Brain Injuries

VA Caught Defrauding 300 Veterans With Brain Injuries

Benjamin KrauseNBC KARE 11 News just released a report about a scheme at Minneapolis VA Medical Center using unqualified medical professionals to deny veterans claiming disability due to traumatic brain injuries.

READ NBC Article: Unqualified doctors performed brain injury exams at Mpls VA Medical Center

I promised you something was coming out last night about a scandal. Rather than regurgitate what KARE 11 published about the story, I wanted to give you some behind the scenes of how we busted VA scamming at least 300 veterans.

I approached investigative reporter AJ Lagoe at KARE 11 with evidence of a fraudulent scheme depriving veterans of benefits for traumatic brain injury a few months ago. Lagoe dug in and dedicated a ton of time to unearth disturbing scam keeping veterans from their benefits.

The scheme involved using unqualified doctors to conduct exams who were unable to make a diagnosis of TBI. Since they were unqualified to do as much, the examiners would magically restrict their findings only to what was within the veteran’s medical record but not conduct the initial TBI exam.

As a result, the examiner would opine, “There is no diagnosis of traumatic brain injury in the service treatment records.” VA’s inquiry into the matter would stop at that point and the veteran would be denied.

However, that is not what is supposed to happen. If there is any sign of a possible head injury, that veteran should be referred to one of four experts for an initial TBI examination: 1) psychiatrist; 2) neurologist; 3) neurosurgeon; or, 4) physiatrist.

Further, once a TBI is diagnosed, the veteran should then receive a neuropsychological assessment specific to TBI to assess the impact of the brain injury.

What Minneapolis VAMC Did

In Minneapolis, this sequence was not happening by design despite clear agency policies setting out the requirements Minneapolis C&P head Dr. Gary Wilhelm was willfully not following. As a result, veteran rights were knowingly violated while they received lowball or noball rating decisions.

RELATED: Dr. Gary Wilhelm caught in expert sham against Camp Lejeune veteran with cancer

The data I have been gathering from VA over the past two years showed the qualifications of the doctors conducting exams, and none of those conducting TBI exams in Minneapolis were qualified to conduct initial TBI exams. So exactly how was Dr. Wilhelm ensuring veterans rights were not violated with sham exams? He wasn’t and likely received a fat bonus while he bumped along the scheme.

KARE 11 highlighted the scheme while making numerous FOIA requests with the local Privacy Office. I also began emailing former Under Secretary Carolyn Clancy demanding a conference with head of Disability and Medical Assessment Dr. Gerald Cross.

Within one month, Minneapolis VAMC sent out letters to 300 veterans affected by the scheme since at least 2010. At the end of last month, Dr. Cross retired without granting me an audience. There will be no day of reckoning for Dr. Cross, but someone will need to answer for the unlawful scheme.

Regardless, VA is set to change its policy on documenting traumatic brain injury residuals due to systemic and expensive problems nationwide.

One Minneapolis VAMC Fraud Victim

Here is one example from a veteran affected by the scheme:

Butch Hamersma, 67, of Spring Valley, Minnesota, is one of the veterans who’s been called back for a new evaluation. The Minnesota farmer agreed to share his medical files with KARE 11.

Records show the Vietnam veteran was seriously injured – his skull shattered – in an explosion near Chu Lai in November, 1968.

“Run over a land mine,” he recalled. “Three days later I woke up in Japan.”

Hamersma’s military records detail the price his body paid for his service. He was evacuated to a field hospital in Vietnam with multiple fractures and a tracheotomy tube to keep him breathing. From there records show he was airlifted to a hospital in Tokyo. Then he was returned to the United States for reconstructive surgery.

“Skull fractures and fractured mandible,” Hamersma told KARE 11’s A. J. Lagoe. “Took all my bottom teeth, busted my jaw in two places.”

“I don’t remember hearing nothing. Nothing. Lights they were gone,” he said about the explosion.

“You said the lights went out and the next thing you know you’re in Japan?” Lagoe asked.

“Yup, getting off the plane,” Hamersma explained, “because I was trying to tear the bandages off my head and they tied my arms down.”

Pointing to the right side of his face he said, “This was just like a crushed egg.”

