Saturday, April 2, 2016

Randy Meisner's Friend Calls For Conservatorship

A friend of Eagles co-founder Randy Meisner is calling for a judge to place him under conservatorship over fears for his mental health.

Friends and family of the veteran rocker have been concerned for his wellbeing after his wife Lana shot herself during a domestic dispute at their Los Angeles home earlier in March (16).

Meisner's estranged children want him to be placed under their conservatorship, but he objected to their plans by filing his own legal papers asking a judge to name a "trusted friend" and financial adviser as his conservators instead of his kids.

His longtime friend James Newton has now filed his own legal documents asking for someone specialising in mental health to be awarded temporary conservatorship. He is concerned Meisner will appoint an unqualified friend for the role.

Newton fears Meisner, who has a history of drink and drug addiction, is back on the alcohol and risks doing harm to himself following the death of his wife, according to  (Continue Reading)

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Randy Meisner's Friend Calls For Conservatorship

Technology, Educational Efforts Fight Exploitation Of Seniors

Howard Tischler’s mother didn’t want to burden her children, so the former accountant arranged her finances for retirement and maintained an independent lifestyle.

As she aged, Tischler noticed inconsistencies in her finances — credit card charges that made no sense, for example, and bills for an auto parts service even though she had no car or driver’s license. It didn't help that she was legally blind.

“I didn’t see any signs of dementia, it wasn’t something that was visible,” Tischler says. “Other people were calling and selling her things. She brought in a friend to help pay her bills, and the friend was writing herself checks out of my mother’s bank account.”

Her problems were mounting, but the nature of the exploitation made it difficult for financial institutions to detect. His mother stopped paying for a long-term care policy she had purchased. Then, when her expenses snowballed, she started to take early withdrawals out of an annuity to cover.

“If we stepped back and looked at it, there were a lot of indicators of a problem, but they weren’t all within one institution or account,” Tischler says. “It would be difficult for any one person to see what was happening and flag it.”

Tischler, a financial technology entrepreneur, didn’t let the issue go — he founded EverSafe, a Columbia, Md. firm that offers digital account monitoring to help safeguard senior citizens vulnerable to fraud and exploitation.

EverSafe addresses a growing issue: the U.S. Census Bureau expects the population of people ages 65 and up to double by 2050, and cognitive decline often begins for people in their late 50’s.

The 2010 Investor Protection Trust Elder Fraud study found that one in five Americans over the age of 65 has been the victim of a financial fraud. Additional research from that year by the National Institute on Aging found that victims of elder abuse had a one-year mortality rate, or more than twice that of individuals of similar age and health who had not been mistreated. Furthermore, a 2011 study by MetLife found that elder financial exploitation costs seniors more than $2.9 billion annually.

“The truth is that this just kills people,” says Elizabeth Loewy, EverSafe general counsel and vice president of industry relations. “It’s a heartbreaking problem, but I believe that this problem will be resolved in a number of years through the use of technology.”

Tischler and Loewy aren’t the only ones combatting elder abuse. As states consider laws to help protect vulnerable citizens, another initiative is combatting elder financial abuse through education.  (Continue Reading)

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Technology, Educational Efforts Fight Exploitation Of Seniors

State money allows for enhanced protection of senior citizens

With extra funding from the state, Athens County is doing more to protect the elderly from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

This effort includes distribution of personal safety alarms, an education campaign, and the formation of a special team to identify gaps in the delivery of services.

Normally, Athens County Department of Job and Family Services is allocated about $3,300 a year by the state to investigate reports of abuse of persons ages 60 and above. But this fiscal year the amount jumped nearly ten-fold to $30,000.

DJFS Director Bob Gallagher welcomes the increase but pointed out the allocation “provides less than half of the true cost of the service provided by the Athens County DJFS to the citizens of the county.”

The Ohio General Assembly also set aside $10 million to encourage counties to develop plans for improving services and to implement those plans. Athens County took advantage of the “one-time-only” offer and was awarded a total of $62,000.

So far, that money has been spent on personal safety alarms, distributed to seniors at various community events.

“These are a small electronic device which, when activated, produce a shrill warning sound similar to a car alarm,” said Gallagher. “The idea being that if (the person is) in a threatening situation or physically incapable of ambulation, the alarm will draw attention from neighbors or bystanders.”

Also, newspaper and radio ads were purchased in Athens to educate people on issues surrounding the elderly.

The advertisements ran “to increase the public awareness and community knowledge about services being available through DJFS to investigate or check in with older persons suspected of being mistreated, neglected or exploited,” said Gallagher. “A public event was held in conjunction with United Seniors which provided a guest speaker who specifically discussed financial and exploitation crimes and scams targeting the elderly.”

In addition, an emergency response radio was bought with some of the $62,000 to ensure the safety of the Adult Protective Services worker when he or she is in the field and unable to receive cell service.”

“Our investigation often leads to parts of the county which do not have reliable or any cell-phone service,” said Gallagher. “In order to remain in touch with the office or the need for calling in an emergency situation, our investigator is now equipped with an 'emergency responder' radio to access that network for communications.”

The biggest part of the special allocation ($50,000) will be spent to meet a series of goals established by Athens County Job and Family Services officials.

“These funds will be used to provide various services to Adult Protective Services clients in areas such as fees for guardianships and mental -health evaluations,” said Tara Wallace, director of Health Services for the Athens agency.

Wallace said Athens County also has established a team of people “willing to collaborate with our APS program, to address gaps in service delivery.” The group has been meeting once a month.

The members are creating “a plan of cooperation between community partners and public agencies… to ensure that the communication among first responders, local law enforcement and the Athens County DJFS is effective and timely,” said Gallagher. “The team has agreed to continue meeting on a regular basis to share information and discuss problems that may occur in the system of care for this vulnerable group of citizens.”

Current members include representatives from the Athens County Sheriff’s office and police departments in Athens and Nelsonville, Area Agency on Aging, Athens Senior Center, Athens County Probate-Juvenile Court and Hopewell Mental Health.

