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ASHEVILLE—The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Asheville receives high marks from federal inspectors and patients alike, but WNC is not immune from the types of crimes surrounding veterans’ health care, newly released documents show.

The records, obtained by Government Attic through the Freedom of Information Act, summarize crimes investigated by VA inspectors from 2013-14, including 23 incidents in WNC.

Most of the alleged crimes revolved around thefts of painkillers or money bilked from the government by VA employees and clients or family members of veterans. In some instances, lengthy jail sentences have resulted, while other cases are still making their way through the justice system.

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In all cases, the names of the investigators and the alleged and convicted criminals either aren’t named or are redacted from the records. But the newly released documents indicate the various ways local VA services have sometimes been magnets for crime.

Carolina Public Press annotated the local VA-related crime reports in the documents, which can be read in their entirety below.

Drugs

Six of the cases from 2013-14 involved illegal sales of painkillers that were prescribed for veterans.

In most cases, the veterans were accused of selling their medicine. In one of them, though, a contract postal worker was accused of stealing large amounts of painkillers that were destined for veterans.

Fraud

Eight of the cases concerned people making false claims of being veterans. Some managed to steal tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

Theft

Another eight cases focused on outright theft of veterans’ benefits, often by close family members, which were usually siblings of the veteran. In some cases, veterans were put at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure because family members had robbed them of money for mortgage payments.

(Click on the “Notes” tab in this document viewer to read only the cases from WNC.)

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Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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