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Vet charged with stealing through false honorable-discharge claim

Handcuffs. (Keith Allison/Flickr)
November 14, 2020

A Coast Guard veteran was arrested Thursday based on the accusation that he altered paperwork to show that he had been honorably discharged, then collected more than $69,500 in service-connected disability benefits, federal authorities announced.

Derrick Brewer, 35, of Enfield is charged with theft of public money and making false statements to the government, felonies punishable by up to 10 years and five years in prison, respectively, U.S. Attorney John H. Durham and other federal officials said in a statement.

Brewer appeared Thursday via teleconference before Magistrate Judge Robert A. Richardson, who ordered him released on $10,000 bond, authorities said.

In applying for service-connected disability benefits in March 2018, Brewer submitted a military discharge form listing his service as “honorable,” according to an affidavit by Special Agent Abraham J. Raymond of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general’s office.

A copy of the same form that the VA’s Hartford regional office later obtained from the Coast Guard showed that Brewer had been discharged under “other than honorable conditions,” which would have made him ineligible for service-connected disability compensation, according to the agent.

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In subsequent correspondence with Brewer, the regional office asked for any evidence he had to support his honorable-discharge claim. He replied with a handwritten statement that his discharge had been “upgraded” in 2014, two years after he left the service, according to the agent.

Documents obtained by the agent showed that Brewer had been discharged in January 2012 after convictions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for making false official statements, introducing a controlled substance to an installation, and larceny and falsely altering Coast Guard money orders with intent to defraud.

Both copies of Brewer’s discharge form listed the same issuing individual, who identified discrepancies in the form Brewer submitted to the VA, including a separation code consistent with a discharge related misconduct, according to the agent. The officer also said she had never participated in a discharge upgrade board, the agent reported.

Moreover, he reported, checks with the Coast Guard personnel and headquarters sections produced no record of a Board for Correction of Military Records related to a discharge upgrade for Brewer.

The agent also reported that the bottom part of the discharge form submitted by Brewer, which contains the honorable discharge claim and the statement that the discharge was for medical reasons “is distorted and does not align with the rest of the document.” He said that can happen in altering a document with a copy machine or computer editing software.

Authorities say Brewer collected some $69,584 in VA benefits through Sept. 30 as a result of the application at issue.

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(c) 2020 Journal Inquirer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.