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Civilian poses as vet to get treatment at VA hospital

PALM BEACH, Fla.—Medical records at the West Palm Beach Veterans Administration Medical Center show doctors treated Robert Granger twice in the past two months for a seizure and complications from liver and pancreatic disease.

But it turns out Granger never set foot in the hospital off 45th Street.

Doctors instead administered medical treatment valued at more than $15,000 to West Palm Beach resident Adam Jose Cora, 48, who later admitted to police he used Granger’s military credentials to access hospital services available only to veterans and active-duty personnel.

Cora, who remained in the Palm Beach County jail Friday, told police he and Granger, 56, met at the Calhoun Correctional Institution in Blountstown, about 50 miles west of Tallahassee. Cora was serving prison time for a burglary charge, and was released in May.

He told police Granger gave him a copy of his military discharge papers and told him he could use the documents if he ever needed medical care. Records show that Granger, who was charged in 2010 with grand theft of a motor vehicle, also served time at Calhoun.

Last month, Cora spoke with a VA counselor at a local shelter who was asking if anyone there was a veteran and in need of assistance. Cora, who needed medical attention, approached the counselor and eventually began getting treated at the VA.

Police said Cora was first admitted in October, and remained hospitalized for a week as he received treatment for liver and pancreas issues.

Cora was admitted again Nov. 3 after suffering a seizure. After hospital personnel realized Cora did not match a photograph on file for the real Granger, a VA criminal investigator contacted police.

After being arrested by Riviera Beach police on Wednesday, Cora admitted to using Granger’s identity to access medical care because he could not afford it elsewhere. Cora faces one charge of fraudulently obtaining services from a health care provider and one charge of criminal use of personal identification.

Officials at the hospital said they could not comment because the investigation was ongoing.

Mary Kay Hollingsworth, regional public affairs officer for the VA, said hospitals always ask a patient for a photo identification and input the biographical information into a national database to confirm the person is eligible for benefits. Hollingsworth added that they usually recommend veterans present their military discharge papers if their name is not found in the database.

But if a patient comes into the emergency room and needs immediate care, hospital officials will first make sure the patient is treated and stabilized, and then will verify the person’s eligibility.

If there is a discrepancy or suspicion of fraud, Hollingsworth said, hospital officials usually contact a privacy officer, the VA police or the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

“We are always concerned if there is a possibility that someone is illegally using information or benefits that rightly belong to a veteran,” she said, adding that the VA offers free credit monitoring for a year to any veteran who has been a victim of identity fraud.

Misuse of veterans benefits has also caught the attention of members of Congress, including Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., who this year introduced a bill that would push to change pension eligibility requirements to discourage people from victimizing veterans.

“When you defraud the VA, you’re taking limited resources away from veterans who earned and need these benefits. You’re robbing from American heroes, and you should be prosecuted,” Rooney said in a statement. “I’ve introduced a bipartisan bill to combat VA pension fraud, and we will certainly work with the VA to determine if there are similar steps we can take to stop fraud in their health care system.”

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