Saturday, March 26, 2011

Efforts to Save Senior Centers Gets Bipartisan Support

Both houses of the state legislature are working to prevent Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal to cut senior center funding, a bipartisan effort represented by two longtime lawmakers in south Brooklyn, Democratic Assemblyman Peter Abbate and Republican-Conservative state Sen. Marty Golden.

With 29 senior centers facing shutdown in Brooklyn, Golden, a member of the Senate Aging Committee representing neighborhoods between Bay Ridge and Marine Park, praised a state Senate vote that would keep the $25 million in Title XX funds from being taken away from senior center funding.

“Closing senior centers will be detrimental to the health and well-being of thousands of New Yorkers,” he said. “It is simply not an acceptable way of addressing the fiscal struggles facing our state next year, and we hope the state Assembly joins us in sending a budget recommendation to the governor that also maintain the current level of funding for our senior centers.”

Full Article and Source:
Efforts To Save Senior Centers Gets Bipartisan Support Here

Home Care's Booming and so is Regulation

As the first baby boomers turn 65 this year, entrepreneurs see opportunity. The number of companies providing home health care or services such as assistance in dressing, bathing, and cooking increased by more than 50 percent in the past decade, U.S. Census Bureau data show. Now regulators are scrambling to catch up with the growing industry.

Home-care companies aren't regulated in about two dozen states, and just a handful require licenses for companies that provide nonmedical services. Today the industry faces a hodgepodge of inconsistent rules that advocates say puts vulnerable people at risk of financial exploitation or physical abuse. In states that require licensing, many operators ignore regulations because the costs of complying are high and the risk of getting caught is low, people in the industry say.

Advocates of home care say it is more compassionate and less expensive than nursing home care. More than 45,000 companies offered home health care or other aid in 2008, including 2,800 small outfits that pay franchisers for a brand name, training, and support, researcher Frandata estimates. They're targeting a $55 billion market that will surely grow as the number of Americans 65 and older increases by 79 percent in the next 20 years, to 72 million, according to Census projections.

Full Article and Source;
Home Care's Booming, and so is Regulation

New Hampshire: Court System Could Be Reorganized

About 60 court employees statewide could have their jobs eliminated, reclassified or be demoted on July 1 if the Legislature approves a reorganization that puts district, family division and probate courts under one umbrella.

The proposal would combine the courts into a circuit court with shared management, but would leave all the court locations open, Administrative Judge Edwin Kelley said yesterday. But the reduction of about 60 management positions is expected to save about $1 million a year, Kelley said.

Full Article and Source:
NH-Court System Could be Reorganized

Friday, March 25, 2011

HB2424 Still Needs Changes

The Probate Victims Bill of Rights, House Bill 2424, is designed to use the power of the courts and the incentives of free-market reform to stop abusive behavior in the system.

However, the bill as passed in the House was amended to appease the courts and is now problematic in several areas, actually giving paid fiduciaries even more authority over the ward.

HB 2424 must be amended as it moves forward, reflecting the goals of the Probate Victims Bill of Rights. Oversight is too important to leave solely in the hands of the courts.

The bill, if placed into law, will allow for better-informed consumers and force fiduciaries to compete for business based on price and performance, truly putting the ward's interests first.

Here's what the Probate Victims Bill of Rights includes:

- The ability to replace an individual's guardian, conservator or trustee without cause if it is in the best interest of the ward or protected person.

- The requirement of clear and convincing evidence to determine if an individual needs a conservator.

- A mandate that a conservator produce a monthly accounting of how he or she has spent the ward's funds.

- A requirement, in the case of a ward paying the bill, that the person being paid has primary duty to the ward.

- The creation of a probate-advisory panel, which would give victims of probate-court abuses a venue to voice issues and concerns and to propose additional statutory changes.

Probate Reform Bill Still Needs Changes

Missouri Lawyer Accused of Stealing More Than $300K From Clients

A Ladue lawyer has been indicted in U.S. District Court in St. Louis on three mail fraud counts and accused of stealing from clients.

Steven P. Gartenberg, 46, who had an office in Brentwood, appeared in court Tuesday and will plead not guilty Wednesday, lawyer Art Margulis said.

Gartenberg's indictment, which was handed down March 17 but unsealed Tuesday, claims Gartenberg took more than $100,000 from the estate of someone who died in 2009. Gartenberg was supposed to send money to the Kirkwood United Methodist Church, the Alzheimer's Association and three individuals but used some of the money for his personal use and use by his law firm.

The indictment also says Gartenberg was appointed guardian of a mentally disabled woman in 2007 and later "made in excess of $200,000 in unapproved withdrawals ... through fraud, embezzlement and theft."