Call it farmer humor, but Hamersma jokes there are still pieces of his head fertilizing Vietnam.

“Never went back to get ’em,” he said. “And I don’t plan on it either.”

Back then, Hamersma was not diagnosed with what we now call a Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI.

For years, though, he says he’s suffered unexplained chronic headaches. So, in 2012, after losing private insurance, he applied for benefits at the Minneapolis VA.

Records show the VA’s Compensation and Pension review gave him disability ratings of 10% for a series of service connected injuries including his broken jaw, ringing ears, and facial scars.

“This one here is a pretty good one,” Hamersma said, pointing to a large scar still crossing under his jaw.

Even so, he didn’t receive any benefits for traumatic brain injury. That decision came in spite of records documenting his severe head injuries.

After his February, 2012, evaluation his VA examiner wrote: “There is no diagnosis of TBI/concussion or TBI residual/post concussion syndrome.”

Not one to complain, Hamersma continued with life on the farm.

Until recently.

Out of the blue, he says he received a notice saying he should have a new TBI exam – more than three years after his original evaluation.

KARE 11’s investigation has uncovered evidence that Hamersma is just one of hundreds of area veterans whose initial TBI exams were conducted by medical personnel who, according to the VA’s own policies, weren’t qualified to do them.

Were you scammed by an unqualified VA medical examiner?

What I Am Doing To Fix VA’s Fraudulent Scheme

I have an 8,000 doctor database from VA that I plan to post online once I receive enough contributions to pay a developer to build it. This will help veterans prove whether their doctor is qualified. If he/she is not qualified, that veteran can appeal any statement from an unqualified doctor.

In addition to the database, I am building a second repository for our soon to be published membership site. This repository will allow veterans access to VA’s internal training memos and videos to see how the agency is instructing its doctors to conduct exams. This will level the playing field by helping veterans know what VA is supposed to be doing.

RELATED: Here Is Insider VA Guides For Your Next TBI Evaluation

Personally, as a TBI survivor, I am outraged that VA would defraud us of a fair shot at our benefits. My way of fighting back is educating you about what the agency is doing.

Those 300 veterans screwed in this instance likely lost millions in benefits. Meanwhile, VA spent a paltry $90,000 to pay unqualified doctors and nurses to conduct the exams.

How cheap it is to defraud veterans with brain injuries…? I hope to make sure all veterans get every cent they are owed from these scam artists at VA.


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  3. They screwed me in 1980. We didn’t even know what tbi or ptsd was back then. i fell off airplane and no one seen it so just to let you vets know it’s been hell for me for the last 30 years. Whatever you do don’t let them get over on you. Keep fighting. You and your family wll. Tbi is horrible. especially if you dont know what it is. so do your homework. Thank you for your service and get what’s owed to you and your family. Its been hell on me for 30 years. If they dont help you get a lawyer!! i never did and suffered financially and my health i could talk for a hour about that so your young and you know if you have it. just do some reading. Please get what you deserve!!.God bless and take care of yourself most important.

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  14. I am a TBI survivor. Awhile ago I fell and sustained a concussion. MY primary refused to refer me to the Neuro. It took over four months to get into a Neuro…who said “Why didn’t you make a appt ro see me sooner?” I told him I tried, and finally the patent advocate got the referral through my Psychologist. NEVER did my primary refer me. I had a severe case of post- concussiant (sp.) syndrome. I still have over headaches two years later. This occurred at the WLA VA Temple Street clinic. Same thing has happened with a missing referral to GASTRO re a abnormal PET scan of my colon. Kidney Dr made referral but it was rejected. Im still having major symptoms. However, the silver lining is now that Im in the Chap 31 program, I will be getting “real” insurance and can go to Dr of my choosing.
    Fight On to all you suffering.

  15. 08/11/2015

    Dear Benjamin Krause,

    Good Job!

