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  • How to Avoid Being Duped by Fake Military Credentials

    by Brian Willingham

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    There have been a number of stories over the last several years regarding individuals who exaggerated or completely falsified military credentials.  The most troubling stories include the faking of military credentials by a school instructor and reports of falsified congressional Medal of Honor awards by individuals who had contributed to the Veterans History Project.

    Navy SEAL Tale Was an “Ego-Builder” for Pastor

    One of the most recent examples of fake military credentials involves Reverend Jim Moats, who until recently was a pastor at the Christian Bible Fellowship Church in Newville, Pennsylvania. A local newspaper reported that Moats was never a Navy SEAL and never served in Vietnam.

    Moats later admitted his tale of being a Navy SEAL was just “an ego-builder.”  In order to perpetuate the fraud, Moats carried around the gold Trident medal that is awarded to those who have completed SEALs training (which he bought at a surplus store) and touted a plaque that honors SEALs (which was made by his sons).

    One of the lessons that can be gained from this story is to not always believe what you see, especially when the information can easily be proved otherwise.

    Verifying Military Service

    Much of this could have easily been avoided by submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to verify former military records.

    Military records are stored at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.  Access to military personnel records is available to the public through a FOIA.

    A request must be sent via either mail or fax to the records center.  Only a limited amount of information can be released to the general public, but the information typically includes rank, dates of services and where the individual in question was stationed.

    • 9

    { 6 comments… read them below or add one }

    Amber October 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    My brother has been posing as a Vietnam vet for years now. Hangs around the local VFW and bonds with his brothers over experiences he’s never had. He was in the army, but in Germany for only 6 months, then for an unknown reason was discharged to the national guards for the remainding of his duty.
    Maybe no damage done except its all a lie.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham October 2, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    The Stolen Valor Act, which was signed earlier this year, makes it a federal crime to lie about military service and awards try to profit from the lies.

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/06/obama-signs-stolen-valor-act-into-law/

    Reply

    Floyd January 20, 2012 at 3:22 am

    I see files completely wiped off of the face of the earth on a routine and regular basis. I am a former OPM SA and now I work in HR in the private sector. Filing a FOIA is not going to produce tangible results in most cases. I filed a FOIA on my own military record and got nothing back. I did file a BI on one of our perspective employees that was claiming vet status and got no where. About 10-days later we were visited by the NSA and DCIS. Quite entertaining. Apparently the employees claims were true but we were told that unless we wanted to end up in federal holding that we ought to stop running people.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham January 20, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I would imagine that files fall off the face of the earth regularly, but based on our experience, a FOIA has been effective in finding records in every almost every single instance of making the request.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham July 24, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I would suggest you make a freedom of information request suggested above and see what comes back. It may take some time to get back, but even if it’s true, I would imagine that all of the records would not have been completely wiped away.

    Reply

    betty July 24, 2011 at 11:41 am

    need proof of an individual claiming to be a navy veteran from 1981-1988 maybe 1989 who claims to have been a member of navy seal team 5, a POW for 18 months and subsequently discharged from the navy and all of his credentials wiped completely cleaned of him being in the navy because he went to the press of his alledged POW status and that the gov’t was covering up his POW status.

    Reply

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