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State money allows for enhanced protection of senior citizens

Friday, April 1, 2016

Seniors Texting Code

Note: Source Unknown

8 Nursing Home Pitfalls to Avoid

With an increasing aging population, being able to evaluate nursing homes on important issues is an essential skill for caregivers and children with aging parents. When one considers that their loved one might need a nursing home for either a short-term rehabilitation or more long term caregiving needs, one must realize that not all nursing homes are considered equal, and one must be able to differentiate between the good ones versus the unsafe profit-making ones. With more than 16,000 nursing homes in the US, there are several factors to consider.

In order for nursing homes to receive Medicare and Medicaid funds, they must pass health and safety inspections. The worst nursing homes will consistently fail to meet these standards, and will be given violations. These violations are accessible to the public, and one can actually compare local nursing homes via the Medicare website.

The Medicare Nursing Home Compare website will rate nursing homes on safety standards as well as availability of staff (patient to staff ratios). Consider the fact that a nursing home might meet all safety and health standards from an environmental perspective, but if there are insufficient staff available to answer call lights, assist patients to the bathroom, or provide necessary nursing care, the residents will suffer. Nursing homes must report staffing levels of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nursing assistants to the government. The best nursing homes have administrators willing to pay for sufficient staff to best meet residents’ needs. There is no current federal standard for the minimum safe nurse to patient ratios.

Quality Measures

The website will also compare “quality measures” of nursing homes which are based on actual data submitted to Medicare. Some of the quality measures of nursing homes include…
      1. Falls – Every year one in three older adults have a fall; for residents of nursing home, one third of these fall events result in a patient injury. Good nursing homes take proactive steps to prevent falls and supply adequate staff to prevent falls.

      2. Urinary Tract Infections – The percentage of nursing home residents that develop a urinary tract infection directly relates to poor hygiene and toileting. The best nursing homes have lower incidences of UTI’s.

      3. Moderate to Severe Pain – Long term residents who have unresolved moderate to severe pain complaints is another quality measure for nursing homes. Untreated pain leads to a poor quality of life and can cause decreased functional abilities, decreased mobility, decreased nutrition, depression, and overall poor health status. Having adequate nursing staff to assess and treat pain with medications and non-pharmacologic interventions is essential.

      4. Pressure Ulcers – The worst facilities will have higher incidences of residents with pressure ulcers, if residents are not being turned and moved properly in bed, usually due to inadequate staff. Residents who develop pressure ulcers must be properly treated to ensure healing and this will require facilities to purchase proper dressings to cover the wound to prevent infection. Read more information on preventing and treating pressure ulcers.

      5. Incontinence – Losing control of one’s bowel or bladder function can be due to an underlying cause that can be corrected. Residents who lose control of their bladders must have a plan in place to help them, including a regular toileting program. Incontinence puts residents at risk for skin breakdown and pressure ulcers if proper hygiene and skin care is not provided regularly by the facility staff.

      6. Malnutrition/ Weight loss – How many residents demonstrated significant weight loss during the review period? If a higher percentage of residents are losing weight and malnourished, it may indicate that the facilities’ food is inadequate, or residents are not being fed properly. Weight loss can also be related to medical conditions such as untreated illness or depression. Generally no resident should lose more than 5% of their body weight in a month.

      7. Restraints and Antipsychotic medications – Residents should never be put in restraints as a punishment, or to make things easier for the staff. Residents should also not be inappropriately medicated with antipsychotic medications, which can be harmful to the elderly, in order to chemically restrain patients by sedating them. Providing additional staff is one way to deal with patient behavioral problems. Only a doctor can order restraints for a medical reason.

      8. Depression – Nursing home residents have high risk for developing depression and anxiety due to relocation, health concerns, loss, and isolation. Proper treatment for residents with depressive symptoms includes medication, social activities, and therapy. The worst facilities will have high percentages of depressed residents who are not being properly treated for their depression.

The Next Step

Once you’ve targeted your search a bit more, visiting each nursing home is the next step. Bringing a list of questions to ask will help ensure that you will get the information you need to make an informed decision.  Plan to ask questions of the director, as well as individual nurses and residents and compare answers. Nurses should be asked how many patients they are responsible for caring for that day to get an idea of nurse-to-patient ratios and how they compare in different facilities. Nurses can also be asked if they feel this is a safe number considering the patient’s needs, and if they have adequate support and supplies at the facility. Residents in public areas like hallways and dining rooms can be asked about their experiences and perceptions of the facility. Download this extremely helpful checklist of questions to ask during your visit.
Here are some additional questions to consider:
    • Is the facility clean? Does it have a bad odor?
    • How many citations did the facility have on their last inspection?
    • Is the facility local or family-run or is it operated by a large profit making chain?
    • Are the residents clean and well-dressed?
    • Are there social events and activities for residents? Is there an activities calendar posted?
    • How is the food and menu available? Ask to eat a meal at the facility.
    • Are confused residents left in the hallways alone? Are there residents calling out?
    • Do the staff treat the residents with respect and care?

Full Article & Source:
8 Nursing Home Pitfalls to Avoid

Task forces to probe elder abuse in Ohio

Photo by Chris Russell
WASHINGTON — A southwest Ohio task force will be among the 10 created across the country to investigate accusations of improper care to seniors living in nursing homes, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Each task force is designed to hold “bad actors in the nursing home and long-term care industry accountable for their treatment of the elderly,” Benjamin Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said at a press conference in Washington.

The task forces are modeled after the joint federal and state investigation in 2014 that led to a $38 million settlement between Extendicare Health Services and eight states — including Ohio.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office played a role in the 2014 investigation, hailed Wednesday’s announcement, saying “it is essential that state, local and federal agencies work together to look after elderly residents’ best interests and hold accountable those who failed in their duty to protect these vulnerable citizens.”

Keesha Mitchell, director of the Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and president of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units, said the task forces will allow state and federal governments to better coordinate the investigations “to protect” seniors in nursing homes.

The Ohio task force Ohio will be established in the southern district, which includes Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. The other task forces will be spread across nine other states.

Extendicare signed the settlement agreement in 2014 even as company officials denied the allegations. According to the settlement, Extendicare provided “worthless” or “materially substandard” service at 33 nursing homes, including six in Ohio.