    What legal term or phrase can be used for a person or organization that is criminal, knows exactly what they are doing, with full knowledge of the law, and operates without scrutiny?

    malfeasance or Nonfeasance or misrepresentation is not cutting it!

    noun deceitfulness, deception, deceptive statement, deceptiveness, distortion, fabrication, false representation, false statement, falsehood, falsification, falsity, fraud, inaccuracy, incorrect assertion, intentional misstatement, lie,misapplication, misconstruction, misguidance, misquotation, misreport, misstatement, misstatement of fact, overstatement, untrue statement, untruth, untruthfulness, unveracity

    Associated concepts: actionable misrepresentation, deceit, false misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, innooentmisrepresentation, material misrepresentation, misreppesentation of a material fact, negligent misrepresentation

    See also: abuse, artifice, bad faith, catachresis, color, deceit, deception, distortion, evasion, false pretense, falsehood, falsification,forgery, fraud, hoax, lie, misstatement, overstatement, perjury, pretense, pretext, sham, sophistry, story, subreption,understatement

    The only law I know that has the real bite I am looking for is Treason.

    Is this the only Option with the VA?


    Don Karg

    1. @Don Karl, Recently after A BVA appeal on a claim filed in 2012 -2012, for Parkinson’s Disease, which was diagnosed by VAMC as Parkinson’s disease initially….but then Parkinsonism, then drug induced Parkinsonism, then Lewes body – Parkinson Plus, and then Vascular Dementia, then a note on a neurologist’s/clinician stating again Parkinson’s Disease.
      The good Administrative Law Judge, stated: “with respect to the Veteran’s and Veteran’s wife lay statement of Parkinson’s Disease, they are not competent medical professionals and cannot make a neurological “diagnosis.”

      Considering the fact that my husband has been denied again and again when after 2010-2012, it still took deceitful denial at a higher level of the appeals process but no attempt to reevaluate for certainly that he has Parkinson’s Disease. Since he’s being treated for such by a private physician, and two other private medical professionals, one being a cardiologist and another internal medicine physician, that alone you could think he has Parkinson’s.

      But it suffice to say, I nor my husband expect to be able to make a medical diagnosis of any sorts because we no not have “Dr.” In front of our names. But those who did could not make a definitive diagnosis either. Instead, the supposedly medical professionals kept changing their medical opinions as well.

      Now he has a diagnosis of Vascular Dementia, after all these years and at 100% with no retro, and even though that was one of the many diseases he was said to have back in 2010-2012. Vascular Dementia is secondary to Type 2 diabetes. .he was rated for that in 2007.

      In addition, an IHD rating raised from 10% to 30% from 2007 to 2008 and on the same appeal raises that to 60% with no increase in benefits from 2007. Plus having Aid and attendance plus SMC K-1, L-1, and P-1.

      Needless to say, “Benefit of the doubt” apples to the IHD, but not Parkinson’s Disease.

      Trying to find an attorney to appeal the appeals. Lol. I only hope my husband will live long enough to since he’s only 82 years young, needing around the clock care and we get only 3 hours.

      Any suggestions??

      Oh, hubby was just sent to a Urologist at the VAMC, that was a Nurse Practioner. She told me hubby was too old to go through all the test to determine Prostate cancer. She also said he can’t die from Prostate Cancer.


  16. Ben just want to again thank you and AJ Lagoe at KARE 11.

    Also I especially wanted to thank you for removing the comment made by the former DAV National Service Officer. Just seeing how he was trying to twist the facts about what you have accomplished brought back all the thoughts, feelings and emotions I felt when the DAV helped the VA mess me over.

    One would think that a former VSO’s National Service Officer would speak positively about your accomplishment for Veterans not try to twist it as he did.

    Also if I want to contribute to putting the VA Doctor Data Base on line do I just hit the Red Button on the right hand side?

  17. Not sure why this is happening, but I am trying to reply to ericman1949′ ridiculous comment, and crazyelfs comment, but neither are found here and my reply is going to “Anonymous” when clicking the link. Oh well.
    Ericman1949, you say in your comment that evidence wins cases, and that competent staff perform exams. Did you read the article? Those performing exams were not competent in examining TBI because they were not qualified to do so which means they lacked the proper training…which means claims are denied because the Evidence was not properly gathered. This was intentionally done by the VA, which again is FRAUD by the VA. You don’t have a VA janitor perform TBI exams because they are not qualified. Since you state the VA has been rating for TBI or head injuries since WWII, they should have had enough time and evidence to know they need qualified people to perform these exams. Since you are always defending them, why did they not do this? Why not follow the law which states a veteran has a right to be examined by a specialist?Finally, the VA is talking out both sides of their ass as usual. How can they brag that 70% of the doctors in the US are trained by the VA when they are worried about the VA being shut down, then claim those same civilian doctors are not competent to perform TBI exams? Is the training they provide that poor?

