Friday, June 23, 2017

Elaborate scam sets up fake 'law firm' to bilk elderly

The estate planning lawyers on the website at Walsh & Padilla in Houston look like you would expect. Earnest. Well-groomed. Suits and ties for the men, pearls and pendants for the women.

There's only one problem: Walsh & Padilla doesn't exist.

The Houston Bar Association, in a lawsuit filed in state district court in Harris County, alleges that Walsh & Padilla is fictitious and its website touting estate planning, probate and other legal services is an elaborate front for a scam to fleece the elderly, including one victim who had $14,000 drained from a bank account. The attorneys in the photos look so lawyerly because they are lawyers -- except at other law firms, from where the photos were stolen. The site even includes a working phone number, with an automated answering system that patches callers through to the voice mail of top partner "Jonathan Walsh." (Calls to that number seeking comment were not returned.)

The scam involves sending letters to elderly residents in the United States and Canada informing them that they have life insurance proceeds coming to them as a pretense to gain bank account numbers and other financial details, according to court documents. The bar association on Monday obtained a court order requiring the website to shut down immediately; the bar association also said it filed a criminal complaint with the Harris Count District Attorney's Office, which declined to comment.

The scam has an unusual level of sophistication, nothing like the easy to spot email entreaties for money, said Mary Kate Raffetto, a commercial litigator at Beck Redden, who has done much of the legwork to track down the scam artists. "Someone with some know how-has done this and put this together," she said.

The website remains up as the bar association, which traced the operation to South Africa, tries to locate the web server and deliver the restraining order. "The more we investigate, you see they're trying to cover their tracks to prevent you from finding out who hosts the site," said Raffetto.

Walsh & Padilla came to the attention of the bar association recently when its president, Alistair Dawson, received a call from the Houston law firm Jackson Walker. The photo of one of its partners, Curt Langley, appeared on the Walsh & Padilla site, but over the name "Jonathan Walsh, B.A., J.D."

That was discovered by a recipient of one of the letters about life insurance proceeds who became suspicious, did a reverse search on the Jonathan Walsh photo, found Langley and notified him. "I've been telling everyone here they wanted to use someone who is good looking and has an honest looking face," said Langley.

William R. Hayes, an estate planning and probate lawyer with Hayes & Wilson in Houston, also started getting calls from Canada and discovered, much to his surprise, that his firm's website had been cloned by Walsh & Padilla. One of the calls Hayes received was from a Canadian who was contacted by Walsh & Padilla under the guise of a relative who died in Houston and left a life insurance policy of $6.2 million.

"They changed the name, put in a new (phone) number," he said, but the design, courtroom photos and even the blue/brown/gold color scheme are the same. Even the links on cloned website take visitors to the biographies of Hayes & Wilson lawyers, including Hayes and his partner Lisa Wilson, to make it look like they work for Walsh & Padilla.

"If you do enough clicking, you will find most of us on it," he said.

"Walsh & Padilla also used photos of three lawyers and one firm administrator at Allen Matkins, a Los Angeles-based real estate law firm. All the names were changed, according to the lawsuit.

"The case serves as a reminder that if something seems too good to be true it probably is," Raffetto said. If a lawyer, financial advisor or someone else says they've got money for you, she said, "Be very wary."

Full Article & Source:
Elaborate scam sets up fake 'law firm' to bilk elderly

Lawmakers continue conversation about bill to remove incapacitated elected officials


SALT LAKE CITY — As county officials prepare to use their purse strings power to help address the troubling situation around Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott, state leaders also are pushing forward.

The Legislature's Political Subdivisions Interim Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to create a bill file that legislators can use to create a new law to remove incapacitated county elected officials from office — and fill a "hole" in state law that provides no recourse when such situations arise.

Earlier this year, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, proposed a bill that would implement a three-tiered process for removal: a voter petition, a unanimous vote from the applicable governing body, and a judicial proceeding where a judge could order a medical evaluation of the public officer in question.

However, the bill was placed on hold during the 2017 Legislature, with lawmakers saying the issue needed more study, and wary that such a law could be used as a political weapon.

Previously, Chavez-Houck sponsored the bill alone. But Wednesday, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, stepped forward as a Republican backer with his own ideas of how to make such a law palatable to legislators.

Thatcher proposed a different three-part framework, where a county council or commission would have to vote unanimously to call for a mental competency exam in court. If a judge then ruled the individual to be incompetent and untreatable, the council could then vote unanimously to remove the official from office.

"This is a deep, personal issue for me," Thatcher revealed during Wednesday's meeting. "Gary Ott was one of my mentors. When I made the decision to run for office, Gary Ott was the very first elected official I sat down with. He wrote me my first donation. I love this man."

But the last time Thatcher had a conversation with Ott at a Republican event, he realized something was wrong, he said.

"After about 15 seconds of lucidity, he started yelling at me for taking his tools before (his deputy) Julie (Dole) quickly whisked him away and out of sight," he said.

Dole disputed Thatcher's story, telling the Deseret News in a text message Wednesday it "never happened."

"I've never seen Gary yell at Thatcher or yell about his tools," she said. "Matter of fact, I can't recall ever seeing Gary yell. I'll think on this more, but (I) am not recalling any situations of Gary yelling in my presence."

Thatcher told lawmakers that "in a perfect world" loved ones would help an elected official step down with grace when they're inflicted by illness, but as portrayed by Ott's story, that isn't always the case. That's why, he said, a law to address such situations is needed.

"Yes, I want to deal with the Gary Ott situation," Thatcher said. "But I also want to make sure this never happens again."

However, creating such a law might not be as simple as passing a bill.

Darcy Goddard, chief policy adviser in the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, told lawmakers they "would almost certainly require" a change to the Utah Constitution to create a law that wouldn't be vulnerable to unconstitutional arguments.

A constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate, and would need to be approved by voters in the next general election.

Rep. Christine Watkins, R-Price, said she could "see where this is going to be very tricky," but added that Thatcher's proposal "probably has some merit."

Rep. Val Potter, R-North Logan, said he's supportive of pursuing a new law because he worries that situations such as Ott's, while rare, have happened before and can happen again.

When he was a county council member, Potter said, "we had this very thing happen."

"We had an elected official who was not able to do her job because of cancer," he said, but the matter was resolved when county leaders "offered her an opportunity to resign."

"This does happen, and I don't think we know how many times this has happened," Potter said.

Full Article & Source:
Lawmakers continue conversation about bill to remove incapacitated elected officials

Elder abuse can take many forms besides the obvious

As waves of baby-boomers reach retirement age, it seems there has been more media coverage lately about issues that affect seniors.  One of these is the prevalence of elder abuse.  I'm not sure if it's on the rise or it's just being publicized more than it once was, due to shifting demographics.

We often think of elder abuse in terms of what we can readily observe--  physical acts committed against older people, hidden cameras revealing in-home caregivers or nursing home employees lashing out at those they've been entrusted to protect.  But there's another form that can sometimes take years to recognize and can be difficult to prosecute, but it is abuse nonetheless--  financial exploitation of the elderly.

With my parents recently retired, I've been on the lookout for information about how to improve quality of life for the 65+ population.  That's why yesterday's Tribune article about a Blue Island car dealership allegedly taking advantage of an 85-year-old customer caught my attention.

Her son says his mother, June Shivers, dropped off her beloved 2005 Lincoln LS one day for some repairs.  She came home later that afternoon with a 2014 Ford Fusion and a six-year payment plan at about $400 per month.

It appears that she thought the dealership was giving her a "loaner" car to test-drive for a couple days while the Lincoln was in the shop.  Concerned, her son called the dealership after his mother's friends told him, "I think they're trying to sell your mom a car."  The dealership assured him she was just going to take it for a test drive, but when she got home, he found documents in her possession, bearing her signature, that suggest otherwise.

