They survived the Nazis, the Viet Cong and the Taliban. But hundreds of mentally disabled veterans suffered new wounds when the country they served put their checkbooks into the hands of scoundrels.
Gambling addicts, psychiatric cases and convicted criminals are among the thieves who have been handed control of disabled veterans' finances by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a Hearst Newspapers investigation has found.
For decades, theft and fraud have plagued the fiduciary program, in which the VA appoints a family member or a stranger to manage money for veterans the government considers incapacitated. The magnitude and pace of those thefts has increased, despite VA promises of reform. Three of the largest scams -- ranging from about $900,000 to $2 million -- each persisted for 10 years or more before being discovered.