Man Sentenced to Prison After Pretending to Need Wheelchair to Get VA Benefits

A Michigan man is heading to prison after he lied to VA employees about his physical condition and used a wheelchair as a prop to fraudulently obtain benefits.

A Michigan man has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for lying about his ability to walk in order to obtain over $250,000 in federal benefits to which he was not entitled.

According to an announcement from the Justice Department, Joseph Scott Gray, 53, of Lawton, Michigan was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker to five years in federal prison for lying to the Department of Veterans affairs in order to obtain VA benefits.

On October 26, 2017, Gray went to the Battle Creek VA Medical Center for an exam, and he arrived in a wheelchair. The Justice Department issued a photo showing him arriving in the wheelchair:

Source: Justice Department

During the exam, Gray told federal employees at the VA that he had not walked in 10 years and could not use his left hand. However, several minutes later, Gray went to a local restaurant and was observed there freely walking in and out of the building and carrying his leftovers in his left hand:

Source: Justice Department

Gray was ultimately convicted by a federal jury of four counts: engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the government; providing false statements to the VA; theft of government funds; and presenting a false, fictitious, or fraudulent claim for benefits.

After the trial, the Court found that Gray committed perjury by falsely testifying that his medication caused him lie to VA employees and that his medication caused him to go from being unable to walk one minute to able to walk the next. The Court also found that Gray falsely testified that it was his brother, not him, in videos from a local feed store in which Gray was seen walking freely and carrying a 40 – 50 lb. bag of cat food.

When issuing the sentence, Judge Jonker explained that a significant jail sentence was necessary because Gray’s fraud spanned 15 years and involved blatant lies to both the VA and the jury, plus he had obstructed justice by committing perjury.

The judge also noted that Gray had obstructed justice in a previous federal case in which he threatened a witness. In 2011, Gray was sentenced to 27 months in prison after a jury convicted him of engaging in the unlicensed sale of firearms.

“Misrepresenting symptoms to the VA to fraudulently obtain benefits takes resources from deserving veterans and will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Gregory Billingsley with the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Central Field Office. “The VA OIG will continue to vigorously investigate those who would steal from VA benefits programs and taxpayers.”

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.