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United States v. Williams

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

August 20, 2019, Filed

No. 18-1080

Opinion

 [*1124]  PHILLIPS, Circuit Judge.

Does it matter if a veteran lies about having served overseas? Yes, if the veteran lies to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to get undeserved benefits under 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(f)(2) for combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We reject Williams's argument that his lie was not material under 18 U.S.C. §1001(a)(2), as well as his two challenges to evidentiary rulings. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

Cameo Williams, Sr. is a veteran of the United States Army, who spent his entire  [*1125]  service stateside—never overseas or in combat. But for years, based on his false statements about combat service, he obtained VA benefits for combat-related PTSD.

Eventually, during a review of his eligibility for benefits, the VA began to question Williams's accounts of his combat service. The VA's doubts arose after reviewing [**2]  Williams's medical records, which revealed that he had made inconsistent statements regarding the nature of his alleged deployment. He had told one VA medical provider about serving in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from August 2004 to April 2005 and in Afghanistan from May 2005 to June 2006.1 But he had told two other VA providers about serving in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 for two three-month stints, never mentioning having served in Cuba or Afghanistan. Recognizing that Williams's claimed foreign service was also unsupported by his military records, the VA proposed to decrease his benefits by severing the service connection to his PTSD diagnosis. For some reason, Williams challenged that proposal, maintaining that he was entitled to his previously awarded benefits for combat-related PTSD.

The VA set Williams's challenge for an informal hearing before Alana Bucheit, a VA Decision Review Officer. The Review Officer's preliminary review of Mr. Williams's military records revealed nothing to support his claim of overseas or combat service. Even so, in August 2014 the Review Officer held the informal hearing.

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934 F.3d 1122 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 24722 **; 110 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. (Callaghan) 260; 2019 WL 3917519

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. CAMEO WILLIAMS, SR., Defendant - Appellant.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. (D.C. No. 1:16-CR-00111-JLK-1).

United States v. Williams, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28629 (D. Colo., Feb. 22, 2018)

CORE TERMS

district court, false statement, veteran, benefits, informal hearing, stressor, combat, military record, prior statement, plain error, combat-related, deployed, argues, combat service, intrinsic, evidentiary ruling, challenges, deployment, in-service, regulation, witnesses, records, serving

Criminal Law & Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Plain Error, De Novo Review, Sufficiency of Evidence, Plain Error, Burdens of Proof, Definition of Plain Error, Fraud Against the Government, False Statements, Elements, Criminal Offenses, Fraud, Military & Veterans Law, General Benefits, Compensation for Service Connected Death & Disability, Eligibility, Deferential Review, Credibility & Demeanor Determinations, Abuse of Discretion, Evidence, Conclusions of Law, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Compulsory Process, Defenses, Right to Present, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Evidence, Relevance, Relevant Evidence, Admissibility, Conduct Evidence, Prior Acts, Crimes & Wrongs, Preliminary Proceedings, Pretrial Motions & Procedures, Motions in Limine, Procedural Matters, Objections & Offers of Proof, Objections, Reviewability, Preservation for Review, Requirements, Abandonment, Exclusion of Relevant Evidence, Confusion, Prejudice & Waste of Time