She's since filed a lawsuit against the dealership and the bank that provided the financing.  Her son says she wasn't given a fair trade-in value for the Lincoln; she got a $600 credit when a fair one would have totaled at least $2,000.  He also claims that his mother has been having problems with her memory and was not in a position to make the transaction.  He believes the dealership took advantage of her.

The Blue Island business, however, asserts that they had seen June Shivers several times over the years, and that they didn't notice any signs that she was having cognitive difficulties.  The car has since been repossessed, and she's still on the hook for what's left of the loan, more than $10,000.

It's not clear what happened here.  It seems odd that she would trade in a vehicle that she loved, when it was fully paid for, and take on a purchase that would leave her in so much debt.  Unfortunately, it appears that her family hasn't provided any documentation of her memory problems, which would help their case.  Still, something doesn't add up.

Her son alleges she didn't know what she was signing when she provided her John Hancock on the forms that finalized the sale, and that she never would have given up her Lincoln.

Cases like this remind us to keep tabs on our older loved ones.  It's bad enough when businesses take advantage of them.  And there are the numerous phone scams where some unknown individual contacts them to tell them their child needs to be bailed out of jail or that they must support a particular cause.  Too often, the elderly victims send money or provide bank account information, their assets are taken, and by the time law enforcement can get involved, it's usually too late to recoup the losses.

What's especially troubling is that fraud often takes more subtle forms, and the older person is exploited by some one he or she knows and trusts.  The New York Times reports that, in many cases, the guilty parties are the victims' own friends or family members.

They may seek access to the older person's home or bank account, stealing small amounts at a time so as not to call too much attention to themselves.  Those with dementia and similar problems are especially vulnerable, because they're less likely to recognize what's happening.  Yet they can be cheated out of their entire life savings, sometimes even losing their homes, too.

It can appear that they consented to the withdrawals or willingly gave away valuable possessions since they readily provided access to their assets, when in reality they didn't know they were being fleeced of everything they had.

Many instances of abuse go unreported.  Authorities may be reluctant to get involved, thinking it's a "family matter."  But as increasing numbers of well-off Americans reach their golden years, there's been a resounding call in many states and locales to put stiffer penalties on the books for those who take advantage of this population, and several jurisdictions have taken measures to crack down on elder exploitation.

In 2010, the federal government passed the Elder Justice Act to raise awareness of  financial crimes committed against older people, and to encourage reporting of cases of exploitation.

Greater awareness and tougher legislation are definitely in order.  It's also important for the families of exploited individuals, when reporting such cases, to provide relevant medical information if their loved one has memory loss.  Doing so makes it easier for a judge, jury, or police officer to understand how the victim could easily be taken advantage of.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on your older loved one.  If they mention that they've recently turned over the keys to their home or granted power of attorney to some one you wouldn't expect or don't trust, don't be afraid to ask questions and dig deeper.  If the person in question is not doing anything suspicious, they should be willing to be transparent about their relationship to your loved one, and should understand why you're concerned.

If fraudulent activity is going on, then you can intervene early, before your loved one's entire livelihood is lost, and the criminal can hopefully be brought to justice before any more damage is done.

Full Article & Source:
Elder abuse can take many forms besides the obvious

Thursday, June 22, 2017

LifeTime Resources Receives Grant for Volunteer Guardianship Program

Dearborn County Hospital
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Thanks to a monetary donation by Dearborn County Hospital and the support of Circuit Court Judge James Humphrey, LifeTime Resources was recently awarded a grant to better assist seniors and incapacitated adults in Dearborn County.

Monies derived from the $50,000 Volunteer Advocates for Seniors or Incapacitated Adults (VASIA) grant, awarded by the Indiana Supreme Court, will be combined with Dearborn County Hospital’s donation of $12,500 and additional funding to help maintain and operate a volunteer guardianship program.

As a requirement to receive a VASIA grant, applicant programs must have a commitment from one or more entities in their service area to provide matching funds.

Designed to address temporary and/or emergency guardianship needs, the program, operated by Sentry Services and administered by LifeTime Resources, will serve as a guardian/representative payee for seniors or incapacitated adults whose family and/or friends are either unable or unwilling to assume the responsibility. The intent of the program is to assure that the rights and interests of all seniors and incapacitated adults are protected under the full extent of the law.

The VASIA grant will also allow for the program to expand its scope of services for seniors and incapacitated adults through the use of volunteers. The program will utilize volunteers to provide various forms of assistance such as calling and/or visiting the individual; escorting them to healthcare appointments; helping them apply for benefits; and other appropriate activities or duties.

For more information on the program and its services and requirements, please contact Sentry Services at LifeTime Resources by calling (812) 432-6220.

Full Article & Source:
LifeTime Resources Receives Grant for Volunteer Guardianship Program

Couple charged with abuse of elderly woman

Josh Lane
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - Two people in Greeneville have been charged with abuse after police say an elderly woman was locked outside of her home-- away from her oxygen.

Around 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, officers responded to an anonymous complaint to check the welfare of an elderly woman on the front porch of her home on Cherry Street.

The victim says her son, Josh Lane, and his wife, Brandy Ragan, locked her out of the house because she woke them up.

The victim also said they nailed the windows shut and padlocked the door to keep her from gaining entry to her oxygen machine.

She went on to say she had been without her oxygen for three days.

Lane and Ragan are both charged with willful abuse and neglect or exploitation of an adult.

Ragan is also charged with an outstanding violation of a probation warrant.

The police report said the incident was drug related.

Officials have not released a photo of Ragan yet.

Full Article & Source:
Couple charged with abuse of elderly woman

Maine's Aging & Disability Resource Center (ARDC)


It can be overwhelming to try to understand your options for in-home, community-based and long-term supports and services. Maine’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) are here to help!

ADRCs provide answers to questions about aging and disability resources in Maine. ADRC staff are knowledgeable on a wide range of issues and can help you find the resources you need.

ADRC resource experts have designed this site to help you find your own way to the right resources. Click “Explore Your Options” to get started. If you don’t find what you need or need more help, call 1-877-353-3771.

Source:
Maine Aging and Disability Resource Center

Click to read Maine's "Elder Rights Handbook" or to order a copy of the handbook

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

FBI joins probe of trust company accused of taking clients’ funds

The FBI has joined the investigation into the alleged diversion of millions of dollars in assets, including clients’ Social Security deposits, held by the Desert State Life Management trust company in Albuquerque for elderly and mentally or physically incapacitated clients.

The FBI on Thursday filed a petition seeking the civil forfeiture of two properties owned by Desert State CEO Paul Donisthorpe and his wife, Liane Kerr.

The allegations contained in the 17-page petition contend Donisthorpe engaged in an illegal scheme to defraud the clients of his nonprofit trust company, conducting “financial transactions involving the proceeds of that scheme in a manner so as to conceal the nature, source, location, ownership or control of the proceeds of that scheme to defraud,” all in violation of federal wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering laws.

Included in the forfeiture petition is a “luxury lodge” in Angel Fire that the couple has been actively trying to sell. The price was reduced just last weekend to $725,000 from $899,000, according to internet real estate listings. The assessed value in 2016 was $925,000.

The federal government also seeks the forfeiture of Desert State’s business office, at 1011 4th St. NW. That’s the same address for Kerr’s law office. She is a criminal defense attorney.

Both properties, the petition alleges, were purchased at least in part with Desert State client funds.

The forfeiture action filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque and signed by FBI Special Agent Grant Nixon is a civil matter, and no criminal charges have been filed in the case. Neither Donisthorpe, a certified public accountant who reportedly has medical issues, nor his wife returned Journal requests for comment.

The state Financial Institutions Division has been attempting to conduct a financial examination of Desert State since February, despite what state officials said were numerous stalling attempts by Donisthorpe. He has reportedly suffered some sort of brain damage, either from a stroke, a fall or a suicide attempt, according to a petition filed May 31 by the state agency.