Reached Tuesday, Margulis said, "We'll attempt to cooperate with the government and work our way through this." He said Gartenberg has been disbarred.

Ladue Lawyer Accused of Stealing More Than $300,000 From Clients

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guardian Appointed for Real-Estate Magnate Michael R. Mastro for Federal Bankruptcy Court

Former state Supreme Court Justice Faith Ireland has been appointed guardian for incapacitated Seattle real-estate magnate Michael R. Mastro in an upcoming trial in federal bankruptcy court.

Mastro, who was forced into what probably is Washington's largest bankruptcy ever in July 2009, suffered severe head injuries in a fall at his Palm Desert, Calif., home last month. The 85-year-old isn't capable of managing his personal or business affairs, his neurologist has stated, and his prognosis is unclear.

Mastro's injury came weeks before the scheduled trial of a lawsuit filed against him by James Rigby, the court-appointed trustee charged with finding and liquidating Mastro's assets and distributing proceeds to his creditors.

In the lawsuit, Rigby contends Mastro, anticipating bankruptcy, schemed to put some assets, including his Medina waterfront mansion, out of most creditors' reach. Mastro has denied the allegations.

As guardian, Ireland will make decisions on Mastro's behalf concerning the lawsuit and provide direction to his lawyers.

The guardian will be paid from Mastro assets not covered by the complex bankruptcy proceeding.

Full Article and Source:
Former Justice Appointed Guardian for Mastro in Upcoming Trial

Seniors a Top Target for Health Care Fraud and Abuse

Instead of fading away over the years, the business of defrauding the government of billions of dollars annually is not only still going strong, but is increasing, according to the most recent report from the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Program.

And Baby-Boomers beware: You're not only at the top on the list for fraud and abuse, but for medical errors as well. Meanwhile, certain parts of health care reform from the government level appear to be more rhetoric than action.

From over-pricing and false claims for medical services, to gross misconduct and mismanaged care of senior citizens in nursing homes, the pharmaceutical industry leads the pack in health care fraud and abuse. It's been that way for decades. That's why the U.S. government has repeatedly enacted new laws – in 1986, 1996, 2009, and 2010 – to crack down on offenders.

The 1986 legislation strengthened a Civil War-era fraud law, the False Claims Act, with incentives for private citizens to report fraud and abuse of government programs by corporate America.

This law enabled "whistleblowers" to expose corporate criminals whose crimes had previously gone undetected. But it didn't stop these crimes, so, in 1996, Congress created another enforcement tool, the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC) program, which provides for huge fines and prison sentences for health care fraud and abuse.

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Seniors a Top Target for Health Care Fraud and Abuse

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

John Q. Hammons Guardianship CLOSED!

A March 31 court hearing in the John Q. Hammons guardianship case will be closed to the public at Hammons' request.

Probate court clerk Debby Mayes Edgar said Hammons made the request through his court-appointed attorney.

Under Missouri law, the subject of a guardianship case has the right to ask that hearings and documents be closed to public review.

On Friday, Probate Judge Michael Cordonnier closed all court files in the case, saying Hammons' interests outweighed the public's need or right to see the files.

Only court personnel and attorneys involved in the case are allowed to view the documents, according to Cordonnier's order.

The judge did leave the court docket open for review.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianship Hearing Closed to the Public

See Also:
Judge May Restrict Access to John Q. Hammons Guardianship

One Year Anniversary of Elder Justice Act

March 23rd marks the one year anniversary of the Elder Justice Act (the EJA). For the first time, last March, Congress passed a comprehensive federal elder abuse prevention law. This was an important victory for aging advocates, but now a year later, the law is powerless due to a lack of funding.

A year later, vulnerable older adults who should be protected by the law are confronted with the same threats they faced a year ago. This is a sad reality given the increasing severity of elder abuse in this country. According to a recent National Institute of Justice study, almost 11% of people ages 60 and older (5.7 million) faced some form of elder abuse in the past year. A 2009 study estimated that 14.1 percent of non-institutionalized older adults nationwide had experienced some form of elder abuse in the past year. Financial exploitation of older adults is increasingly alarming. A 2009 report by the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) estimates that seniors lose a minimum of $2.5 billion each year.

Elder abuse, neglect and exploitation is a serious and widespread social justice problem and a major health issue.

Full Article and Source:
One Year Anniversary of the Elder Justice Act

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Judge May Restrict Access to John Q. Hammons Guardianship

A lawyer appointed by a Greene County probate judge to represent the interests of John Q. Hammons says the ailing businessman is concerned that a court case could violate his right to privacy.

