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.

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