The state petition, which seeks to assume control of the trust company via receivership, contends that so far examiners have found more than $4.1 million in client assets missing after being transferred into bank accounts associated with Donisthorpe and his other business interests. Donisthorpe hasn’t yet responded to the state’s allegations in court. An estimated 70 clients have been identified as suffering losses, state officials say.

The Santa Teresa family of one client has been informed that their disabled son’s $1 million account at Desert State has been drained to zero.

The federal petition states that FBI agent Nixon reviewed a March 10, 2015, financial statement signed by Donisthorpe and his wife showing their joint income to be about $100,000. The couple had obtained a mortgage on the four-bedroom, four-bathroom Angel Fire home, with $130,128 as the principal amount of the loan.

At least $49,000 of client funds were diverted from Desert State client accounts and applied to the mortgage on the Angel Fire property, the forfeiture petition states. Another $37,870 in clients funds were applied to the mortgage on the 4th Street property in Albuquerque after being diverted to Donisthorpe’s Spectrum Capital account. More than $10,000 in what the FBI believes were client funds was also applied to the 4th Street property from two other accounts that Donisthorpe controls.

The petition alleges that client funds were “laundered” through Spectrum Capital Markets LLC and into Donisthorpe’s Corazon Cattle and Paul A. Donisthorpe LLC accounts.

According to the forfeiture filing, the state Financial Institutions Division on May 17 provided the FBI with an Excel spreadsheet showing bank information for Desert State and three of Donistorpe’s other business ventures: Paul A. Donisthorpe LLC, Spectrum Capital Markets LLC and Corazon Cattle LLC. The funds came from various sources including client Social Security deposits and client accounts at financial institutions like Charles Schwab or Vanguard, the petition says.

The financial records showed a pattern of client funds being transferred from client accounts at other financial institutions to Desert State before passing through Desert State accounts to an entity controlled by Donisthorpe, Spectrum Capital. “These transfers did not appear to be authorized by clients and are not consistent with legitimate operations at DSLM,” the petition states.

From Spectrum Capital, the funds were diverted to other entities Donisthorpe controlled: bank accounts, credit card accounts and mortgages, “none of which are associated with DSLM or legitimate business activities of DSLM,” according to the forfeiture filing.

From August 2013 to April 2016, the transfers from the Desert State account to Spectrum totaled about $2.2 million, it stated. “The analysis identified no funds returning to DSLM accounts once they enter the Spectrum Account.”

Full Article & Source:
FBI joins probe of trust company accused of taking clients’ funds

Experts say  elder abuse is happening in all settings

Leif Adachi
WAIKAPU — The older veteran whose son pushed him down the stairs, the man who kept an elderly woman alive to get her Social Security checks, the overworked caregiver who took the stress out on a patient — all are examples of elder abuse, and often they go unnoticed, experts on aging and abuse said Thursday.

“There are still people who think elder abuse only occurs in nursing homes,” said Kathy Greenlee, vice president of aging and health policy with the Center for Practical Bioethics. “Most abuse occurs, by the raw numbers, in the community, and it’s appropriate that we deal with it in all settings.”

Greenlee was the keynote speaker at the daylong Elder Abuse Awareness Conference attended by nearly 200 people at the Kahili Golf Course on Thursday, which was designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Elder abuse often goes unnoticed because many people aren’t aware that it happens, and victims are ashamed to report it, Greenlee said. In Hawaii, where it’s common for many generations to live together, the risk for neglect or abuse persists.

“Caregivers mostly don’t intend to start out and harm their loved ones,” said Deborah Stone-Walls, executive on aging for the Maui County Office of Aging. “Most of the time the abuse happens because of the mounting stress. . . . It’s very cultural here in Hawaii for us to care for our families. We don’t even view ourselves as caregivers. I’m just helping my mom. That’s my job.”

Dr. Adam Coles
Dr. Adam Coles

That’s why it’s important to be alert for signs of abuse and take steps to prevent it, speakers at the conference said.

Researchers estimate that one out of every 10 people age 60 and older who live at home suffer abuse, neglect or exploitation, Greenlee said. Two-thirds are women, and victims are disproportionately African-American, Latino, poor or isolated. Abuse also can increase mortality rate among elderly victims by almost 300 percent.
“Not from the abuse itself but the ongoing trauma,” Greenlee said. “It’s a serious public health crisis . . . in terms of what it does to people.”

Part of the problem is that many people are reluctant to admit when it happens. Often abusers can be a family member or caregiver and, in addition to feelings of shame and guilt, many elderly greatly fear losing their independence.

Others simply don’t realize it’s an issue. For example, it can be hard for someone to believe that an elderly person is a victim of sexual abuse, because “the general public doesn’t see older people as sexual people,” Greenlee said.

Kathy Greenlee
Kathy Greenlee

Elder abuse comes in many forms: physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, medical and financial. It includes neglect — failing to provide proper food, clothing, medical, hygiene or supervision.

But how do family members or friends distinguish the normal signs of aging from signs of declining health due to abuse? Often, it comes down to looking for things that seem off, explained Dr. Adam Coles, a psychiatrist and clinical director at the Maui Family Guidance Center. It could be new or recurring injuries, especially those where the explanation for the injury or the accounts of the caregiver and the elderly patient don’t match up. It could be sudden weight loss or the onset of depression, or any unusual change in behavior.

“There’s going to be some obvious signs,” Stone-Walls said. “Broken bones, bruises, some overt things like an unkempt home . . . and poor hygiene. But there may also be other more subtle signs, such as withdrawal or a noticeable change in activities. . . . Usually with seniors when there’s a drastic change in their ability to spend money to care for themselves, that could be an indication that they are being financially abused.”

The elderly are frequent targets of financial scams, said Leif Adachi, a detective with the Maui Police Department who investigates financial crimes.

“Why are kupunas targeted? The number one reason should actually be money,” Adachi said. “Grandma who’s retired and worked all her life has a savings.”

Deborah Stone-Walls
Deborah Stone-Walls

Criminals have concocted a wide array of tricks, from claiming to be computer techs to posing as a grandchild calling from prison and needing money for bail. And, it’s not just distant crooks doing the swindling. It’s also people who misuse their elderly family members’ money. Adachi advised people to stay up to date on the latest scams, validate people’s information before doing business with them and reporting any suspicious activity to police.

But the most common source of elder abuse is at the hands of caregivers. While providing long-term care is “a burden of love,” it’s also a risk, Greenlee said.

“I think it’s too easy to dismiss all caregiver abuse as stress, but I think it’s a great correlation,” she said. “There are mean caregivers. But there are also caregivers who are under tremendous stress, and we need to pay particular attention to them and give them interventions and support.”

Stone-Walls encouraged people to call their local aging office “before they feel stressed.”

“Even if they don’t feel like they need anything today, we can help them know what could be available in the future,” Stone-Walls said. “Caregivers need to be sure to not put themselves last. 
When they put themselves last, it can have devastating effects.”

Coles said one of the many ways people can prevent potential abuse is by “maximizing the independent living skills of the elderly,” which takes a burden off caregivers and gives the elderly a greater sense of freedom.

Avoiding the TV, getting some exercise and providing them with human or animal companionship also can help combat loneliness and feelings of neglect. It’s also important to make sure their medical and mental needs are meant.

Sometimes, people just need to “be brave enough to ask,” Stone-Walls said.

“Even for professionals, sometimes I hear, ‘I think someone might be being abused and I don’t know how to ask,'” Stone-Walls said. “Sometimes people just need you to say, ‘Are you OK? How can we help you?'”

Full Article & Source:
Experts say  elder abuse is happening in all settings

DNR Codes and Levels of Care - Understand Before They're Needed

Many family caregivers of seniors will, at some point, have to answer the question “does your loved one have a DNR?”

