the former VA General Counsel attorney and VA national Director of Compensation and Pension Services, Renee L. Szybala, pushed U.S. Atty Biskupic to indict Roberts of mail [wire] fraud, predicating the indictment, it bears repeating, upon the ludicrous notion that Roberts and Holland did not know each other, and that Roberts exaggerated his reported efforts to keep his friend from being crushed to death.

For the record:

Holland and Roberts were both on line duty when Holland was killed:
  • - Took two weeks-long classes together while stationed together in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968
  • - Were quartered in the same barracks at Lakehurst, NJ where they also trained together for weeks
  • - Went into the Naval Air Force base in Naples, Italy together as two young airman
  • - Slept in close quarters (feet away from each other) while at Naval Air Station base in Naples, Italy
  • - Worked in the same and only base air hangar together
  • - Took an advancement test together on the morning of the day Holland was killed on Feb. 4, 1969
Roberts is basing his U.S. Supreme Court petition for a writ of cert upon the fact that he was denied his fundamental right to due process and was deprived of both liberty and property.

Roberts' 200 page-plus appeal gets legal and complicated after that.

But as someone who has reported on this case from the beginning, let me break down what happened.

As readers of Uppity Wisconsin may notice there is a comment from a veteran posted some years ago about Roberts, who corroborates Roberts' narrative.

But the wronged Navy Airman Keith Roberts (1968-71) had POed the wrong people and a corrupt U.S. Attorney [see U.S. Attorneys Scandal–Milwaukee] saw to it that an innocent man was wrongfully imprisoned for "tenaciously pursuing a claim for VA disability benefits" when the neocons were in charge of the U.S. DVA and U.S. DoJ.

To give you an idea who Biskupic is, see:
Roberts and his family are still fighting to get their lives together.

As for Biskupic, he seamlessly moved from corrupt, Bush-era U.S. Attorney to defender of the corrupt Scott Walker campaign in Wisconsin.

Well, this regime is gone.

But the damage remains from this bunch, a fact worth noting in conclusion.

Politicalization of pubic officials - shocker

There are plenty of candidates for condemnation in this affair in today’s environment when whole agencies of the U.S. government have been usurped by an administration lacking in conscience and public accountability, politicizing virtually every agency in sight, including U.S. Atty Biskupic’s office.

· Special Agent Raymond Vasil of the regional VA Inspector General’s office [“A cop Vasil is not, just an idiot with a badge,” said one veteran assisting Roberts] who lied to and vocally mocked Roberts while flying around the country fabricating a case against Roberts.

· The VA benefits process that systemically wears down veterans with the apparent intention of inducing them to give up their fight for benefits [this process is being adjudicated in the unprecedented class action suit by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.] In fact, the VA claims process can be so frustrating that many vets (especially those suffering from PTSD) are thrown into fits of rage directed at the VA itself.

· The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) that demeans veterans for seeking help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in this “culture of trauma.”

· The Pentagon that blames veterans “personality disorders” and lack of faith in God for veterans suffering after service.

· Former VA national Director of Compensation and Pension Services, Renee L. Szybala, and Jon Baker, director of the Milwaukee Regional VA office actively participated in efforts to have Roberts prosecuted, while they intentionally took steps to ensure the VA Regional Counsel did not have an opportunity to perform the mandatory legal review before the matter went to the U.S. Attorney, as required by federal regulations. Again, Szybala knew that Roberts had an appeal pending at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and that under VA regulations until that appeal was completed the case should not have been released for criminal or collection action.

· Barbra Nehls, formerly of the Milwaukee VA Regional office, who wrongly claimed at trial that Roberts’ benefits were reduced based upon the VA’s determination that Roberts’ statements of facts from 1969 formed the basis of the VA decision to grant or deny benefits. This is a material misrepresentation of VA procedure.

· And of course, Carolyn F. Washington, VA deputy asst general counsel, a woman without conscience and quintessential social climber.