An Army veteran and self-proclaimed bodybuilder has pleaded guilty to exaggerating his mental and physical impairments to increase the disability payments he received from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) according to an announcement from the Justice Department.
Zachary Barton, 36, a south Florida Army veteran, pled guilty to theft of government funds from a federal agency. As a result of his false claims, he wound up getting approximately $245,286 in VA benefits to which he was not entitled. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
Barton admitted he lied on a mental health test by reporting to the VA that he had been in combat, qualifying him for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder benefits. He also falsely reported that he could not lift more than 10 to 20 pounds or walk without a cane. The VA found that Barton was 100% disabled based on these lies.
However, it turns out that Barton routinely performed strenuous weight-lifting – leg pressing 650 pounds and chest pressing over 300 pounds. He also drove, walked his pet, and shopped with no difficulty.
According to the Miami Herald, Barton and his wife were posting pictures and videos of Barton online “pushing heavy iron to build his physique and flexing in the gym and on stage in contests” while he was collecting the VA disability benefits.
Sentencing is scheduled for August 11, 2022.