Too often that question will come at a stressful time, during a medical emergency.

“What does that mean?” you may ask.

You won’t have to ask that, though, after you read this article.

DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), often referred to as “no code,” is an advance directive document that guides medical personnel to NOT perform CPR or otherwise try to revive your loved one if their heart is stopped.

If your senior loved one does not have a DNR in place, they are considered to be a full code and will receive all aggressive measures if their heart or breathing stops.

As a family caregiver you might be asked about their code status during an emergency — either full or no code or some level in-between.

A DNR advance directive is used only when the person is unable to communicate their own wishes and someone else needs to step in to direct their care, otherwise they will be asked to direct their care themselves.

CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a technique that is used to reestablish a person’s heart rhythm and breathing, shocking the heart back to a normal beating rhythm. It can involve chest compressions, rescue breathing, defibrillation, medicine to stimulate the heart function, mask ventilation and intubation for mechanical breathing (also known as life support).
Details About DNR Orders

A doctor is required to sign a DNR advance directive to be placed in your senior loved ones medical record, unlike a living will which requires a signature of the person involved and possibly a witness. A new DNR is required upon each hospital admission, including transfers between facilities.

It is important to know that many EMS (emergency medical personnel) are not allowed to honor a DNR order unless specific to that state and properly executed. For example, some states have a DNR document for use by EMS and then another one for the hospital.

A physician order for life-sustaining treatment (POLST), which covers out of hospital DNR orders, may be available in your state. There are also bracelets or documents kept on the refrigerator to alert first responders or your senior’s wishes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

25 Investigates: Nonprofit manager suspected of stealing tax dollars meant for disabled kids


HELMSFORD, Mass. - Police are investigating a Lowell woman suspected of stealing tax dollars meant for kids with disabilities, 25 Investigates has learned.

Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen has been looking into the case for months and confirmed Amy Young, former director of family support at Chelmsford-based LifeLinks, is under investigation – suspected of helping herself to taxpayer money under the guise it was going to families in need.

LifeLinks is a nonprofit state contractor that passes along funding from the Department of Developmental Services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Greater Lowell area.

A DDS spokesman confirmed LifeLinks alerted the state to the suspected theft by an employee in September, but 25 Investigates obtained Chelmsford police log records showing the nonprofit waited until November to report “embezzlement at LifeLinks over many years.”

Another four months passed before parents got a letter from LifeLinks in March that a “member of the staff inappropriately used funds.”

Parents looking for answers

Lisa Puccia and Joan Levasseur, two mothers who told 25 Investigates Young was assigned to help their children take on the challenges of autism, say they feel betrayed.

“That's just the same as walking in someone's house and stealing from them,” said Levasseur.

Puccia said, “I'm actually taken back that she could even do this, at all, to any of us.”

When 25 Investigates asked LifeLinks about Young, the nonprofit’s CEO, Jean Phelps, declined an interview request but wrote in an email, “The staff person was terminated immediately.”

Now Puccia and Levasseur want to know if Young used their accounts in the suspected embezzlement – by billing for bogus services – but said they still can’t get answers.

“I couldn’t access the information to find out if the two checks a year I was getting for the social skills group were the only two checks against my account,” said Levasseur.

Phelps insisted in an email to 25 Investigates that the stolen money “did not directly impact any services received by individuals and families.”

Mom says no funding available

But Puccia isn’t convinced. She says her daughter stopped receiving help from LifeLinks in 2010.

“I approached LifeLinks, our family service provider, and she said that there was no funding available at that time and that when there was funding available they would actually get in touch with us and they never did,” said Puccia. “I thought she was looking out for my kid and she obviously wasn't. She was looking out for herself.”

Young declined an interview request. She instead sent us an email citing the “ongoing investigation” and added, “I have been advised to not make a statement.”

Meanwhile, parents tell 25 Investigates they became suspicious about recent social media posts from Young and her family documenting frequent vacations.

“(She’s taking) trips to Disney, trips to Las Vegas... and more than one trip to Disney in a year. I mean, really?,” said Levasseur.

LifeLinks receives millions in state tax dollars

Neither Chelmsford Police nor LifeLinks would say exactly how much money Young is suspected of embezzling or how long the theft had been going on.

But public records reveal the nonprofit contractor took in more than $15 million from the state in just fiscal 2016 alone.

The Chelmsford Police called the theft “a serious case” and said the case “will likely be presented to the grand jury” after the investigation is complete.

In an emailed statement to 25 Investigates, a spokesman for the Department of Developmental Services said the agency “treats the appropriation of taxpayer funds very seriously and is working with state officials to ensure any misused state funds are returned to the Commonwealth.”

The agency also told 25 Investigates, “DDS required that Lifelinks retain an independent accounting firm to conduct a review of their internal controls. No new individuals have been referred to LifeLinks for services.”

Full Article & Source:
25 Investigates: Nonprofit manager suspected of stealing tax dollars meant for disabled kids

Who will judge the judges?

What happens when the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission is itself disciplined and finds itself disabled? The state is about to find out thanks to the continued antics on and off the bench by that regular inspiration for indignation, The Hon. Rev. Wendell Griffen, who continues to make more headlines than sense.

This time it took a three-page letter from the respected Howard Brill, a former chief justice of the state's Supreme Court, to get both the commission's executive director, David Sachar, and his deputy, Emily White, to step aside from a case and imbroglio that once again pits the best interests of the State of Arkansas against Wendell Griffen's seemingly endless capacity to make trouble for all concerned or who should be concerned, namely We the People.

"It is my belief," wrote Professor Brill in a letter to the commission's top two officials, "that both of you are caught in an unacceptable dilemma with these competing allegations [for and against Judge Griffen]. Unique circumstances are present in this situation. Accordingly, I believe that the commission, and indeed the state, would be best served if both [of you] withdrew from any major role in the investigation or prosecution of any charges arising from either of these referrals" to the commission on ethical grounds--one each against the whole Supreme Court from Judge Griffen, and the other against Judge Griffen from the whole Supreme Court.

At this confused and confusing point, the state's judicial ethics commission had gotten a grand total of 253 complaints as of the end of 2015, all of which came to nothing except one. That one did result in the sanction of a single judge, but nothing more. Just as Professor Brill's letter to the commission noted, this isn't the first time the commission has had to deal with Brother Griffen--for in 2005, when Wendell Griffen was a member of the state's Court of Appeals, the commission concluded not to discipline him because his tendency to discuss "disputed political or legal issues" was protected by the First Amendment, but now the judge is again in the middle of a political and legal firestorm. This one features cross-complaints from himself and the state's Supreme Court, and Judge/Rev. Griffen may have found a way to disqualify the whole ethics-and-disability commission from judging him. By claiming it has a conflict of interest.

Why? Because, as Professor Bill notes, the commission may be formally independent of the state's Supreme Court but is obliged to work with it closely when it comes to cases involving of judicial conduct. This investigation, as the professor notes in his letter to the commission, "would make it difficult for you to conduct a truly independent investigation."

Then there are the unique circumstances of this heckuva mess. For the commission may have investigated complaints against one judge or another before now, but not against all seven members of the state's highest court. This investigation, the professor warns, with all its "sharply conflicting allegations, and the scope of the potential charges, would likely make an investigation lengthy and difficult. A proper investigation would likely require interviews or even depositions of members of the [Supreme Court] and others. You would be hampered in conducting such interviews." Therefore the members of the commission should step aside in favor of independent investigators.

So congratulations, Judge Griffen, on your latest victory over the public interest. When it comes to delaying and denying justice, few are able to throw a monkey wrench into this state's legal machinery with your dexterity--and success.