The settlement said Extendicare “submitted false claims” to Medicare between 2007 and last year, charging the company demanded payment for “medically unreasonable and unnecessary rehabilitation therapy services” provided to Medicare beneficiaries at the 33 facilities.

The six Ohio nursing homes included one in Hamilton County and another one in Madison County. None of the others were in the Dayton, Springfield or Hamilton areas.

The allegations originally were raised through a lawsuit in Ohio. Extendicare operates 146 skilled nursing facilities in 11 states.

“The department worked closely with other agencies and state governments to reach this resolution,” Mizer said of the 2014 settlement.

Each task force will include federal, state and local prosecutors, officials of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and state Medicaid fraud units.

“Bringing all of these entities together will provide more tools to address complaints about nursing home or other long-term care providers,” Mizer said.

Full Article & Source:
Task forces to probe elder abuse in Ohio

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Professional guardian appointed to end feud over Montgomerys’ legacy

After a hearing closed to the public and the media, a judge on Monday appointed a professional guardian to oversee the care — as well as the millions of dollars — of Mary Montgomery, the Palm Beach socialite and widow of legal legend Robert Montgomery.

The guardianship of one of the county’s most celebrated philanthropists comes the same month the Florida Legislature passed a bill to establish the state’s first regulatory authority over professional guardians whose ranks have come under fire for gouging the life savings of incapacitated senior citizens through fees for themselves and their legion of attorneys.

The Palm Beach Post’s series in January, Guardianships: A Broken Trust, explored cronyism in the county judiciary that allowed professional guardians to take fees without prior judicial approval and act without fear of reprisal. As a result, one judge was transferred from the guardianship division and reforms were instituted to address conflicts of interest.

The hearing Monday in front of Circuit Judge John Phillips pitted Montgomery’s daughter, Courtnay, against her mother’s long-time administrative aide Hilda Santana.

The Post reported on Sunday that Santana petitioned to become Montgomery’s guardian, stating in court documents that the 85-year-old suffers from dementia. She cited Courtnay’s arrest in Minnesota last October in which the daughter allegedly tried to bite a law enforcement officer checking on her mother’s welfare. Santana said Courtnay was unfit to oversee her mother’s case or her vast finances.

After a hearing closed to the public and the media, a judge on Monday appointed a professional guardian to oversee the care — as well as the millions of dollars — of Mary Montgomery, the Palm Beach socialite and widow of legal legend Robert Montgomery.

The guardianship of one of the county’s most celebrated philanthropists comes the same month the Florida Legislature passed a bill to establish the state’s first regulatory authority over professional guardians whose ranks have come under fire for gouging the life savings of incapacitated senior citizens through fees for themselves and their legion of attorneys.

The Palm Beach Post’s series in January, Guardianships: A Broken Trust, explored cronyism in the county judiciary that allowed professional guardians to take fees without prior judicial approval and act without fear of reprisal. As a result, one judge was transferred from the guardianship division and reforms were instituted to address conflicts of interest.

The hearing Monday in front of Circuit Judge John Phillips pitted Montgomery’s daughter, Courtnay, against her mother’s long-time administrative aide Hilda Santana.

The Post reported on Sunday that Santana petitioned to become Montgomery’s guardian, stating in court documents that the 85-year-old suffers from dementia. She cited Courtnay’s arrest in Minnesota last October in which the daughter allegedly tried to bite a law enforcement officer checking on her mother’s welfare. Santana said Courtnay was unfit to oversee her mother’s case or her vast finances.

The resolution on Monday came after Montgomery’s attorney Theo Kypreos asked Judge Phillips to close the hearing to the public, which is allowed under the guardianship statute. As a result, a Post reporter and photographer had to leave the courtroom after Phillips denied a hearing sought by The Post on First Amendment grounds.

Neither Montgomery nor Courtnay were present for the proceeding, but attorneys said the daughter agreed to veteran professional guardian John Cramer overseeing Montgomery’s care. Cramer will be assisted by Montgomery’s nephew John Neasen, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

Unlike in some guardianships, Montgomery will retain certain legal rights, but it was unknown late Monday which ones or how much her assets will be managed. (Continue Reading)

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Professional guardian appointed to end feud over Montgomerys’ legacy

Senator Serino’s Elder Abuse Protection Bill Passes NYS Senate

Bill to Implement Health Care Provider’s Screening Process Passes Senate

Senator Sue Serino Chairs the NYS Senate Aging Committee

ALBANY, NY— On Monday, Senator Sue Serino’s (R, C, I—Hyde Park) bill to empower health care providers to detect elder abuse in their patients passed in the Senate, adding a critical layer of protection for New York’s Seniors.

“There are few people better positioned to screen for elder abuse than the physicians our seniors know and trust,” said Senator Serino. “This bill gives physicians the tools they need to recognize the signs of abuse and get their patients the help they need, stopping abuse in its tracks. It is time to put our seniors first, change the elder abuse statistics and ensure that New Yorkers have the opportunity to live out their Golden Years free from harm.”

Specifically, the bill (S. 6925) aims to engage trusted medical professionals to help identify and assist patients at a high risk for abuse by directing the Commissioner of Health to establish protocol for voluntary screening to aid physicians, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners in identifying and reporting cases of abuse or maltreatment. To that end, the tool will provide practitioners with guidance that articulates, among other things, common definitions of abuse, questions that may be used for those who have cognitive impairments as well as a list of resources that may be provided to those patients identified as being victims of abuse.

As Senator Serino notes in the bill’s memo, elder abuse has emerged as one of the nation’s most underreported crimes, with an estimated 300,000 cases going unreported each year and she notes that it has been shown that elders who experience abuse, even moderate in severity, have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been abused.

Unfortunately, those being abused frequently refuse to report abuse as it too often occurs at the hands of loved ones, friends, neighbors and people our seniors have known and trusted for significant amounts of time. Detecting elder abuse is made even more challenging given the fact that there have been systematic issues with implementing comprehensive elder abuse screening and intervention, even at the federal level, because it cuts across areas impacting not only physical health, but mental and financial health as well as personal safety.

