AUGUSTA, GA: A Taliaferro County, Ga., man has admitted withholding information about his employment with the U.S. Postal Service when applying for and receiving pension benefits from the Veterans Benefits Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Sanford Lamar Edwards, 50, of Crawfordville, Ga., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to an Information charging him with False Statements in an application for veterans pension benefits, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The guilty plea subjects Edwards to a statutory penalty of up to five years in prison, followed by up to three years of supervised release, along with substantial financial penalties and restitution.
“The VA administers pension funding for former military service members in accordance with guidelines that ensure fiscal responsibility in the recipients’ applications,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “Sanford Edwards knew he didn’t qualify for those benefits and applied for them anyway, and he is being held accountable for his deceit.”
As described in court documents and testimony, Edwards served in the U.S. Army until 1995, and in 1997 became employed by the U.S. Postal Service, earning in excess of $65,000 per year. In May 2011, Edwards signed and certified a Veteran’s Application for Compensation and Pension, falsely reporting that he had no income, falsely reporting his home as his only asset, and falsely reporting that he had a medical condition that prevented him from working. Relying on those false representations, the VA approved Edwards’ application and paid him monthly pension benefits totaling $230,000 from May 2011 through January 2022.
Annually during this 10-year period, the VA reminded Edwards of his duty to report any changes to his income or net worth, and Edwards failed to do so.
“This defendant selfishly defrauded a program that is intended to provide much-needed benefits to deserving veterans who are legitimately unable to work,” said Special Agent in Charge David Spilker of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Southeast Field Office. “The VA OIG will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure those who would steal from veterans and taxpayers are held accountable.”
The case was investigation by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, and prosecuted for the United States by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.