A discharged veteran of the military who reaped monetary benefits for faking a mental health condition triggered by a combat experience that did not occur — and who falsely claimed to have earned two of the highest honors bestowed for military service — entered a guilty plea in federal court Wednesday for his crimes, announced Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
Gregg Ramsdell, 61, of Columbus, entered a guilty plea to one count of false statements and one count of violation of the Stolen Valor Act before U.S. District Judge Clay Land.
Ramsdell is facing a maximum five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for false statements and a maximum one year in prison and a $250,000 fine for stolen valor. Sentencing is scheduled for March 23, 2020. There is no parole in the federal system.
Peeler’s office said Ramsdell admitted that he falsely claimed to have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when he applied for disability payments from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) on Sept. 7, 2014. Ramsdell wrote that he witnessed horrible atrocities during deployment in Afghanistan from October 2008 to March 2009. Among other stressors, he stated he had seen “men, women and children being executed. Women holding babies while detonating themselves. IED explosions causing severe bodily injuries and death. Retrieving body parts and bagging them. Having blood and body excrements being blown onto my uniform.” He also falsely claimed that these experiences made him “unable to live a normal life,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release Friday.
As a result of Ramsdell’s claims, the VA gave him added PTSD benefits retroactive to his military discharge date of June 1, 2014 totaling $76,000, the press release said.
In truth, Ramsdell was not in Afghanistan during that period of time that he claimed to witness the atrocities that supported his false PTSD claim, and he admitted to investigators that he lied about having PTSD, according to the press release.
In addition, Ramsdell applied for and attained a coveted civilian position at U.S. Army Fort Benning in 2017, in part because his resume listed that he was both a Silver Star and Purple Heart with Cluster recipient, the release said. He never received these honors.
“Faking serious wartime injuries to gain undeserved benefit, and claiming valor where there is none, do a disservice to our brave veterans and service members who selflessly risk their lives protecting this country,” Peeler said. “Fraud of this kind and theft of taxpayer money will not be tolerated, and we will continue to prosecute those who commit such crimes. I want to thank the FBI investigators assigned to this case for their excellent work.”
“Ramsdell’s actions are an insult to every veteran who has served our country, and in particular every veteran who suffered physical or mental trauma because of their honorable commitment and valor,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is committed to seeking justice for anyone who lies about serving our country, and who illegally takes money from federal programs that help veterans who rightfully deserve it.”
The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes it a crime for people to pass themselves off as war heroes in order to claim money, employment, property or other tangible benefits. The Silver Star medal is the third highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Army. The Purple Heart medal is awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who are wounded or killed in battle. An additional Oak Leaf Cluster is given to Army and Air Force service members to indicate being wounded in combat on more than one occasion.
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