Gentle Reader may already have noticed that wherever Brother Griffen wanders in the law, trouble is sure to follow, along with confusion. Megalomaniacal pretensions can have all kinds of repercussions when it comes to politics in general and the law in particular.

The constitution of this state provides a solution when a public official is a continual source of embarrassment and consternation. It's called impeachment and the wheels for it should already have been greased on those previous occasions when it became necessary or, in Judge Griffen's case, imperative. If 'twere done, and it should be, let it be done quickly. Before the judge gets himself and the State of Arkansas into even more trouble.

Full Article & Source:
Who will judge the judges?

Elder advocates urge reporting of abuse, exploitation of Jacksonville seniors

Linda Levin CEO of ElderSource
The 86-year-old man did not want to admit that his son was forging checks and stealing from him to support his drug habit.

The son lived rent-free with his father and 83-year-old mother, who had dementia, and was supposed to be helping care for them. The father never said a word about the thefts to his daughter.

Even when his daughter discovered the truth and asked him about it, the man could only nod in the affirmative.

“He sadly shook his head. He could not verbalize it,” said the daughter, whom the Times-Union is not naming to avoid embarrassing her parents. “It’s his child. Still to this day he would do anything for him.”

ElderSource, a Jacksonville-based senior resources organization that serves seven Northeast Florida counties, will have a seminar Thursday on how to prevent elder exploitation, abuse and neglect.

Three speakers will share tips for protecting older adults against fraud, scams and physical and mental abuse.

As the number of elders in Northeast Florida increase, so do cases of abuse.

“In 2016 there were over 2,000 reports of elder abuse in Northeast Florida. We know this number is low as many cases are not reported,” said Linda Levin, CEO of ElderSource.

Often the senior is being exploited, abused or neglected by a family member. Other times a stranger is involved. And some cases are self-neglect, she said.

Such educational programs as the Thursday seminar “help to build awareness of the problem and tell people how they can help,” she said. “I hope people … engage in these opportunities. Anyone can make a difference — everyone needs to make a difference.”

EXPLOITING OLDER ADULTS

At the 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville, Chief Assistant State Attorney Mac Heavener and Human Rights Division Director Octavius Holliday prosecute cases of abuse, aggravated abuse and neglect of an elderly person or disabled adults, as well as cases of explotation of such “vulnerable adults.”

They meet monthly with representatives of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, state Department of Children and Families and Attorney General’s Office to monitor such cases, they said.

Criminal charges range from third- to first-degree felonies, with penalties at five to 20 years in prison and fines $5,000 to $15,000, depending on the severity of the case. Some charges, such as battery, carry “enhanced penalties” if the victim is age 65 or older, Heavener said.

As the 86-year-old man’s daughter found, many elderly people are loath to admit they are being abused or exploited. That’s the case in particular for members of the so-called “Greatest Generation,” who grew up in the Great Depression and fought in World War II, Heavener said.

“As a whole, that generation … is reluctant to say, ” he said.

The prospect of a criminal trial is another burden for the elderly, who may not be healthy enough to handle being in court or emotionally strong enough to make a public accusation, particularly against a relative, Holliday said.

“The bulk of cases are family members, so there is reluctance to throw those family members away and take action,” he said.

In addition, a fear of being removed from their homes prevents seniors from reporting abuse, he said.

To help prevent exploitation, Heavener said seniors’ bank accounts and credit card statements should be closely monitored. Also, he recommended caution with business offers, especially those that appear to target seniors.

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.

As for physical abuse, Holliday urged friends and family members of seniors to watch for any physical changes, such as bruises. Such evidence can even be spotted in video chats, he said.

Heavener and Holliday urged anyone who has concerns to report them to the Children and Families Department, which will investigate and call in police and prosecutors if warranted. In urgent cases, when the health or welfare of a senior is at risk, they should call 9-1-1.

“A lot of cases begin with a 9-1-1 call,” said Holliday, whose Human Rights Division with him and another full-time attorney also handles human trafficking, “racial animus” crimes and public corruption. “The sooner the report, the better.”

‘DO THE RIGHT THING’

The case of the 86-year-old father being exploited by his son was resolved after a call to Children and Families and action by his daughter. By the time the state probe was begun, the daughter had ordered her brother to move out.

“My father did admit to being afraid in his own home,” the daughter said. “I have never been so angry in my whole life.”

The family did not press charges. Later, after his wife was moved to a dementia-care center, the father moved in with his daughter.

“What’s most important is my father and mother are safe,” she said. “I found out first-hand how difficult it is for elders. This could have gone on for years, the whole enabling thing.”

She urged other family members of seniors to look out for not only physical but behavioral changes, such as withdrawing. She said “do the right thing” for seniors, many of whom cannot or will not speak for themselves, even if it makes other family members angry.

“Caregiving is a role that often implodes sibling relationships,” she said. “Nobody is immune, everybody has got some disfunction in the family.”

ElderSource’s Levin also urged people to pay attention to the seniors in their lives, including those in their families, neighborhoods, churches and businesses.

“This is not a single person or family’s problem. This a problem for the community,” she said. “We need to look out for each other, take notice of what is going on with our neighbors and friends, church members and customers. If we notice a change in that person, reach out to them and if you have a suspicion, report it.

“It truly is a matter of life or death,” she said.

Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109

Elder Abuse Prevention Seminar

The event — “Don’t Let It Happen To You,” focusing on preventing elder abuse, neglect and exploitation — will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Main Library, Conference Center Level-Multipurpose Room, 303 N. Laura St. in Jacksonville. Ken Amaro, First Coast News’ consumer and investigative reporter; Lynne Powell of the Florida Department of Children and Families; and attorney Tance Roberts will share tips for protecting older adults against fraud, scams and physical and mental abuse. Admission is free, but registration is required. To sign up, call (904) 630-4654.

Elder Abuse Awareness and Prevention Training
 
The training will be offered noon to 1:30 p.m. June 21 for community members, health care professionals and other people who interact and work with adults. The event will be at ElderSource, 10688 Old St. Augustine Road, FL 32257. The cost is $10. To register, call (904) 391-6600 or email Heidi.Katz@eldersourceinstitute.org.

ElderSource

To donate, get referrals to services or get more information, contact ElderSource at 10688 Old St. Augustine Road, Jacksonville, FL 32257; (904) 391-6600 or tollfree at (888) 242-4464; or go to myeldersource.org.

Reporting elder abuse, neglect or exploitation

• To report urgent cases, when the health or welfare of a senior is at risk, call 9-1-1.

• Florida Department of Children and Families

To report suspected elder abuse, neglect or exploitation, 24 hours a day, call the Florida Abuse Hotline at (800) 96-ABUSE or (800) 962-287) and press 1; use the Telephone Device for the Deaf at (800) 453-5145; fax (800) 914-0004 or go to dcf.state.fl.us/programs/abuse/report.shtml.

•Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Special Assault Unit

The unit investigates suspected elder abuse and exploitation of the elderly, as well as felony sexual assaults, crimes involving child pornography, lewd and lascivious acts, aggravated child abuse and child neglect. For more information contact the unit at (904) 630-2168 or JSOSAU@jaxsheriff.org.

•State Attorney’s Office Human Rights Division

To provide tips about elder abuse, human trafficking, hate crime or excessive force, call the division’s hotline at (904) 255-3099 and leave a message.

Full Article & Source:
Elder advocates urge reporting of abuse, exploitation of Jacksonville seniors

Monday, June 19, 2017

Fake Law by Fake Judges

Brazen judges openly legislating from the bench are confirming the widely-held public perception that activist courts are out of control. As a lawyer practicing for three decades in the plaintiff-friendly stronghold of California, within the jurisdiction of the notorious Ninth Circuit, I witnessed many instances of judges—state and federal—slanting their decisions against disfavored parties, such as insurance companies, corporate employers, and deep-pocketed defendants.

