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Vet Games VA System, Taxpayers Lose

Considering how long it takes – and how hard it can be – to make the U.S. Department of Veterans (“VA”) fork over rightfully-deserved disability benefits, this story, released via a VA press release, is mind-boggling:

On June 30th, Bruce A. Endicott, 34, pled guilty in federal court to theft of government funds, and admitted he committed the theft over a course of more than three years.

According to court records, Endicott began receiving service-connected disability benefits through the VA in 2005.

In June 2012, Endicott filed an additional claim with the VA for Individual Unemployability (“IU”) benefits, claiming he was unemployed and unable to be employed due to his service-connected disabilities that included physical and mental impairments. Endicott also submitted a statement to the VA in February 2013, that stated he had not worked within the past 12 months.

In fact, Endicott was currently working at the Oregon Department of Justice under a second social security number that he had not disclosed to the VA. Based on Endicott’s false statements and concealments, the VA awarded him additional benefits and advised him to notify the VA immediately if he became employed.

Endicott left the Oregon Department of Justice in December of 2013 and began working for the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office. He again failed to notify the VA he was working.

After Endicott left the District Attorney’s Office in May 2014, he applied for welfare benefits through the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS), using the second social security number and claiming to have no income. Endicott failed to disclose to DHS that he was receiving approximately $2,700 per month in VA benefits. DHS awarded him Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as food stamps) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF) benefits.

In February 2015, Endicott submitted a statement to the VA regarding his IU claim, in which he failed to disclose his former employment with the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office, and asserted that he had not worked in the past 12 months. Consequently, the VA continued to pay his IU benefits.

Between June 2012 and October 2015, Endicott received approximately $47,947 in IU benefits, $5,996 in SNAP benefits, and $2,770 in TANF benefits to which he was not entitled. As a consequence of these transgressions, which were eventually discovered and prosecuted, he entered into a plea agreement stating that the government will seek a 30-day term of imprisonment. (A federal district judge will determine his actual sentence).

Notably absent from the VA’s press release is a mention of the money. If Endicott has managed to exchange 30 days in prison for this amount, this means that this is $55,000 down the drain – money that could have gone toward veterans actually entitled to service-connected compensation. This is an insulting conclusion to a saga that has surely already cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in investigatory and legal process fees.

It is also a baffling one. Ask most veterans who have applied for disability benefits, and they will recount stories of years-long delays and their perception that the VA presumes they are not entitled to their benefits until they prove otherwise. So, then, how did Endicott manage to game the system?

Maybe this just came down to a technicality with the differing social security numbers. But Endicott’s game is now over, and no one won.

Money_Drain

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4 Responses to “Vet Games VA System, Taxpayers Lose”

  1. Good grief!

  2. Sarah, you were my lawyer and the reason my claim was finally resolved after ten years in the VA trash pile… I mean cue…. Anyway, given my own experience it baffles my mind that he was able to get away with this or how this happened!!

  3. Does it really baffle you at all?
    Truly? With your experience in the VA system and all.
    The only reason he was “caught” is because he told them he was being overpaid. And for all his thievery well they are still paying him.
    Hanging him out to dry is pointless, if you are worried about the loss of money put a spot light on why something like this happens and the fact that it has to happen frequetly for the VA to be so complacent.

    • I do still find it baffling, given the years-long struggle and wringer I see a lot of these poor vets go through.

      He’s a different breed, though – not sure why they keep referring to a “secondary social security number” when it’s clearly a false one. But again, that raises another issue – if the SSN used by vets is supposed to match the DD214 and military records, how was he able to use the false one? Presumably it wouldn’t have been on his records. So, as you point out, perhaps that should be the focus – tighter controls to prevent folks from using false information to get benefits.

      Nowhere in the public information about this does it say he turned himself in.

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