Blythewood Man Convicted in VA Scam

BLYTHEWOOD (May 5, 2016) – A Blythewood man who was convicted in January for defrauding the Veterans Administration (VA) and Social Security Administration of $1.6 million in disability benefits was sentenced in federal court last week to three years and five months in prison.

According to U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles, Dennis Paulsen, 45, of 108 Ashley Ridge Road “feigned and exaggerated” symptoms resulting from his diagnosis while serving in the Navy in the early 1990s of multiple sclerosis (MS). Paulsen was discharged from the Navy and began receiving monthly checks from the VA in 1993.

Nettles said the case was “one of the largest fraudulent single disability compensation claims in VA history.”

Over the years, Paulsen collected $1.5 million in VA benefits and $133,000 in Social Security benefits.

According to Nettles, Paulsen was able to increase the amount of monthly VA benefits he was receiving by initiating a “pattern of malingering” and claiming that his MS rendered him unable to use his hands or feet. Paulsen increased his benefits further, to the maximum available to a veteran, by lying to doctors, presenting himself as housebound and wheelchair-bound, and making false claims that he required daily professional medical care, Nettles said.

At the same time, Paulsen used the same feigned impairments to convince the Social Security Administration (SSA) that he was entitled to benefits. All the while, Nettles said, Paulsen lived in a home in Virginia that was not handicap accessible and led an active lifestyle in which he played golf and baseball on a regular basis.

In 2004, Paulsen and then-wife Kristine sold their 5,000-square-foot home in Virginia for more than $500,000 and moved to Blythewood. In Blythewood, Paulsen bought a home on Ashley Ridge Road that was also not handicap accessible and stopped seeing his neurologist for his MS.

Paulsen was active in several gyms, Nettles said, joined a baseball league in 2006, and lived an overall active lifestyle. Evidence presented during Paulsen’s January trial showed that Paulsen had even participated in the 2008 Marine Corps Mud Run.

In 2014, the Paulsens divorced. A short time later, a family member of Paulsen’s ex-wife tipped off the government, which then began investigating the case. According to Nettles, once Paulsen learned of the investigation, he quit his baseball league and began appearing at the VA again in his wheelchair, claiming to be unable to walk or use his hands.

Nettles said investigators with the VA and SSA tailed Paulsen and collected video and photographic evidence, as well as surveillance footage from banks, stores and even the Columbia Metropolitan Airport that bolstered their case. Family photographs kept by Paulsen’s ex-wife that showed Paulsen playing baseball and participating in the Marine Corps Mud Run were also obtained.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys William E. Day II and Jay N. Richardson prosecuted the case. Senior U.S. District Judge Margaret B. Seymour presided over the trial and sentencing.