Judge May Restrict Access to Files, Hearings for John Q. Hammons Guardianship

5 Years in Prison for Stealing Resident's Wedding Ring

A former Slidell nursing home worker who stole the wedding ring off the finger of an incapacitated resident must spend the next five years imprisoned, a St. Tammany Parish judge has decided.

Domenica Thomas, 42, pleaded guilty to charges of simple robbery and theft of assets from an aged person before state Judge Peter Garcia sentenced her Wednesday in Covington.

Simple robbery carries no more than seven years' imprisonment and a possible fine. Depending on the value of what was stolen, theft of assets from an aged person can be punished by both a fine and up to 10 years in prison. Garcia gave Thomas a concurrent five years for each charge.

Thomas has also been accused of stealing from five other residents at the nursing home, and those cases are still pending, said Rick Wood, a spokesman for the parish District Attorney's Office.

Thomas had been an aide at Greenbriar Nursing Home for about nine months before she went into a 71-year-old man's room without permission on Jan. 4 this year. She gave him a glass of water, according to police, and snatched his ring and $10 from him before she left.

Full Article and Source:
Slidell Nursing Home Worker Gets 5 Years' Prison for Stealing Resident's Wedding Ring

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sara Harvey's Continued Fight for Custody of Her Husband

A Chemung County woman is fighting for the custody of her husband, who's in a vegetative state.

Sara Harvey says she's just trying to get her husband, Gary, home where he belongs. "I want my husband home, my husband would want to be home with me, he would not want to be isolated in St. Joseph's Hospital or anywhere."

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Fighting for Her Husband's Custody

TN Judge Responds to Attorneys' Complaints

Local attorneys Hank Hill and Ben McGowan have filed separate complaints against Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Bob Moon with the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary. The complaints allege Moon has violated defendants’ constitutional rights and stepped outside his role as judge and into law enforcement from the bench.

One complaint alleges that in 2010 Moon amended a traffic charge charge to a drug possession charge in his court after the defendant failed a drug test, according to documents obtained by the Times Free Press.

The other complaint, filed by local attorney Ben McGowan, alleges that in 2008 Moon jailed two prosecution witnesses during a hearing when he said their testimony revealed the pair had violated terms of their judicial diversion on unrelated shoplifting charges.

Moon said today the complaints are a difference of opinion on law and the alleged actions do not violate judicial ethics.

Full Article and Source:
Local Judge Responds to Attorneys' Complaints

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Unfit to be a Lawyer, Yet Allowed to be a Guardian

The case of Terri Ann Hauge, charged with bilking 10 vulnerable adults, shows the flaws in selecting and monitoring conservators.

Terri Ann Hauge's career as a lawyer came to an abrupt end in 1995 when state officials suspended her license for mishandling cases and lying to her clients.

But that didn't end Hauge's work in the courthouse. In a professional comeback that raises questions about how the state oversees court-appointed caretakers, Hauge and her business partner went on to amass the state's fourth-largest portfolio of work as guardians and conservators.

Though Hauge never sought reinstatement as a lawyer, she and her company, Estate Resources, were given control over the lives and finances of more than 200 vulnerable adults, despite complaints of neglect and mismanagement that go back as far as 2000, court records show.

Late last year, Hauge was charged with stealing $68,000 from 10 vulnerable adults in Rice County while ignoring their needs. One mentally ill man, investigators said, was living in squalor when he was rescued.

Full Article and Source:
Unfit to be a Lawyer, Yet a Guardian for 200

CA Lawmakers Push for Elder Abuse Reforms

Citing the difficulty in prosecuting elder abuse, state and local officials are proposing reforms that will streamline the reporting of cases and make it easier to obtain convictions.

Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, recently introduced AB 40, which would require mandated reporters to inform both an ombudsman and local law enforcement when they suspect abuse. Currently, mandated reporters – which include employees at nursing homes and social, health, and law enforcement workers – are only required to report cases to one of the two agencies.

Another bill, SB 558, introduced in February by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, would change the burden of proof in elder abuse cases, which are often prosecuted as civil cases, not criminal ones. The bill lowers the burden of proof from "clear and convincing evidence" to a "preponderance of evidence."

The elder abuse issue gained momentum last month, when law enforcement, state agencies, elder advocates and nursing home operators testified at an assembly hearing in Sacramento. Led by Yamada and Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, the hearing was meant to shed light on California's shortcomings in dealing with elder abuse and make the case for bills such as AB 40.

Of the more than 1,400 elder abuse complaints that the state ombudsman office received last year, only 56 cases were reported to the state attorney general's office, said Mark Zahner of the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.

Full Article and Source:
Lawmakers Push for Elder Abuse Reforms