Veteran sentenced for pretending to be severely blind and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution

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DENVER (KKTV) - “Justice may be blind, but Mr. Blea isn’t,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn after a Colorado veteran was sentenced for defrauding the VA.

Mike Blea was sentenced to a year in prison this week for defrauding the VA out of nearly $1.3 million by pretending to be severely blind. Blea was ordered to pay the VA $1,273,180 in restitution.

Investigators say Blea is a Vietnam Veteran who began receiving VA disability payments in 1969 for a visual impairment. He did in fact have a minor visual impairment due to macular holes in his retinas, however at least by 1983 he began exaggerating how bad his eyesight was, with the result being that the VA was paying him 100% disabled rate when in fact his true rating was probably 10 percent. While the VA thought Blea was blind, he was deliberately getting eye exams outside the VA system that showed his vision was correctable to 20/30 in one eye and 20/40 in another. In fact, Blea had a driver’s license and drove regularly without any noticeable difficulties according to a release from the Department of Justice.

Blea was charged by information on Aug. 8, 2018, and pleaded guilty to a single count of concealment of a material fact on Dec. 19. He was sentenced Wednesday.