Over a decade ago, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force found that, in the primary care setting, there are no uniform screening tools available to identify abuse of elder adults. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) developed and implemented an elder abuse screening tool within the Physician Quality Reporting System in 2009 in order to decrease hospitalizations, readmissions, and mortality. Senator Serino’s bill was modeled after the Elder Maltreatment Screen and Follow-Up Plan that was developed for CMS and aims to set the standard for screening in New York.

“Whether out of shear inability, fear, embarrassment, or the desire to protect an abuser that they know and trust, our seniors too often choose not to report abuse,” said Senator Serino. “We have a duty to ensure that we have systems in place to protect those most vulnerable to abuse. With health care professionals uniquely positioned to gain their patient’s trust and ensure their health and safety, giving them the tools they need to recognize and report abuse is a commonsense measure that can save lives.”

(Provided by Senator Sue Serino’s Office)

Full Article & Source:
Senator Serino’s Elder Abuse Protection Bill Passes NYS Senate

The Good News About Elder Fraud

While elder financial abuse is undoubtedly still a major problem — $3 billion stolen annually, by one estimate — older Americans are a little less likely to be victimized than in 2010, according to a new survey from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT), a nonprofit devoted to investor education.

More good news on the elder fraud front, especially if you have parents in their 70s, 80s or 90s: there are now a bunch of efforts underway to prevent these scams and aid victims. Federal and state government regulators are pitching in. So are AARP, IPT and some financial services firms. “Many times, the financial adviser is the first person to notice a problem,” said Cynthia Hutchins, director of gerontology at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Rampant, Expensive and Lethal

Older consumers will likely be especially glad that some banks are taking seriously elder financial abuse, a category of crime Kathleen Quinn, executive director of the National Adult Protective Services Association, has called “rampant, largely invisible, expensive and lethal.” A recent survey for the AARP BankSafe campaign found that 81% of bank customers 50 and older prefer to establish their accounts at banks that protect them from exploitation or provide an age-friendly service.

As for the “good” news in the IPT survey: Although the poll found that 17% of Americans age 65 and older have “been taken advantage of financially in terms of an inappropriate investment, unreasonably high fees for financial services, or outright fraud,” that’s down from 20% in 2010.

This is not a huge drop, but it’s a drop, nevertheless. (The 2016 survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling, interviewed 2,257 Americans 65 and older and 703 adults with parents 65 and older.)

Why Fewer Are Becoming Victims

IPT President and CEO Don Blandin said fewer older adults are becoming victims partly because scammers are getting “more sophisticated about who they target.” They’re taking a rifle approach, going where the big money is, rather than taking a shotgun approach and hoping to score random hits. As Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray said last week: “Older Americans make attractive targets for financial exploitation because many have accumulated some wealth in the form of retirement savings or home equity. They can be isolated and lonely, and some may have impaired physical or mental capacity that makes them especially vulnerable.”

IPT’s survey also pleasantly discovered that the percentage of older Americans exhibiting one or more of the warning signs of financial victimization fell from 50% in 2010 to 43% in 2016. The reason for the drop, said Public Policy Polling’s Jim Williams, is that just 5% now said they didn’t feel confident making big financial decisions alone, down from 16% in 2010. “There could be more of a support network and more vigilance out there,” said Williams.

And in what IPT calls a “major improvement,” 51% of people 65 and older correctly answered all the poll’s investment questions; in 2010, just 44% did.

However, 21% of the adult children surveyed said they think their parents would be ashamed to tell them if they thought they were being swindled and would hide this from them. Worse, 47% of the adult children think it’s not likely that they could figure out if their parent had been swindled if the parent didn’t disclose it; that’s up from 35% in 2010. So not everything is rosy on the elder fraud front.

How Doctors Are Helping

The IPT survey finding that surprised me most: A full 21% of the adult children said their parents’ health care providers mentioned concerns about how the parents were handling money; this was up sharply from just 5% in 2010.

Blandin gives some credit to IPT’s Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation (EIFFE) Prevention Program, encouraging doctors to spot and report signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which can make older people more vulnerable to money swindles. More than 8,600 medical professionals have been trained and some physicians keep IPT’s “pocket guide” handy to help them ask key questions. “My doctor now has something on his intake form to see if patients have any financial issues,” said Blandin.

One problem: The IPT survey also found that 61% of adult children are not in touch with their parents’ health care providers.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
The Good News About Elder Fraud

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Clerk’s office gets $20,000 to protect seniors in guardianships

The Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller’s Office just got more resources to rein in unethical court-appointed guardians of incapacitated seniors and other adults.

Clerk & Comptroller Sharon Bock
Clerk & Comptroller Sharon R. Bock was selected as the recipient of the 2015 Rosalinde Gilbert Innovations in Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiving Legacy Award in the public policy category for her innovative guardianship fraud program and hotline. Bock accepted the award – which comes with $20,000 for the office – during the Aging in America Conference in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.

Senior citizens and other adults who can no longer can take care of themselves can be put in court-order guardianships under the complete control of a professional if a relative can not be agreed upon.

The Florida Legislature passed reform this past session, giving the state its first regulatory authority over these professional guardians who often have little prior expertise in handling finances or medical care for individuals.

State lawmakers received numerous complaints that unethical professional guardians were draining the savings of their senior ward through fees for themselves and their attorneys and failing to are for their elderly wards properly.

The Palm Beach Post in its series this year, Guardianship: A Broken Trust, explored the judiciary’s role in the guardianship system in the county that was beset by nepotism and cronyism.

The result was that Circuit Judge Martin Colin – whose wife is a professional guardian – was transferred out of the Probate & Guardianship Division. Colin then announced he would not run for re-election.

“It has become my mission to strengthen statewide guardianship laws ensuring our most vulnerable citizens receive the protection they deserve,” said Bock said.

“This award reaffirms the need for our guardianship fraud program and hotline and will enable my office to continue to explore new ways to serve our rapidly growing senior population.”

The guardianship hotline is 561-355-FRAUD (561-355-3728).

Since the inception of the hotline in 2011, the Clerk & Comptroller’s accredited Division of Inspector General has audited and investigated more than 900 guardianship cases and identified more than $4.5 million in unsubstantiated disbursements, missing assets and fraud.