  18. Not surprised by this. Veterans get seen by Nurses all the time. The also get mixed diagnosis and the benefit of the doubt does not go to the veterans. Recently after waiting for a three year appeal, for Parkinson my husband had an ALJ state our layman statements did not matter because we were not medically experienced. Well in order for any doctor to diagnose a patient with any disease the patient have to provide the symptoms, how long having symptoms and so on.

    From this article we understand why my husband had VA doctors to state in his medical records Parkinson’s Disease, oh no it is Parkinson’s Plus, no Parkinson’s Disease, no it is Parkinsonism and to end up being denied a third time for Parkinson’s.

    But a Cardiologist not affiliated with the VA, just by exam for his heart issues said his tremors and other symptoms were Parkinson’s. Then another private doctor (internal medicine family physician) said the same thing. Then yet another private doctor, not affiliated with the VA, a rheumatologist, stated my husband has Parkinson’s and started to treat him for Parkinson’s and the medication helped him a lot. This doctor also explained that the dosage would have to be increased eventually, but started off with a very low dosage.

    So to end maybe the doctors at the VA get paid to deny and mislead the veterans about their conditions. These employees get bonuses, right?


  19. Hmmm. If you go to fedsdatacenter-dot-com, you find Wilhelms salary as of 2014 is now $211,012.00…or $16,000 increase in 3 years. No bonus data is in that database though.

  20. Exact thing happening in Fayetteville vamc. I cracked my skull burning in from a jump and they gave me 10% for headaches. Needless to say I have reclaimed tbi and will fight to the end

  21. Thank you for the hard work you have put in to this Ben. That statement about no diagnosis in the treatment record is common in the VA, and NOT just for TBI. I know because it is in mine. Once it is made, any further rating decision refers back to that initial decision that there is no diagnosis in the record. It would be interesting to see you add to your doctor database a second database that shows what each VA staffer gets for a bonus. You can do a web search using “federal employee bonus database” and find one with data as of 2011, and shows Wilhelm not getting a bonus for that year, but he is paid $195,000.00 per year.

  22. To: Robin Mitchell,
    Google this story,

    “American Legion Conducting New Survey on Veterans’ PTSD, TBI Care

    by, Bryant Jordan
    August 6, 2015

    Robin, in the last year the American Legion has stood out as the one VSO not afraid to condemn VA’s egregious acts against veterans. I would strongly advise you to contact them. They may be able to help your situation. I don’t know, if will do any good, but it’s worth a try. Read the article, and use the information to your advantage. Remember that old saying, “Being forearmed is being forewarned!”
    Remember, this is a fight worth fighting….

  23. I was diagnosed with a tbi by the Denver vamc and was seen by a neurologist and had brain scans. Put in for tbi disability through the Denver region office, suffer migraine headaches. Regional office denighed my claim, even though it’s in my medical records and confirmation by a rating doctor, who confirmed, I had been shot in the head. Also denied SC for migraine headaches. What can I do! .

    1. James, Keep fighting, never give up. That’s the key to winning.
      It took me 23 years to get to 100% T&P. I never gave up!
      That’s what we (veterans) do! Remember James, Keep saying I’ll never give up!

    2. Find a competent VSO to reopen your claim based on clear and unmistakable error by the VA.

  24. Here’s a must read article on
    by Derek Hunter
    August 6, 2015
    It’s called;
    “The Plunder, The Deceit, And The Way Out Of This Mess”

    I read it and it gave me chills. This is our (corrupt) government at it’s best…

  25. My va doctor told me per his supervisor that there was no way you can determine how much benzene u have in your system. I’ve read that a urine test will tell u.

