Disability compensation programs, insurance for service members and veterans, and vocational rehabilitation for the disabled were all included. In August 1921, the Veterans Bureau was formed by combining the War Risk Bureau and the Rehabilitation Division of the Federal Board of Vocational Education. But did you know that Charles R. Forbes, one of the early directors of the Veterans Bureau, stole over $2 Million?
Under President Warren G. Harding, one of the early directors Charles R. Forbes of the Veterans Bureau, stole more than $2 million from it. Harding had to be physically restrained from strangling Forbes when the corruption was revealed.
The Corrupt Director of the Veterans Bureau
President Warren G. Harding appointed Charles Robert Forbes as the first Director of the Veterans’ Bureau on August 9, 1921, and he served until February 28, 1923. He served in the military and was a decorated World War I veteran after being arrested for army desertion in 1900.
In the Pacific Northwest, he first became involved in politics. Forbes relocated to Hawaii in 1912 and served as chairman of several federal commissions. Senator Warren G. Harding was on vacation in Hawaii then, and the two met by chance and became friends. In 1920 U.S. President Harding appointed Forbes to the newly created Veterans Bureau, a powerful position overseeing millions of dollars in government expenditures and supplies.
His tenure as the first Director of the Veterans Bureau was marred by corruption and scandal. Forbes was regarded as Washington’s “dashing playboy” and a favorite of President Harding.
After returning to the United States after fleeing to Europe in 1923, he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States. In 1926, he was arrested and imprisoned by the government, where he shared a cell with Frederick Cook, the man who frequently claimed to be the first to reach the North Pole. Forbes came out eight months later, in 1927. In 1952, he passed away. (Source: Military-History)
Charles R. Forbes Dirty Tenure in the Bureau
Forbes hired 30,000 new workers for the Veterans Bureau with millions of dollars at his disposal, many of whom were personal friends of Forbes. Forbes’ Veterans Bureau was overstaffed, and many appointed agents sought ways to justify their paid positions.
Forbes ignored the needs of wounded veterans during his tenure as director. Forbes embezzled approximately $225 million during his less than two-year tenure, primarily concerning the construction of veterans’ hospitals, the sale of hospital supplies intended for the bureau, and contractor kickbacks. The Veteran’s Bureau’s budget totaled $1.3 billion during his tenure. Forbes had rejected thousands of legitimate veteran claims.
Even though 300,000 soldiers had been wounded in combat, Forbes had only allowed 47,000 claims for disability insurance, with many being denied compensation for split hairs reasons. Under Forbes’ direction, even fewer veterans received any vocational training.
In January 1923, President Harding summoned Forbes to the White House after learning that he had disobeyed a direct order to stop selling hospital supplies. Forbes begged Harding to let him travel to Europe to settle family matters. Harding agreed to let him go to Europe on the condition that he resign from the Veterans Bureau. (Source: Military-History)
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