Full Article & Source:
Clerk’s office gets $20,000 to protect seniors in guardianships

Fake lawyer helped clients for 10 years, made partner at firm, led county bar association

Kimberly Kitchen

HUNTINGDON, Pa. (AP) — A former president of a county bar association has been convicted of using forged documents to pose as an estate lawyer for a decade even though she didn't have a law license.

Kimberly Kitchen was convicted Thursday on charges of forgery, unauthorized practice of law and felony records tampering in Huntingdon County.

Kitchen fooled BMZ Law, a Huntingdon firm, by forging a law license, bar exam results, an email showing she attended Duquesne University law school and a check for a state attorney registration fee, prosecutors said.

The James Creek resident handled estate planning for more than 30 clients despite never attending law school, and she even served as president of the county bar association for a time. She made partner at BMZ before the fraud was discovered.

The judge on the case was brought in from another county, and the state attorney general, not county prosecutors, handled the case because Kitchen had been a fixture in the county courthouse for years.

BMZ officials testified at her two-day trial but haven't commented publicly since issuing a statement in December 2014, when the Huntingdon Daily News first reported that Kitchen was being investigated. The firm's voicemail said its offices were closed for Good Friday.

"Sadly, it would appear that our firm was the last, in a long line of professionals, to have been deceived by Ms. Kitchen into believing she was licensed to practice law," the firm said previously.
"We are undertaking a thorough review of each and every file she may have handled."

Kitchen had worked in fundraising at Juniata College before she started telling people she was an attorney, state prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Caroline Roberto said Friday that she is reviewing whether to appeal. The judge didn't immediately schedule sentencing, giving caseworkers 90 days to file a presentence report first.
"We think that she had no intent to defraud," Roberto said.

She said there was no evidence Kitchen's work was bad. "She provided a good service," she said.

Kitchen hasn't practiced law since the firm asked her to stop in December 2014.

Full Article & Source:
Fake lawyer helped clients for 10 years, made partner at firm, led county bar association

Senate passes Valesky-sponsored elder financial abuse legislation

David J. Valesky
Legislation sponsored by Senator David J. Valesky (D-Oneida) protecting seniors from financial abuse passed the Senate on March 22. The bill would authorize banks to refuse any transaction of moneys if a banking institution, social services official, or law enforcement agency reasonably believes that financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult is occurring.

Persons over the age of 65 are the fastest growing segment of the American population. While senior citizens constituted only 4% of the total population in 1900, by 1994 the proportion of seniors in the united States had grown to 12.5%. By 2050 almost 25% of all Americans will be over age 65.

Evidence suggests that there may be a surprisingly high percentage of senior citizens who are, either intentionally or unintentionally, mistreated by family members or institutional caregivers or who, of their own volition, are neglecting their own basic custodial needs. This maltreatment can take many forms, ranging from physical and psychological abuse to neglect to financial abuse and exploitation.
The loss of one’s financial assets can have a severe long-term impact on a senior’s well-being and quality of life. Data obtained by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services project a surge in the number of cases of financial abuse by the year 2030, with nearly 200,000 incidents predicted to occur.

In order to combat these rising trends and to protect even more elderly individuals from becoming future victims themselves, Sen. Valesky proposed legislation that would authorize banks to refuse suspicious transactions.

“We are seeing increasing incidences of elder abuse, and we must do all we can to stop this disturbing trend,” Sen. Valesky said. “This bill will establish a new protection for our elderly citizens and give law enforcement officials an additional tool to pursue and prosecute those who would take advantage of and harm adults who are unable to protect themselves.”

Financial elder abuse manifests itself in many ways. Often, the perpetrators are family members of or have a close relationship with the victim, who may depend on them for care, depressing the number of reported cases. If you or anyone you suspect may be a victim of abuse, contact the authorities or call Vera House’s 24-hour crisis hotline at315-468-3260.

Full Article & Source:
Senate passes Valesky-sponsored elder financial abuse legislation

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

From Headache to Hostage: Elderly Black Woman Forced into Guardianship and Home Being Taken After Complaining of a Simple Headache

Ms. Doris Davis, 87, has lived in her southeast Houston home since she had it built in 1959. In speaking with the Forward Times (FT), Ms. Davis shared her stories about her upbringing in Houston. She was one of the founding members of Pisidia Missionary Baptist Church when it started in 1972. For over 37 years, she worked her way up from housekeeping all the way to becoming a licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) at Jefferson Davis Hospital.

Ms. Davis knows a thing or two about medicine and about working in a hospital, which is why she called her primary doctor when she felt something strange going on with her health.

According to Ms. Davis, her church mission had gone to a home where she had just taught a Bible lesson when all of a sudden her head began to hurt really badly. Ms. Davis states that she called her Primary Care Physician, Dr. Sandra Scurria, and told her that she was not feeling well and that her head was hurting, to which Ms. Davis states that Dr. Scurria told her that she would call an ambulance to take her to Park Plaza Hospital. Ms. Davis says she never made it to Park Plaza, but was instead taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital, and didn’t know why. Ms. Davis doesn’t remember much of what happened at Memorial Hermann, but states that one day she woke up and was no longer there. This time, she found herself at Garden Terrace Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence in Houston on May 6, 2014, and had no idea why she was there either.

Because she was regularly given drugs and heavily sedated the majority of the time, Ms. Davis vaguely remembers how she got to Garden Terrace, which on their website prides itself as a premier Alzheimer’s and dementia-focused nursing home in Houston; but she says it has nothing to do with her suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Her recollection of that day’s events and past events were as crystal clear as if they had happened a few minutes prior. Ms. Davis does, however, remembering the frustration she had with the staff who she says refused to allow her to call her family or her pastor. She kept a book with important phone numbers in it, including her pastor, but states she was denied use of the phone and no staff members would make any calls for her. She felt like a prisoner and was terrified, she recollects.

“No one knew where I was and how to come visit me,” said Ms. Davis. “All I can remember is one day an elderly tall lady with blonde or gray hair came in to check on me and I was so happy she did because she told me I could call my pastor, so I did.”