Activist judges used to be subtle about it, usually “fudging” the result only in close cases, and typically relying on semi-plausible statutory interpretations, tenuous factual “findings,” flimsy credibility determinations, and the like to justify the politically-desired outcome. Even in California, it was important for judges to maintain a patina of impartiality, so decorum required that their result-oriented decisions hide behind at least a fig leaf of neutral reasoning or precedent.

Not anymore. Judges increasingly view themselves as political actors free to “go rogue,” issuing rulings that are directly contrary to unambiguous laws. Such scofflaw decisions cannot in any meaningful sense be considered “law,” and the black-robed functionaries who issue them cannot fairly be regarded as “judges.” We are entering the realm of fake law being invented by fake judges.
This obliteration of the proper judicial role is a threat to democracy—or, if you prefer, to our republican system of representative self-government.

If this sounds like hyperbole, consider the absurd ruling of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a nationwide injunction of President Trump’s travel ban order, not based on the actual text of the order, but on statements that candidate Trump made on the campaign trail. Even NeverTrumperDavid French at NRO called this decision “a strange madness” that he termed “Trumplaw” because he does not believe that any court would rule this way if the President were any other politician. Yet a recent ruling from a federal district judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (based in Allentown) is even worse—possibly the most outrageous judicial decision I have ever seen.

The case, Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail, Inc., is a straightforward employment discrimination lawsuit brought by a former employee against the outdoor sports retailer Cabela’s, under the Americans With Disabilities Act. The facts are simple: A biological male named James Blatt was hired by Cabela’s as a seasonal stocker at its Hamburg, Pennsylvania store. He was employed for six months, from September 2006 through March 2007, at which time Cabela’s terminated him. Blatt is a diagnosed “transgender,” meaning that he “identifies” as female even though he was born as (and anatomically remains) a male. Blatt’s lawsuit alleges that Cabela’s discriminated against him under the ADA by refusing to “accommodate” his medical condition—gender dysphoria—by allowing him to wear a female name tag (“Kate Lynn” instead of “James”) and granting him access to the female restroom. Additionally, Blatt alleges that he was subjected to objectionable comments from co-workers due to his decision to dress and act like a female at work, and ultimately was fired due to his condition.

I confess that I am skeptical about the extension of legal privileges to so-called transgender persons (see, for example, here, here, and here), but the ADA clearly excludes gender identity disorders as a “disability” requiring accommodation by an employer. Simply put, when Congress enacted the ADA in 1990, in section 12211 it specifically denied legal protection to “homosexuality and bisexuality,” and went even further, listing the types of sexual disorders that would not qualify as a disability. The statute expressly states that “the term ‘disability’ shall not include … transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders.” (Emphasis added.) “Gender dysphoria,” Blatt’s alleged disability, is a gender identity disorder. Ergo, Blatt’s condition is not covered under the ADA and cannot form the basis for a claim of discrimination under that statute.

Nevertheless, on May 18, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Leeson, appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, denied Cabela’s motion to dismiss, ruling that gender dysphoria is protected by the ADA. Acknowledging the provisions of section 12211, quoted above, Judge Leeson “reasoned” that the exclusion of “gender identity disorders” from coverage of the ADA should be “read narrowly to refer to only the condition of identifying with a different gender, not to encompass (and therefore exclude from ADA protection) a condition like Blatt’s gender dysphoria, which goes beyond merely identifying with a different gender and is characterized by clinically significant stress and other impairments that may be disabling.” Whatever that means.

Congress unambiguously excluded “sexual behavior disorders,” from the ADA, specifically citing “transvestism” and “gender identity disorders.” Therefore, gender dysphoria is not covered by the ADA, period. The statute could not be clearer. Judge Leeson strained to conclude that Blatt’s gender dysphoria was more than merely “identifying with a different gender,” by claiming that Blatt’s condition also “substantially limits her [sic] major life activities,” including reproducing.

As Dave Barry would say, I’m not making this up.

According to Judge Leeson, because a man pretending to be a woman, and even dressing like a woman, can’t bear children, that makes the gender identity disorder a disability under the ADA. Therefore, Judge Leeson concluded, “Blatt’s condition is not excluded by section 12211 of the ADA, and Cabela’s motion to dismiss Blatt’s ADA claims on this basis is denied.”

Cabela’s will now have to incur the legal expenses of discovery and trial preparation in defense of a claim that Congress intended not to exist. Cabela’s recourse will be to appeal an adverse judgment to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, if it doesn’t settle the meritless lawsuit in the meantime to avoid substantial legal costs.

This was not a casual mistake by a busy, overworked judge. Federal judges are assisted by a bevy of full-time “law clerks” (recent law school graduates who compete for the coveted one or two year positions based on academic distinction), and sometimes also part-time “externs” (current law students volunteering for a semester). Judge Leeson’s six-page opinion was issued nearly 18 months after Cabela’s motion to dismiss was argued in December 2015. Judge Leeson’s ruling was deliberate.

 He blatantly thumbed his nose at the ADA because he desired a policy outcome contrary to the one enacted by Congress. The decision, largely overlooked in non-legal media, was closely-followed in the LGBT community—in fact, hailed as a landmark ruling. Which it is.

Americans need to confront that judges—especially life-tenured federal judges—have become naked political actors, advancing a policy agenda masquerading as law. The ideology represented by these “new mandarins” is profoundly hostile to our bourgeois social order. Activist judges now routinely misconstrue or ignore statutes enacted by the legislature, and—as with the case of Trump’s travel ban order―hamstring executive branch policies with which they disagree. This is antithetical to the constitutional separation of powers, and principles of self-government. Despite activist courts’ ongoing judicial usurpation of lawmaking, many libertarian legal theorists continue to advocate an even greater role for judges in reviewing democratically-enacted laws. Proponents call this theory “judicial engagement,” but I view it as a call forlibertarian judicial activism. The judiciary is too “engaged” already. Decisions like Blatt v. Cabela’s illustrate the need for judicial restraint, not increased activism.

Full Article & Source:
Fake Law by Fake Judges

Column: Watchdogs step up U.S. fight against elder financial fraud

Thieves follow the money, and wealth accumulates as we age. But the aging brain is not always well-suited to financial decision-making - and that creates opportunity for financial fraud and abuse targeting the elderly.

“It’s a perfect storm,” said Elizabeth Loewy, general counsel for Eversafe, a technology firm that monitors customers’ bank and investment accounts, credit cards and credit reports for potential fraud and abuse.

Loewy has been in the frontlines of the fight against elder financial fraud and abuse for a long time. She pioneered prosecution of these cases during 29 years as an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

“When the office got started prosecuting elder abuse, we thought most of the cases would be physical abuse or domestic violence, but we quickly saw that it usually involved some kind of fraud or larceny,” she said.

Today, there is broad recognition that seniors are vulnerable to financial fraud that can devastate household balance sheets. Almost one in five Americans over the age of 65 has been taken advantage of through inappropriate investments, unreasonably high fees for financial services, or fraud, according to a study last year by the Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

A broad range of professionals who work with the elderly are stepping up their anti-abuse efforts.

The North American Securities Administrators Association approved a rule last year requiring financial advisers to report suspected financial abuses to states’ securities regulators and adult protective services departments. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently approved new Financial Industry Regulatory Authority rules requiring its broker-dealer members to add a trusted backup contact person for all accounts and to allow members to put temporary holds on fund disbursements when financial exploitation is suspected. The new rule takes effect in February 2018.   And the Investor Protection Trust is training physicians and attorneys to be on the lookout for warning signs of financial vulnerability.

“There is a good deal of progress, and it’s about time” said Loewy.

Eversafe is part of a growing tech startup sector that aims to guard against financial fraud targeting seniors using software that monitors accounts for irregular activity. The category also includes True Link, which also offers a robo-advisory service focused on management of retirement income.

