Fight Is on to Free Wisconsin Vet

by

Madison, Wisconsin—As Airman Keith Roberts (1968-74) sits behind bars, serving a four-year sentence for ; the fight to free him has been launched.

The Gillett, Wisconsin native Roberts filed for disability benefits in 1999 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to an assault by the Navy Shore Patrol in 1969, and the death of a fellow airman killed in a gruesome aircraft accident, also in 1969, at Naples, Italy where Roberts was stationed.

As Roberts was adjudicating his claim in 2005 with the US Veterans Administration (VA), Stephen Biskupic, US Atty for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, in an extraordinary development, stepped in and secured federal indictments and a conviction of Roberts on charges of wire fraud in fraudulently obtaining over $350,000 for the period of 1992 to 2004.

Critics see Roberts as an innocent victim of an unfeeling VA bureaucracy, rightwing forces allied with VA Secretary Nicholson, and an overzealous prosecutor.

Attorney Robert P. Walsh, a gruff Vietnam Vet and former VA staff atty, is assembling a legal team for the appeal of the conviction, and Roberts’ family has set up a legal defense fund.

And an informal group of veterans are offering advice and support to the family and their attorney.

Most of the vets’ descriptions of the VA under Secretary Jim Nicholson’s tenure and US Atty Biskupic are profane, and on background. Contributions to the defense fund can be sent to:

Keith Roberts Defense Fund, Inc.

Kentucky Neighborhood Bank

201 E. Lincoln Trail Blvd.     Radcliff, KY 40160

Defense Fund

“I am tired, I worked the graveyard shift last night and my eyes feel like they have gravel in them,” e-mailed Roberts’ wife Delores.

But the Roberts’ family is tenaciously battling the conviction and is optimistic about defense fund in Kentucky, administered by Roberts’ sister. “Over the years I have listened to my brother talk about Gary (Roberts’ fellow airman killed) and that horrible day. Yet neither my mother nor I were ever asked what we recall or what we have seen with Keith,” wrote Roberts’ sister in an internet post. “PTSD is a sensitive matter. … (T)here are those who witness other (atrocities) and it is visible to them on a daily basis for the rest of their lives. Why punish those less fortunate? Is not the fact they were willing to serve and go (where) others could not or would not a reason to offer them assistance when they need it?

Congressman Calls for Resignation

In another development, Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL), a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, last week called on Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Secretary Jim Nicholson to resign. “Our veterans have suffered tremendous setbacks on Secretary Nicholson’s watch,” Hare said. “After presiding over a $1 billion shortfall, a backlog of 600,000 disability cases, staffing shortages at Vet Centers, two security breaches that jeopardized the personal information of our veterans, and now, lavish bonuses to the very VA officials responsible for the whole mess, it is time to say enough is enough.

“ … Time and time again, Secretary Nicholson, a former chair of the Republican National Committee, opted to offer political spin instead of preparing for the inevitable influx of new veterans entering the system,” Hare said. “Veterans deserve a Secretary that will fight for them, not use his or her authority to advance an ideological agenda.”

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Published

May 7, 2007 - 5:45am

Author

randomness