Ms. Davis states that she was given medication by needle on several occasions, as soon as she asked the hospital staff to call her family or her pastor, and that she was knocked out after receiving every shot. This happened for about 2-3 days, she recollects. After a few weeks at Garden Terrace, Ms. Davis was then moved to La Hacienda Nursing Home on West Orem, where she currently resides.

It was during this entire time that Ms. Davis’ nightmare became even darker.

Monica D. Shaw has served as the president of the Bayou Terrace Civic Club for over ten years. She has had the responsibility of looking out for the interests and protection of all residents in her community over that period, especially the most vulnerable – the elderly.

On May 10, 2015, Shaw went to visit Ms. Davis and deliver her some Mother’s Day flowers when she received some disturbing information involving Ms. Davis’ situation which forced her to jump into action on behalf of this senior citizen. Shaw has been aggressively seeking to stop the actions that have displaced Ms. Davis from her home; allowed her money to be spent and made her an unwilling “ward” of state through the Harris County Guardianship Program (HCGP).

According to Shaw, Ms. Davis had been forcefully removed from her southeast Houston home, and legally ordered into the HCGP by a judge. She contends that not only has Ms. Davis been taken from her home against her will, her house has been placed on the market and is in the process of being sold as part of a cash sale orchestrated by the HCGP. Shaw has been on a mission to find out how this elderly 87-year old African American female could feasibly be in this situation when she has all of her wits about her and is still able to walk and care for herself.

People are generally referred for Guardianship services by Adult Protective Services, physicians, hospitals, family members or friends. According to Shaw, it was Dr. Chris Merkl, a known Psychiatrist, who initiated a Guardianship referral request on May 16, 2014 for Ms. Davis to be placed in the HCGP. Another doctor is listed as having seen Ms. Davis, but he did not complete the referral. Interestingly, Dr. Merkl is also an “Appointed Doctor” in Probate Court #1 for the same HCGP that he made the referral concerning Ms. Davis to. Dr. Merkl has also been mentioned in an article from April 2015, called “Guardianship in Texas Qualifies the Disqualified and Disqualifies the Qualified,” written by Attorney Candice Schwager that appeared on, where she talks about the issues she witnessed surrounding the Guardianship process here in Texas and specifically highlights Dr. Merkl’s role in certain cases.

The FT reached out to Dr. Merkl to find out more about his initial assessment of Ms. Davis and his recommendation she be placed in the HCGP, but was unable to reach him or hear back from him after leaving a message with his office prior to this story going to print.

Because these doctors are deemed credible professionals, it is not uncommon for a judge to accept a referral from them and move forward with their recommendation. Such was the case involving Ms. Davis, as she was placed in the HCGP and her case has been handled by Judge Mike Wood in Probate Court #2. Ms. Davis was deemed Incapacitated in July 2014 and a Guardianship (Person/Estate) was established with the HCGP. Upon entering the HCGP, the process of liquidating all of Ms. Davis’ assets began and several of her accounts were closed at different respective banks, and a single new account was opened in her name under the HCGP.

On July 29, 2014, the court ordered that Attorney Chris Forbes be appointed Guardian Ad Litem.

The FT did speak with Judge Wood, who indicated that the case was still pending and that he was not at liberty to speak on the status of pending cases or could not discuss any medical and other health information with us due to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws which keeps that information private and protected.

Going even further, Attorney Valerie Milholland, Asst. County Attorney for the Office of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, went before the judge and insisted that Ms. Davis’ house be sold, along with its contents, in order to take care of Guardianship expenses and her personal needs.

To date, Ms. Davis states the HCGP has not spent a dime on her, with the exception of paying some select Guardianship expenses, legal expenses and nursing home expenses. According to court records, thousands of dollars have been expended and several thousand dollars are consistently being spent from funds of her estate every month. Per Shaw, the following funds have been ordered to be distributed from her estate to date:

05-19-2015 Ordered to pay Attorney Chris Forbes $1245.00
06-08-2015 Ordered HCGP to Expend $5422.00 per month
10-22-2015 Ordered HCGP to Expend $3715.00
10-22-2015 Ordered HCGP to Expend $6592.00 per month

The FT reached out to Attorney Milholland and spoke to a representative from the Harris County Attorney’s Office to get more information on the status of Ms. Davis’ home and why she was placed in the HCGP, but did not hear back from them prior to this story going to print.

When the order was given to allow HCGP to spend that amount of money from the estate, Monica Shaw knew she had to do something more, so she had an application to Appoint Successor Guardian filed by Attorney Andrew McGee on her behalf. It was then that Attorney Milholland, on behalf of HCGP, sought to sell her home in order to pay for these Guardianship expenses ordered by the court. On Aug. 6, 2015, an order was signed by Associate Judge Ann Green to sell Ms. Davis’ personal property, including her home, at a private sale for cash.

Soon after the order, an Application to Sell Real Property was executed by Aline Kyle-Taylor, the appointed Harris County Guardian who has the Power of Attorney to act on Ms. Davis’ behalf. Ms. Davis was served with a Notice of Sale by a Precinct 7 Constable, although she states no prior notice had been given. The process to sell her home was well on its way.

The FT spoke to Aline Kyle-Taylor to discuss Ms. Davis’ case, but she declined comment and indicated her supervisor would reply, but did not hear back from them prior to this story going to print.

Shaw immediately filed an Objection to Sell of Property in order to stop the sale of Ms. Davis’ home, and started to see that things had seemingly gone from bad to worse.

“The way this situation has gone down, I feel like Doris (Ms. Davis) is being legally abused and taken advantage of because of her age,” said Shaw. “I want to give Doris what she wants, and that is to live in her own home and be out from under a program that she doesn’t even know why she was placed in the first place. The community needs to be aware that families and concerned citizens have to stand firm, because being involved in the daily lives of our senior citizens is imperative. This is terrifying and should concern us all.”

On Feb. 23, 2016, Shaw took Ms. Davis to court for a hearing on the Objection to Sell her property.