More than half of the U.S. population over age 85 suffers from some level of cognitive impairment, according to research by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR). Within that group, 27 percent suffer from dementia, and another 37 percent suffer some level of mild cognitive impairment.

Not all of these seniors are vulnerable to financial abuse, said Anek Belbase, research fellow at CRR. “People with mild impairment who have spouses or family members providing support can do just fine. They can still express their needs and priorities well and can avoid problems with support from someone they can trust.”

Dementia sufferers are at greater risk - and so are spouses who start managing household finances at a late age. “If a spouse who has been managing things dies first, the surviving spouse needs to learn to do this at an older age, possibly at a time when there is some cognitive impairment, and the ability to learn new things has probably declined,” Belbase said. “That’s a person who is susceptible to making financial mistakes and becoming a victim of fraud.”

Compounding the problems, financial judgment is one of the first areas of cognitive ability to decline - and numerous studies conclude that people suffering cognitive decline tend to think they are more capable than they really are. And family members often turn out to be perpetrators of fraud, Loewy notes.

TAKING DEFENSIVE STEPS

How to guard against becoming a victim? Experts recommend getting an early start by making plans to protect yourself in your fifties or sixties. Procrastination is your worst enemy, since the onset and progress of cognitive decline is difficult to predict.

Start with a financial checkup that includes a review of estate-related legal documents. Have a clear succession plan - a trusted family member to manage your affairs in the event you are unable to do so.

Also consider simplifying your financial affairs and consolidating accounts wherever possible, so that a trusted financial adviser, attorney or family member can easily keep tabs on things for you if the need arises. The risk of cognitive decline also argues for shifting to less active investments and automation of retirement income drawdowns.

And - if you work with a financial adviser, make it a fiduciary. Avoid any financial adviser who is not a fiduciary - a legal definition that requires an adviser to put the best interest of a client ahead of all else. If in doubt, simply ask anyone you are considering hiring to sign the Fiduciary Oath - a simple, legally enforceable contract created by the Committee for the Fiduciary Standard.

The adviser simply promises to put the client’s interest first, exercise skill, care and diligence, to not mislead you, and to avoid conflicts of interest. You can download the oath here (bit.ly/1PtGy4w).

Full Article & Source:
Column: Watchdogs step up U.S. fight against elder financial fraud

Senator Collins Chairs Aging Committee Hearing on Military Caregivers

At Senator Collins’ Invitation, Maine Veteran and Veteran Caregiver, Joe and Melanie Swoboda, Testified


Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, held a hearing focused on military caregivers, which featured experts, advocates, and veterans and their caregivers. In addition to bringing awareness to the challenges faced by military caregivers, the Committee unveiled a RAND Corporation report commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation on a blueprint to aid military caregivers going forward.

Military caregivers are individuals who provide informal care on a routine basis to veterans in need of regular assistance. There are more than 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers in the United States. These spouses, parents, friends and other loved ones transform their lives to provide daily, essential care for those who have protected and served our nation.

At Senator Collins’ invitation, retired Sergeant First Class Joseph Swoboda, and his wife and caregiver, Melanie, of Levant, Maine, testified about the difficulties faced by military caregivers and the essential support they need. A three-time combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Swoboda medically retired from the military in 2013.

“Military caregivers—America’s heroes in plain clothes—enable veterans living with visible and invisible injuries to recover and remain involved with their communities. I am so impressed by the sacrifices Melanie and Joe have made, and their testimony today enhanced Congress’ understanding of the difficulties faced by military caregivers and their needs going forward.” said Senator Collins.

“In order to better serve our nation’s caregivers, I introduced the RAISE Family Caregivers Act and cosponsored the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act, and I look forward to seeing these bills signed into law. We must never forget our military caregivers, and we should do all that we can to support them.”

Melanie Swoboda, a Dole Foundation Fellow, testified about her experience being a military caregiver, noting her husband’s struggles upon retirement, “I knew he was struggling - he was home, but he had never really come back from Iraq,” said Mrs. Swoboda.

Eventually her husband was able to get treatment through caregiver support groups like the Dole Foundation. Mrs. Swoboda stressed the importance of programs like these, saying, “I love my husband, and I would absolutely care for him regardless, but having caregiver support programs in place is so important to me because for the first time in 20 years, I can breathe. I cannot imagine how much harder this would be without those programs—but I know millions of caregivers manage every single day.”

Senator Dole established the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to empower military caregivers - the spouses, mothers, fathers, siblings, and other loved ones caring for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans at home - and to recognize their service to our nation. Last September, as part of its efforts, the Foundation launched Hidden Heroes, a multifaceted campaign to expose the tremendous challenges and long-term needs faced by military caregivers and inspire fellow Americans to seek solutions.

Click HERE to read the RAND Corporation’s report

Witnesses for the hearing included:

Panel One
  • Senator Elizabeth Dole, Founder, Elizabeth Dole Foundation
  • Ryan Phillippe, Actor, Director, Writer, and Hidden Heroes Ambassador
Panel Two
  • Terri Tanielian, M.A., Senior Behavioral Scientist, the RAND Corporation, Arlington, VA
  • Melanie and Joe Swoboda (U.S. Army), Veteran Caregiver and Veteran, Levant, ME
  • Mary Hahn and Thomas Ward (USMC), Veteran Caregiver and Veteran, Wilmington, NC
  • Wanda and Samuel Ickes (U.S. Army), Veteran Caregiver and Veteran, Alum Bank, PA
Click HERE to read their testimonies.

Full Article & Source:
Senator Collins Chairs Aging Committee Hearing on Military Caregivers 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Missing Our Dads Lost to Guardianship Abuse


Happy Father’s Day — to all my fathers

When you move 2,000 miles away from your dad at the age of 10, you miss your father. You miss the sound of his voice, the smell of his shaving cream in the morning, the feel of his whiskers on your face when he kisses you goodnight.

But if you’re lucky, as I was, good men step in to fill the void. This Father’s Day, the third without my dad — he passed away in 2014 after a long and brave bout with cancer —I’m thanking all the men who stepped up and did their best to fill my dad’s shoes (size 10) when he couldn’t be there.

First on my list is my grade-school principal, Robert Dutcher. When we moved to Mason City from California in 1977, Mr. Dutcher reached out and took me to Father-Son Night. I still remember the feel of his hand on my shoulder, his reassuring tone. He died before I had a chance to thank him.
  
Thank you, Mr. Dutcher.

Second on my list is all my coaches, the men who took the time to teach me how to win— and lose — with grace, whether it be on the baseball diamond (Thank you, Mr. Pete), the hockey rink (Thank you, Mr. Hanna), the wrestling mat (Thank you, Mr. Ray) or the football field (Thank you, Mr. Bye, Mr. Reasland and above all, Coach Lenius).

Third on my list are the teachers who guided me through some tough years in junior high and high school when my oldest brothers, Steve and John, were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Steve was a cadet at the Air Force Academy; John, a football star who played for Hayden Fry in his first season with the Hawkeyes.

I still remember Bob Johnson, my eighth-grade chemistry teacher, saying with a grin, “Brother Judge, the cream always rises to the top!”; my high-school psychology teacher, Tom Oswald, helping me with coping skills; and my journalism teacher, Paul Peterson, helping me find my way.

But one man, the father of a dear friend, stands out for stepping up and giving me the love and support I needed at a crucial time in my life. His name is David Nelsen, and I will never be able to thank him enough.

At the start of my sophomore year, my brother John took his own life at the age of 21 after a psychotic break and a diagnosis of chronic schizophrenia. The loss was tremendous and felt throughout the community.

The following year my mother, a brave and tireless advocate for those who suffer from mental illnesses, took a job as a teacher in Hampton, 29 miles south of Mason City. A stubborn 17-year-old who relied on his friends and football for everything, I started my junior year driving the half-hour to Mason City to attend high school and, more important, play football for the Mohawks.