  26. The same VA Big Shot who screwed these veterans through fraud also screwed Vietnam war vets and their children, who are enrolled in the VA Spina Bifida Program. Several years ago Ben published video tapes of Dr Gerald Cross clearly and plainly lying to a Congressional committee in order to cheat these helpless children of war vets of the compensation voted by Congress for them. These videos were filmed by Congress itself. I have tried REPEATEDLY to get Secretary McDonald and then Under Secretary Clancy to respond to my sending them clips of the video, neither of them has acknowledged receiving them, and the VA OIG told me that for VA officials top lie to Congress is NOT a crime. The cover up of these lies to Congress was long enough to allow Dr Gerald Cross to recently retire without ever facing the music. Many helpless and profoundly handicapped children of Vietnam war veterans have suffered greatly because of Dr Cross’s lies to Congress. Bob won’t talk about it.

    1. Not only did children die due to Spina Bifida and other ailments, many wives of veterans had miscarriages. This due to toxins in our systems because of Agent Orange and other chemicals being put in our systems. Where we wouldn’t have knowledge of until someone spoke up. My first wife, while at work, had a miscarriage. She never told me. I found out months later from her closest friend.
      There are a number of things which can be passed from father to (unborn) child by way of DNA. FACT!!!!

      Until VA, and our government, comes clean with these egregious acts against veterans (who protect their freedoms), we will truly never know the impact on our lives, our wives lives, our children’s lives right down to our children’s, children’s lives. DNA can be passed on through many generations….
      This is why we today must fight for our descendants….

  27. I wondered why after all this time, my husband all of a sudden received a letter
    explaining his old claim. The letter we received was very confusing and only explained what the findings were and said he could appeal.

    Thank you for this story.

  28. This morning while listening to my favorite radio station, 96.5 FM here in Central Florida. The announcement of the following was stated: “When a government employee gets in trouble in another (U.S.) state, they are sent to Florida!”
    How’s that for a fubar? We here in Florida, it seems, get the rejects, we’re the garbage dump. And people here wonder why we get so damn angry at VA.
    Google these two sites.

    1.) Citizens Against Government Waste

    2.) Worker Against Government Waste

    I believe both Will take you to the site called
    “FEE” the “Foundation for Economic Education”

    Take a good look as to where taxpayers monies are being spent….,
    Millions upon Millions of taxpayers monies…..

    1. Years ago, I believe it was USA Today that ran a huge article on military doctors, and how the military would shuffle doctors to Oklahoma and 1 other state if they could not pass the licensing exam in the state where they were. Oklahoma and the other state did not require military doctors to be licensed by the state in those 2 states. The article also mentioned how the military accepted doctors who had been sued for malpractice, or were trying to stay ahead of a malpractice suit, or reassign them out of state to get away from a suit. It further mentioned how the military accepted doctors who were getting away from criminal allegations such as rape in the instance of one doctor. Of course, Congress thumped their chests over the article, a single Undersecretary of Defense denied it in a hearing, and that was the end of it.

  29. I had put a comment on earlier. It seems to have disappeared. What I said was, thanks to Ben and KARE11 for great reporting.
    2.) I had emailed this article and the accompanying articles off to my local news stations. I had to call to get their email addresses. They were very interested. I hope they do the same here in Florida.
    3.) I suggest everyone on here do the same. Email, tweet and put on facebook this article! My wife has already gotten back responses. Please do the same.

  30. I have asked this before. No one has answered it, or commented on it.
    With VA’s nationwide, veterans are employed in the thousands. Why would a veteran mistreat another veteran? I can’t understand this. It seems these veterans would be the first to stand up and make VA accountable for the misdeeds against their “brothers and sisters”! Yet, this is not the case. WHY???

    1. I have two possible answers, the first being a more likely explanation, the second is perhaps equally possible but so disgusting most won’t want to hear it.

      1) The VA indoctrinates then blackmails vets with threats of job and income loss that would ruin their lives and could easiy make them and any dependent family member homeless. They mix in incentives and rewards to include bonuses if the vet/employee looks the other way or contributes to he exploitation of vets.

      2) You will recall at least one or two service members you served with who were in it only for themselves. The VA carefully screens for these personality types who can be compared a dishonest used car salesman or corrupt attorney from hell. It is then easy to train this person to gladly shaft vets, even to the point of making the vet think the vet/VA employee is on their side.