Upon hearing the case, Shaw states that Judge Wood gave her one week to have Ms. Davis seen by a doctor that would state that she is “Not Incapacitated” and submit a report to court indicating that by Mar. 2, 2016. Shaw helped Ms. Davis schedule an appointment the very next day, Feb. 24, 2016, to visit Dr. Ivan Spector, who had previously treated Ms. Davis from 2007 to 2010. Dr. Spector performed an exam to determine her incapacity, and it was determined, per a letter submitted to courts by Dr. Spector on behalf of Ms. Davis, that she was “Not Incapacitated” as initially reported by the initial referring doctor.

To date, the case is still pending in Judge Wood’s court. Per Judge Wood, the letter was received from Dr. Spector and is being reviewed. In the meantime, he also indicated that the Ad Litem Attorney has requested another doctor re-evaluate Ms. Davis to determine her status.

The HCGP was organized in 1992 by the Harris County Commissioners Court to provide management and monitoring services to indigent persons who were deemed incapacitated by the Probate Courts and to serve as a last resort service for poor adults who are unable to care for their own physical needs or financial affairs because of physical or mental conditions. Currently, the HCGP provides Guardianship services to over 1,400 wards and is the largest Guardianship program in the entire state of Texas. About 40 percent of Harris County wards are 40 to 59 years old and 28 percent are 60 to 79. The majority of them have mental illness, a developmental disability or mental deterioration, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

The HCGP is also designed for poor adults who have been exploited, neglected or abused, and have no family members or friends willing or able to care for them. This is not the case concerning Ms. Davis. Her nephew lived with her at the time of her forced removal from her home, and he had no say concerning the Guardianship decision.

Ms. Davis states that she is being forced to be in a Guardianship program and pay for a nursing home that provides nothing but a roof over her head. She has been under constant worry about the status of her house, because she doesn’t know if it has been sold to someone else. She is being given psych meds regularly; makes her own bed; changes her own sheets; bathes herself; feeds herself; never sees the doctor assigned to her care; takes walks alone; dresses herself; and her church members wash her clothes for her.

Ms. Davis has a home that is paid for, where she was peacefully living prior to this fiasco, and she wants this nightmare to end so that she return to the only place she has called home for over 50 years. Shaw is seeking to become Ms. Davis’ legal guardian and has several concerns that she hopes to see addressed and several questions she is seeking answers to.

One of the most pressing questions she has is, “If there are reliable and competent individuals, including family members, who are interested in caring for their loved one, why would they deny them that ability and force them to be a “ward” of the state?”

The FT will continue to monitor this situation and seek answers to the question that Shaw has, as well as the many other questions surrounding how Ms. Davis, who appears to be of sound mind with a near spotless recollection of things, ended up in the HCGP in the first place.

Full Article & Source:
From Headache to Hostage: Elderly Black Woman Forced into Guardianship and Home Being Taken After Complaining of a Simple Headache

Progress Seen In Elder Financial Abuse Prevention

Although the number of elderly who are financially abused is still alarmingly high, current efforts to combat the problem seem to be achieving results, according to the Investor Protection Trust (IPT).
Seventeen percent of those age 65 or older report being the victims of financial scams, but that number is down from 20 percent who said they were victims in 2010.

Education efforts also seem to be succeeding, says IPT. In 2010, 44 percent of those over age 65 got at least two out of four questions on basic investment knowledge wrong. This year only 14 percent got two or more wrong and 51 percent answered them all correctly.

IPT reported its findings in the 2016 Elder Fraud and Financial Exploitation survey of 3.500 people, most of whom were over 65 or the adult children of elderly parents. The survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling for IPT, a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education and protection. A similar survey was conducted in 2010.

IPT conducts an Elder Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program that works with organizations, state securities offices and doctors to prevent elder financial abuse.

“Our efforts to engage doctors are working,” said Don Blandin, president and CEO of IPT, during a press conference Tuesday to release the results of the survey.

“Doctors are now more likely to flag signs that a patient is being swindled or that they are suffering from mild cognitive impairment,” Blandin said. “IPT also works with 30 state securities offices in a coalition to prevent elder exploitation. Doctors, nurses and adult children are more tuned today into the possibility of exploitation. But it is still alarming that nearly one in five are being financially exploited.”

Jim Williams, polling analyst for Public Policy Polling, added that 47 percent of the children of parents 65 or older are very or somewhat worried that their parents “have already become or will become less able to handle their personal finances over time.” That number was 40 percent in 2010.

Irving Faught, securities administrator of the Oklahoma Securities Commission, said state securities regulators see the toll that financial abuse takes every day on people who come to the commission for help.

Anyone suspecting financial exploitation of an elderly person should notify the person’s doctor, who is obligated to report it, or notify a state securities office that will investigate it, said Robert Roush, professor of geriatrics and director of the Texas Consortium Geriatrics Education Center. He labeled financial exploitation “a scourge” on the elderly.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Progress Seen In Elder Financial Abuse Prevention

Rock Falls man pleads not guilty to financial exploitation, theft

STERLING – A Rock Falls man charged with stealing more than $140,000 from an elderly woman over 4 years pleaded not guilty Monday in Whiteside County Court.

Timothy R. Boyd, 60, is charged with one count of financial exploitation of an elderly person, and one count of theft between $100,000 to $500,000, each punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.

Tuesday, he still was in Whiteside County Jail on $200,000 bond. He has hired Sterling attorney Daniel Huffman, and a bail reduction hearing is set for April 1.

From Jan. 28, 2011, to Sept. 22, Boyd used his "position of trust and confidence" to take control of a nursing home resident's personal assets and finances at a local bank and a life insurance company, "knowingly and by deception" depriving her of $142,522.15, prosecutors say in court documents.

A local nursing home tipped off Sterling Police in September, and Boyd turned himself in to the Whiteside County Sheriff's Department on Feb. 19, a news release said.

In January 2004, Boyd was sentenced to 2 months in jail and 2 1/2 years' probation for aggravated DUI. In June 1992, he was sentenced to 2 1/2 years' probation for possession of a controlled substance.

