Maine Man Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison for Stealing VA Benefits
A Maine fisherman and clam-digger, Richard C. Ramsdell, has pled guilty to fraudulently obtaining disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He is accused of having received up to $200,000 in benefits, though the 39-year-old’s brief service in the Marine Corps was not enough to render him eligible for VA benefits. A judged sentenced him to three years in prison.
According to court documents and local media, Ramsdell told VA officials that he had a debilitating back injury and was unable to work. Meanwhile, he was performing strenuous jobs as a fisherman, painter and clam-digger. He was also doing manual labor while imprisoned last year on a conviction for stealing copper from a Navy base.
According to Bangor Daily News, prosecutors had lined up a VA doctor to testify that Ramsdell would not have qualified for VA benefits – due to his very brief period of service – without providing false statements to the VA. The VA does not, apparently, independently verify disability applicant’s eligibility with the Department of Defense before giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits.
Also, this week, a convicted sex offender was able to steal a National Guard NCO’s identity for years and obtain care from the VA medical facility at White River Junction, Vermont.
Meanwhile, calls have been mounting all spring for Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki to step down. Concerned Veterans for America produced a 30-second commercial spot calling for his resignation or dismissal. Even the reliable Obama Administration ally, the New York Times, could not ignore the increasing criticism.
At issue, the stubborn backlog of unresolved VA benefits claims, which Ramsdell managed to get, but which seem to be nearly impossible to get for nearly everyone else.
The current backlog is over 600,000 claims – a number that as increased 2,000 percent since Shinseki, 70, took over in 2009. 70 percent of cases now take over 125 days – even including the most routine of reviews. Meanwhile, some VA centers serving urban areas are taking over 600 days to resolve claims.