      For example, the VA cop who falsely arrested me recently when I went in to pick out a suspect from a photo line-up, after he made elaborate death threats against a VA that he asked me to carry out, that cop had a tag on a cord around his neck that said, ‘Army Veteran’. I later asked his superiors and my Congressman, “What Army; Russian maybe?” I had to go to my Congressman who immediately brought hell down on the VA police for this set up and shortly received letters of apology from VA Police superiors.

      Nothing the VA does is by accident when it comes to bad service and abuse of vets and wrongful denial of earned benefits. They carefully plan out how they will exploit us.

      1. Good morning Bruce,
        Number 2 is good. I believe that more than number 1. But brother, remember what we used to do to the number 2 pukes? No details given. I think you remember lmao…
        Although, both #1 & #2 people need the following “attitude adjustments”.
        Do you know how cops get someone in a gang too squeal? They get “word” back to the gang the “member spilled his/her guts over the illegal activities the gang members were into”. And he/she “named names”! Of course the “member” will deny the allegations. But too late- damage is done! And, trust me, there is damage done!!!
        I wonder if something along these lines would work with employees in VA?

        P.S. my wife’s cousin is an “undercover officer” in law enforcement!

  31. Be very careful to know what exactly is being placed in your VA Medical Files by VA Psych. Dept., whether it be TBI to PTSD because the NEW THING the VA has been doing and even TRAINING civilian Dr.’s doing residency training at VAMC’s across the country, is to change your diagnosis to state, “ADJUSTMENT DISORDER” or “UNSPECIFIED ADJUSTMENT DISORDER”…why?…because the VA knows that “Adjustment Disorder” is NOT in the regs as a compensable condition because it simply does not exist there and the VA has been training these civilian Dr.’s to do the same when leaving their internship and screw Veterans and Civilians out of Veteran and/or Social Security Benefits by using a newly created category of “Adjustment Disorder” rather than what a person really has.
    I experienced this recently with my civilian Psych Dr. that I only see for med management every 6 months, but go to civilian cognitive therapist monthly and I actually had to call this Dr. out on his changing my diagnosis that has been rock steady since 1995…because he changed/deleted all PTSD/Severe Anxiety and Depression to those magical words of “Adjustment Disorder”…when I told him why this s not only wrong but could really possibly screw me, THAT is when he disclosed to me that ALL the MANY Residents that have to spend so much time at the VAMC’s for training have been actively trained BY the VA to change such diagnosis…so a heads-up on how the VA is trying to screw Veterans through semantics and tossing out an established diagnosis like a cheese wrapper.

    Hope this helps someone out there because MANY Dr.’s in-training are used by the VAMC’s and the VA is spreading it’s filthy corruption and lies into the civilian medical fields as well. Always obtain copies of your medical appointment notes and know what is being done or not being done in regards to your medical file because guarantee it’s NOT to the benefit of the Veteran.

    Don’t you just love how when something comes to light like this, the Dr. or medical personnel almost ALWAYS magically retire only to pop-up somewhere else in the VA system? It’s quite literally a “Whack A Mole” process…but we are not talking about Chucky Cheese here, it’s the VA.

  32. Thank you Ben and KARE 11 on a job well done.

    To Robin Mitchell I understand your frustration with the VA, but would like to point out that at the very least, Veterans going to VAMC Minneapolis will know what kind of care they are receiving and really need to consider going else where for proper care.

    I learned the my lesson about the care received at VAMC Minneapolis the hard way, by experiencing it.

  33. First, thank you for this article. And your help in uncovering the egregious acts committed against veterans.
    Secondly, I have sent the article to my local news station,
    [email protected]
    What they will do with it is questionable. I hope they will question VA’s here in Florida. Maybe VA has been doing the same here.
    Third, I hope all on here will email, tweet and share this article with any and all of their friends online….,
    My wife and I have already done so.
    Again, thank you Ben Krause…..

  34. What’s the point? Everyone I have talked to from Alison Hickey to Rep Lee eldin from Long Island is ok with the VA screwing TBI veterans.

    My husband is TBI SC, had two 21-2680’s filled out by separate doctors for SMC T and still VBA Michael Stephens crew sent an unsigned decision saying they were ignoring their own doctors to deny SMC T.

    Good luck but it will fail

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