Vets agencies probing alleged local case of stolen valor

  • The office of the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District on Main Street in Greenfield. Staff photo/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/12/2021 5:02:37 PM

GREENFIELD — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General is investigating a potential local case of stolen valor.

The case was picked up by the Inspector General’s Office following an investigation by the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District, according to Director Timothy Niejadlik, who said he does not expect results of the investigation before the end of the year.

Stolen valor is the act of lying about military service. It comes in various forms — from claiming to be a veteran, to claiming a certain rank that was not earned, to wearing or claiming military awards or decorations that were never awarded.

Niejadlik said his agency, which advocates for the earned benefits of veterans, their spouses, dependents, widows or widowers, learned of a possible case of stolen valor and conducted its own investigation. He said a male veteran exaggerated his service to receive benefits. He declined to disclose more information so as to not hamper the investigation of the Inspector General’s Office.

These types of investigations can last for months, Niejadlik said.

An inquiry to the Inspector General’s Office was not returned by press time.

Niejadlik said most cases of stolen valor are revealed after someone has died. He explained a widow or widower — who has been lied to for years about their spouse’s service — will sometimes visit a veterans agency to apply for benefits, only to learn none or few have been earned.

According to the Army Times newspaper, U.S. Army veteran Gregg Ramsdell, of Columbus, Ga., was sentenced to the maximum prison sentence of 12 months for stolen valor last year. Ramsdell, 61, also received three years of supervised release and he was ordered by the court to repay $76,000 to the Department of Veterans Affairs. He pleaded guilty to lying about serving in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2009 and falsely claimed to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder when he applied for disability payments through the VA in 2014.

Ramsdell reportedly served in various Army components, including the National Guard and the Reserve, starting in 1981, but he was honorably discharged in 2014, and was not in Afghanistan during the years he claimed. His false claims were in violation of the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which makes it a crime for people to pose as war heroes to claim money, employment, property or other tangible benefits.

Notable cases of military imposters include Alan McIlwraith, a Scotsman who passed himself off as a decorated British Army officer but had actually purchased his uniform and medals online, and actor Brian Dennehy, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps but lied about serving and being wounded in Vietnam.

If you suspect someone is fraudulently getting veterans’ benefits, contact the VA Office of the Inspector General by visiting bit.ly/3atKaIM, calling 800-488-8244 or emailing vaoighotline@va.gov.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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