Bodybuilder Sentenced for Stealing VA Benefits

A bodybuilder is going to prison after posting his strenuous workouts on social media despite claiming he was disabled to get VA benefits.

A self-professed bodybuilder in Florida has been sentenced to prison for manipulating test scores to make himself appear disabled in order to get disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Zachary Barton, a veteran of the US Army, lied about the extent of his mental and physical impairments to receive VA disability benefits to which he was not entitled. Specifically, he manipulated the results of subjective tests of mental health claiming he was in combat, which made him eligible for benefits relating to PTSD and self-reported his inability to lift weights more than 10-20 pounds or walk without the benefit of a cane. As a result of these manipulations, the VA found that Barton was 100% disabled.

However, he was busy posting his body building exploits on social media which indicated otherwise. According to the Miami Herald:

…Barton, Zach Shredz on Facebook, and wife Nicole Barton, formerly Nicole Cowan, were a little too proud of their hard-earned muscular physiques. Social media screamed of their hardcore workouts. 

“A review of publicly accessible social media and certain web pages showed that Barton graduated as a personal fitness trainer in 2016,” the prosecution sentencing filing said, “competed in a body building competition in May 2019; wrote blogs advising others of his workout routines and products he takes including Tamoxifen, Clomidand T3, as a part of his body building routine; and [Barton] and his wife posted photos and videos of themselves working out and Barton lifting weights, sometimes more than 600 lbs.”

Among his workout activities were leg pressing 650 pounds and chest pressing over 300 pounds. He also performed daily activities such as driving a car and pet walking without any difficulty.

Barton was sentenced to one year in federal prison and ordered to pay $245,932.52 in restitution to the VA after pleading guilty to theft of government property.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.