Hidalgo Co. Attempting to Prevent Fraudulent Veteran Claims
WESLACO – A Hidalgo County official is denouncing imposters that attempt to take advantage of veteran health benefits.
Hidalgo County Veterans Services Officer Felix Rodriguez said he recently came across people seeking benefits who were not actual veterans.
“He was wearing all these medals and ribbons that he had not earned and he had changed his name, as a matter of fact, and in turned out it was a fraud,” he said.
Rodriguez said veterans’ backgrounds are examined carefully before they can get benefits. He said a DD-214 is a document that accounts for a veteran’s military service.
“You know whether they have or have not a document like that, specifically a DD-214. You’re not supposed to touch that at all. You don’t write anything in there,” he said. “I’m currently working with one right now that is taking development some investigation as to the accuracy of that information that person gives.”
America’s Last Patrol Commander Richard Pena served in the Vietnam War. He said some people are trying to impersonate those who fought and take advantage.
“Whatever they’re going, they’re going it illegally,” he said.
Pena said he’s now building a place in his backyard to guide veterans to get benefits the right way.
“Stand out and tell them, ‘You know what, can you give me a DD-214 and find out if you really are a veteran,''” he said. “You’re making us look bad as veterans. We’re not bad people. We’re good people. We serve our country. We have our freedom because of our veterans.”
Rodriguez said these kinds of acts are disrespectful to any veteran seeking services to get benefits.
“Especially when I have some veterans come in here with a prosthetic leg or arm or they have lost some of their intestines or they have scars on their body where they were hit by a bullet or shrapnel, and for somebody like that to come in here, you know what, that’s cowardly and it’s a fraud, and it’s an insult to somebody that did serve the country,” he said.
Both Rodriguez and Pena said they’re trying to point veterans in the right direction. They agree it’s a waste of their time to deal with people who are trying to beat the system.
Rodriguez said if a veteran does not have a DD-214 and is not committing fraud they can still file for a claim. The veteran may fill out the form and it will go through the Veterans Affairs Department.
The VA will then conduct its own investigation to verify the person’s identity.