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VAOIG Concludes Investigation of POW Network


By Staff Writer: Rick Townsend

October 6, 2006,

Before the Department of Veterans Affairs lost its first laptop computer, combat Vietnam veterans, [Name Omitted] and Gene Simes were already concerned with personal data security within the Cabinet Level Agency.

The event that started this entire story was when [Name Omitted] learned he was under unauthorized investigation by Chuck and Mary Schantag of POW Network. The questionable investigation came about when Diane Weller publicly accused [Name Omitted] of falsifying his military service record and embellishing his DD214. Gene Simes was also targeted for a similar shake down by the group. 

According to [Name Omitted] and Simes, they never had any objection to anyone verifying their military service under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The problem began when the Shantags suggested they had inside help within the VA that would provide the two men’s Social Security numbers and medical records.

On May 2nd of this year, one day before the infamous VA laptop was reported stolen; veteran’s rights advocates [Name Omitted] and Simes filed a formal complaint with the Department of Veterans Affair, Office of Inspector General (VAOIG). [Name Omitted] and Simes suspected Chuck and Mary Schantag, owners on the WWW.POWNETWORK.ORG were illegally accessing their personal information from the VA. [Name Omitted] provided the VAOIG with emails sent from the Schantags claiming they had ‘friends’ within the VAOIG that would sift through records and provide them with any information they requested. In one email, associate of the Schantags, Diane ‘AKA Gunny Di’ Weller claimed the group had already captured [Name Omitted]’s Social Security number. Weller also stated that the official records the Schantags receive would contain all information and that nothing would be blacked out. Publicly, the Schantags stated they receive all of their information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Privately, they boast they could get any military or VA records on anyone through their friends within the VA.

Last week, [Name Omitted] received the results of the VAOIG investigation. In the extremely vague and brief two paragraph memorandum, Daniel L. Cooper of the VAOIG concluded ‘No evidence was found showing that information had been provided to the POW Network or that information had been requested by the Schantags’.

Both [Name Omitted] and Simes told the FBN in a phone interview that they were disappointed but not surprised by the VA IG findings. “I said from day one that the VAOIG would not be able to investigate themselves over this issue,” Simes said. “The simple fact the VAOIG findings never addressed the Schantag’s claim of VA personnel providing them with privileged and confidential information, would lead me to believe they really did have insider friends,” he added.

[Name Omitted] views the situation in a different light. “I think the Schantags were embellishing and exaggerating their investigative powers and the level of records access they had. In my mind, that would make them guilty of exactly the same fault they accuse others of, pretending to be something that they are not. If they did have ‘friends’ they feared compromising, those friends consequently, have been compromised,” [Name Omitted] said.

The Schantags also claim to routinely turn veterans into the VA they suspect of benefits fraud. In fact, according to Vietnam veteran Gary Assell of Montgomery, Illinois, the Schatags have saved the VA millions and millions of dollars by exposing veterans that were receiving compensation or benefits they were not eligible to receive. [Name Omitted] made several phone calls to associates within the VA and was unable to get verification that the Schantags had saved the VA one dollar. “Once again I think we are witnessing people embellishing their importance. This is an un-provable boast at most,” [Name Omitted] added.  

Many veterans think recent blunders by the VA have single-handedly compromised the data security not only the VA, but of the Department of Defense, Internal Revenue, and Social Security Administration as well. The full scope of the VA’s incompetence has just begun to show its ugly head. “The bottom line is the Department of Veterans Affairs leaks like a sieve when it comes to data security - the Schantags are merely one very small hole in a very big sieve,” [Name Omitted] concluded.

[Name Omitted] and Simes say they plan to pursue the matter with the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice. Both veterans are very disappointed that the VAOIG did not take the opportunity in their investigation to deny any inside relationship with the POW Network. “The VAOIG’s findings were totally inaccurate and misleading. The issue is far from dead,” Gene Simes stated. “We want to know exactly what the relationship between the VA and the Schantags involves and does not involve,” Simes added.

[NOTE: The Schantag’s investigation revealed no evidence of falsification by Mr. [Name Omitted] of his military service record. Thus, no federal charges are expected to be filed against Mr. [Name Omitted]. To date, the Schantags have refused to publicly comment on the issue, or make any effort to remove the cloud of doubt they publicly cast on [Name Omitted]’s impeccable service to this country.]

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