A Marine veteran received nearly $119,000 in disability benefits for the post-traumatic stress disorder that stemmed from his active duty service in the Philippines and Thailand, recovering dead bodies following natural disasters. The only problem: Kamil Wakulik had not actually been involved in recovering human remains, as he admitted Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in New Jersey.
The 38-year-old resident of Long Valley, New Jersey, pleaded guilty via videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge José R. Almonte to theft of government funds and interstate transmission of a threat of injury, according to a Justice Department news release announcing the guilty plea.
Wakulik served in the Marine Corps from 2003 to 2007, according to the information, formal criminal charges akin to an indictment.
The information doesn’t specify the natural disasters to which the veteran claimed to have responded. But the Philippines and Thailand experienced multiple deadly typhoons and tsunamis during Wakulik’s years in the Corps. Thousands of U.S. troops provided humanitarian assistance to Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, following a tsunami in 2004 that killed 230,000 people in a matter of hours.
Wakulik racked up $118,979.16 in disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs between July 2018 and September 2022, the information states.
And in August 2022, the Marine veteran sent a text message threatening a VA inspector general agent — and any other agent investigating him — with physical violence, according to the information. The information doesn’t provide details on the threat.
For the theft of government funds charge, Wakulik faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to twice the proceeds of the fraud. He faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the threat charge. The information said Wakulik must also forfeit the proceeds he received from the fraud.
Wakulik’s sentencing is set for June 6, according to the Justice Department release.
The identity of Wakulik’s attorney could not be immediately ascertained.
Wakulik isn’t the only person to have been prosecuted for alleged fraud involving VA disability benefits in recent years. Army veteran William Rasheem Jamal Rich was indicted in October 2021 for allegedly collecting more than $1 million by falsely claiming to be paralyzed below the waist.
In December 2018, Navy veteran John Cicero Hughes admitted to prosecutors that he had exaggerated his multiple sclerosis diagnosis to obtain a 100% disability rating. Earlier that year, Keith R. Hudson, who never served in the military, pleaded guilty to taking nearly $200,000 in disability benefits by pretending to be a Vietnam veteran.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.