Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A [Real] Phony Soldier

What a coincidence that in the middle of all the concocted fury over Rush Limbaugh’s phony soldier remark, another phony soldier scandal, this time a real one has presented itself to the media.

Atlantic City mayor Robert Levy, who has been missing since September 26, is accused of embellishing his military record in order to receive increased veterans benefits. Last year the Press of Atlantic City, after reviewing Levy’s service record, accused him of lying about his claims of being a member of the Army’s elite Green Berets. Levy has claimed throughout the years in numerous statements and in print, that he served two tours as a Green Beret in Vietnam.

Under scrutiny were not only Levy’s claims to have been in the Army Special Forces, which he has admitted are false, but also his claim to have received the Combat Infantryman Badge. The Stolen Valor Act of 2005 makes it a federal offense to falsely claim either verbally or in writing to have been awarded medals or decorations authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States. Levy’s records indicate he served as a signal soldier in Vietnam; soldiers with a signal military occupational specialty are not eligible to receive the CIB. Federal authorities are investigating whether Levy made the claim to significantly increase his veteran benefits payments.

Unfortunately there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of individuals making these false claims in order to obtain benefits they never earned, all at taxpayer expense. These phony heroes not only steal the valor of our real military heroes, but also steal millions of dollars in benefits payments and take advantage of the valuable resources offered by the Veterans Administration.

Organizations such as The POW Network have dedicated themselves to exposing these imposters. Many, such as Levy have served honorably in the armed forces but feel the need to exaggerate their military experience. Many others have never served a day in uniform but make wild claims of heroism under fire either to impress listeners, steal benefits, or both.

A favorite ploy of the phony hero is to proclaim that his combat exploits are top secret, or that his service records burned up in a fire or are sealed by the government. A great many of these people will claim service in one of the elite units such as Special Forces, Navy SEALs, or Army Rangers.

Sadly, Mayor Levy thought it necessary to embellish an otherwise honorable 20 year military career. All indications are that he served his nation well, serving in Vietnam and advancing to the rank of Master Sergeant before he retired. Whether it was financial need, political gain, or feelings of inadequacy that caused him to lie, this high visibility exposure of a phony hero should make us all aware that veterans benefit fraud is indeed a widespread problem in our country and that these phony heroes harm us all.

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