But when the authorities found out we were living in a different school district, they gave us an ultimatum — move back to Mason City or attend the local high school in Hampton. My mother could not leave her job, and I would not leave my friends. We were, in a very real sense, in crisis.

That’s when Mr. Nelsen, his son Justin, and his entire family offered me the greatest gift of all — a home. Dave and his wife, Julie, took me in and treated me like one of their own. Justin and I shared a bedroom in their beautiful Prairie School home on South Carolina Avenue. Like brothers, we’d talk ourselves to sleep.

While no one could take the place of my father, who visited regularly and did all he could to love and guide his children from afar, Dave and his family gave me stability, structure and — most important — love at a time when I needed it most.

That winter, Dave took us all on a skiing trip to the Lutsen Mountains in Northern Minnesota, just off of Lake Superior. With wind chills well below zero, we had the slopes virtually to ourselves. Undaunted, Dave refused to wear a hat, spending hours gracefully carving his way down the mountain.

A former Navy man and successful attorney, Dave demanded that Justin and I raise our grades and start thinking seriously about college. A lover of food, drink and good conversation, he saw the dinner table as not only a place to enjoy Julie’s wonderful cooking but also as a place to share stories about the day’s events, whether we had done all we set out to do, and how we could do better.

Sadly, Julie is no longer with us. But to this day, Dave is present in my life, still offering advice, encouragement, a good joke. As President Obama said in 2011, “Fathers, along with our mothers, are our first teachers, coaches and advisers. They help us grow into adults, consoling us in times of need and celebrating with us in times of triumph.”

Dave consoled and celebrated; he loved and grieved. He demanded the best from his own children — and from me, a boy he helped become a man.

For this I will always be grateful. For this I say Happy Father’s Day — and, once again, thank you.

Michael Judge of Iowa City, a former deputy editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal, is an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Full Article & Source:
Happy Father’s Day — to all my fathers

Caregivers to earn higher wage after bill passes state senate

Gov. Bruce Rauner
The Illinois Senate on Wednesday passed SB955, a bill that would raise wages to $15 an hour for caregivers of people with disabilities, end a staffing crisis at organizations across the state and safeguard the future of the state’s most vulnerable residents. After Wednesday’s action in the Senate, the bill will move to the House with a May 31 deadline for passage.

“We urgently ask the House and Gov. Bruce Rauner to make this essential bill a law,” said Kim Zoeller, president and CEO of Ray Graham Association, which serves adults and children with disabilities.

“If we don’t pay caregivers a living wage, we’re turning our backs not only on them, but on thousands of people with disabilities and their family members who rely on this life-sustaining care.”

Across Illinois, hundreds of agencies that serve people with disabilities are facing an escalating crisis because wages paid to caregivers – known as direct support professionals (DSPs) – stalled nine years ago at $9 an hour, one of the lowest rates paid by any state in the nation and one that puts many caregivers below the federal poverty line. Low wages have led to critically low levels of staffing that advocates say are endangering the safety of people with disabilities.

After the General Assembly last year passed a bill to raise wages to $15 an hour, the governor vetoed it, arguing that caregiver wages should be addressed as part of a comprehensive state budget.

However, Rauner’s FY18 budget introduced in February included no such increase.

As a consequence of the chronically low funding, a federal court monitor issued a report in January saying that Illinois is now violating a federal decree issued in 2011 after civil rights attorneys sued the state for failing to comply with a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. At a hearing on the matter last week, the state asked for more time in responding to the latest motion, but attorneys for people with disabilities replied that such delays were unacceptable and that the Illinois disability service system is now “on the brink of disaster.”

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Caregivers to earn higher wage after bill passes state senate

Saturday, June 17, 2017

New program launching to help victims of elderly abuse

In honor of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Harris County Protective Services is launching a new program that is the first of its kind.

As the senior population grows, the frequency of abuse to the elderly is expected to grow with it, according to Harris County Protective Services. In order to help senior victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation in Harris County, HCPS is introducing The Senior Justice Assessment Center.

The Assessment Center is home to experts in geriatric medicine, protective services, civil and criminal prosecution and law enforcement working together to protect vulnerable senior citizens and to increase prosecution of elder abuse.

“Ultimately, we want Harris County to be a community where it’s safe to grow old,” HCPS said. The goal is to ensure the dignity of seniors by increasing awareness, education and prosecution of elder abuse."

The center is modeled after multi-disciplinary centers for children. The new center was made possible through a grant awarded by the Office of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division.

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New program launching to help victims of elderly abuse

Judge issues warrant for caregiver accused of stealing thousands from elderly couple

TACOMA, Wash. - A Tacoma family, hoping to face the caregiver accused of stealing from their dying father and grieving mother, got their day in court on Tuesday.

No sign of the defendant, but they got something else.


"I'm so glad they came to this," said Tacoma's Jean Armand, crying into the palms of her hands outside a Pierce County Superior Courtroom. "We got some justice today."

After waiting an hour and a half for defendant Katherine Jenkins to show, the judge issued a warrant for her arrest.

"It is just is like this huge weight is lifted, it’s out, there is no hiding, the world knows," said Joanne Tollefson, Jean Longchamps' daughter.

Her three children, Joanne, Joyce and Roy sat close to their mother waiting for Jenkins to arrive.

Longchamps wasn't sure she'd have the strength to face Jenkins, but said she knew she had to.

"I just need some closure, you know, I need it," she said.

Thursday will mark one year since Longchamps lost her husband Armand of 65 years.

Last July, while Armand was slipping away, police said caregiver Katherine Jenkins helped herself to the couple's banking information.

The family believes an unlocked desk drawer in the couple's dining room was easy prey.

"Why would you do that when you know he was dying," said Longchamps.

Last summer, we found the caregiver in her Tacoma home, she said she had worked for the Longchamps but had no idea Mr. Longchamps died or that money was missing.

We showed her nearly $5,000 in charges and the name 'Katherine Jenkins' and 'Kathy Jenkins' all over the couple's bank statement.

"It wasn't me. So, no I don't know who that person is and I wouldn't do something like that," said Jenkins last summer outside her Tacoma home.

After months of waiting on credit card company records, last week the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office charged Jenkins with identity theft and theft in the second degree.

She was summoned to appear in court this morning.

Longchamps and her family haven't seen Jenkins since the two days she worked in their home in May of 2016.

"I knew she was a coward because she preyed on the elderly and I think she just cemented it by not showing up," said Tollefson. "It just cements she is the coward that we know she is."

Edmonds Police Sergeant Shane Hawley said the no-shows in cases like these are not uncommon.

"If you're in to fraud and conning people that's just what you do," said Sgt. Hawley.

Edmonds Police are still looking for an accused caregiver from Mountlake Terrace.

She was charged in December, but was also a no-show in court.

"She was basically using his credit card as if it were her own," said Sergeant Hawley.

Prosecutors allege Naomi Kihato racked up $20,000 in unauthorized charges while caring for a 'vulnerable adult' over a four-month period.

Police have checked and rechecked all Kihato's last known addresses and nothing.

"It can kind of go into the wind pretty easy," said Hawley.

The sergeant said detectives usually find suspects when they trip up; they get a traffic ticket, their warrant pops up on their record and they get busted.

"A lot of times is as simple is someone runs a stop sign, ends up in another jurisdiction and we end up finding them," said Hawley.

Which is why police stress catching and reporting fraud early, always securing financial documents stored in your home and doing what the Longchamps did, reporting all suspected fraud.

"We did it for us, and hopefully, everybody else," said Tollefson.

The family's bank has reimbursed them for all the unauthorized charges.

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Judge issues warrant for caregiver accused of stealing thousands from elderly couple