This petition closed over 1 year ago
Until recently, 83 year-old veteran Henry Ashurst had no idea that for a decade he’d been unwittingly financing the gambling habits of crooks Robert Morong Tabbutt and Jack Perry. Robert, a VA field examiner, conspired with Jack, a fiduciary in Memphis, to steal the VA funds designated for nearly a dozen other mentally disabled veterans. The shameless pair managed to siphon away nearly $900,000 from Henry and others, the majority of which they gambled away in Mississippi casinos. Their scheme continued until 2008 when Jack finally came forward and confessed their crimes to the FBI.
This shocking scam was among those exposed in a recent San Francisco Chronicle feature spotlighting the rampant misuse and theft prosecutions involving family or fiduciaries entrusted to manage disabled veterans' money nationwide. Under the VA’s current fiduciary program, the agency appoints a family member or, in some cases, an external party to manage money for veterans that the government deems incapacitated. However, as the article revealed, this system is deeply flawed; in the past six years alone the VA has removed 467 of these fiduciaries for fraudulent use of funds.
The problem is only getting worse. There have been several reform efforts undertaken by the VA – new directives require that veterans' annual bank statements be sent directly to the VA, and bans of excessive compensation to fiduciaries when veterans receive large retroactive benefit checks. But, the number of thefts continue to rise.
Much of the issue boils down to poor oversight on the part of the VA; most of these embezzling operations are able to run illegally for an average of 32 months before the office catches on. An outdated computer system accounts for much of the VA failures to track the money and fiduciaries. In use since 1989, the system is incapable of tracking a fiduciary for longer than two months. Additionally, according to recent audits, agency employees frequently fail to properly examine fiduciaries’ financial records. Coordinating with agencies like Social Security, an action the VA rarely takes, would allow the office to avoid entrusting veterans' money to known swindlers.
Never was there a more crucial time to ensure that the life savings of veterans fall into trusting hands - following 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan the number of mentally disabled veterans is reaching an all-time high. Accordingly, more than 127,000 veterans now have fiduciaries who manage more than $3.3 billion in assets.
Let’s ensure that these national heroes don’t get taken advantage of by crooks and thieves!