Full Article & Source:
Rock Falls man pleads not guilty to financial exploitation, theft

Monday, March 28, 2016

New Report Alleges Commission on Judicial Performance Doesn’t Measure Up

Judicial Discipline Agency To Be Challenged at Monday Budget Hearing
by Kathleen Russell

Court reform advocates from across the state are expected to weigh in with lawmakers on Monday, March 28th about an accountability crisis in the California court system. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 5 hearing will begin at 2:30pm in Room 437 of the state capitol building with a presentation about the state Commission on Judicial Performance’s complaint process, followed by a discussion about the numerous problems plaguing the agency and some possible solutions.

Joe Sweeney, CEO of Court Reform LLC, a San Francisco Bay Area-based advocacy firm that focuses on improving the fairness, transparency and efficiency of the judicial process, will testify about a detailed report he just released comparing California’s judicial oversight commission with those of Arizona, Texas, and New York.

“I was shocked by the disparities in the investigation rates, discipline rates, and budget efficiencies,” Sweeney said. “These are not small differences. California’s commission is a severe, negative outlier by 200-300% or more across the board. The data suggests that hundreds of judges who currently sit on California’s benches would have potentially been removed by the commissions of other states for misconduct,” he said.

Rama Diop, an African immigrant mother whose well-documented complaint about a Marin County judge was referred to the Commission by the California Governor and Attorney General almost two years ago, has been denied a venue for resolving her child custody case while her judicial complaint has languished at the Commission for almost 22 months. The Commission’s website indicates that it generally takes an average of 4.15 months to resolve a complaint. “They say the complaint is under investigation, but I have no explanation for the delay, and no indication of how much longer this is going to take,” says Diop. “Meanwhile, I have no enforceable custody order, and no way to get one, because I am trapped in this judge’s court while the CJP drags its feet.”

The Commission’s website explains that its mandate is “to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judicial system.” Yet in its own report detailing the complaints it received from 1990-2009, the Commission admits that only 1.45% of all complaints filed by litigants, their friends and family (i.e., the public) resulted in any judicial discipline.

“The CJP is failing in its duty to protect the public, and it is time for an audit and an overhaul,” says California attorney Barbara Kauffman. “Throwing out 98.6% of complaints made by litigants, without explanation, and waiting two years to act on a single complaint, puts the complaining litigant, and all other litigants forced to appear before a problematic judge, at risk. As we all learned from the Pennsylvania Kids For Cash tragedy, bad judges can harm thousands of parents and children in two years’ time. The public deserves better than this.”

A large number of advocates wearing bright red “Stop Court Crimes” t-shirts are expected to attend the hearing and voice their support for better oversight of the Commission and more accountability for the entire judicial branch.

The hearing will be live webcast here: and

The hearing agenda can be found here:

A brief memo explaining the lack of remedies for removing a judge available to the public: here

Click here to read the report comparing judicial discipline agencies: here

Click here to read Ms. Rama Diop’s 6.09.14 complaint: here

Full Article & Source:
New Report Alleges Commission on Judicial Performance Doesn’t Measure Up

Ex Pa. Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin fined $50,000 for lewd emails; keeps pension

Former state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin
HARRISBURG — A judicial tribunal on Thursday found disgraced former state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin guilty of ethical misconduct for his exchange of offensive emails and fined him $50,000, but allowed him to keep his $153,000 annual pension.

The six members of the Court of Judicial Discipline unanimously found that Eakin, by exchanging "insensitive" sexually oriented and otherwise troubling emails on government computers, had undermined public confidence in the judiciary.

But they also found that any bias shown in Eakin's emails did not creep into his judicial opinions. Emails aside, Eakin's service during 20 years as an appeals court judge was "otherwise exemplary," the court found.

The court also said it would have treated Eakin more harshly had he not resigned from the court last week.

"The common thread of the emails — with their imagery of sexism, racism and bigotry — is arrogance," the court wrote.

Eakin's lawyer, William Costopoulos, said the former justice was satisfied with the decision.

"We accept the sanction imposed and will not appeal," he said Thursday. "This finally brings closure to this difficult ordeal."

Eakin, 67, a Republican who joined the high court in 2002, has apologized for the emails and said they do not reflect his character.

In the end, the judicial panel gave Eakin what he appeared to be seeking by resigning: a resolution without a public trial and without the loss of his pension.

The Court of Judicial Discipline is made up of judges, lawyers and non-lawyers who are appointed by the governor and the Supreme Court.  (Continue Reading

Full Article & Source:
Ex Pa. Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin fined $50,000 for lewd emails; keeps pension

D.C. Federal Chief Judge Retires Amid Sexual Abuse Allegations

Judge Richard Roberts denies allegations of assault in decades-old Utah case.

Zoe Tillman, The National Law Journal
March 16, 2016 |

Chief Judge Richard Roberts of Washington's federal trial court sent a letter of retirement to the White House on Wednesday, the same day a woman in Utah filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault 35 years ago when she was a witness in a case he prosecuted. In a statement, Roberts' lawyers said that a consensual "intimate relationship" took place between Roberts and the woman, Terry Mitchell, in 1981, when Mitchell was 16 years old. However, Roberts' lawyers denied the allegations of sexual assault as "categorically false."

Full Article & Source:
D.C. Federal Chief Judge Retires Amid Sexual Abuse Allegations

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

One Small Fix To Help People Who Leave Their Jobs To Care For Loved Ones

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) with his wife and son
When Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) went home for the winter holidays, he met with a number of people who sacrificed careers to care for family members. And many of them kept bringing up the same worries.

“I heard these heartbreaking stories of people who were fearful of losing everything that they had saved because they had to leave a job in order to come home and take care of a loved one,” he said. Time out of the workforce caring for an elderly parent or a young child means lost income.

It also means reduced Social Security benefits once the caregiver gets to retirement age, since she won’t be paying those taxes if she’s not earning income while she’s taking a break from her job. “One of the realities is that your retirement takes a big hit if you leave the workforce and come home to care for a child or parent,” he said.

So on Friday, he’s introducing a bill to help make that financial picture a bit less troubling. The Social Security Caregiver Credit Act would add a credit to a caregivers’ lifetime earnings to determine how much she should get in Social Security benefits. The credit would be based on a sliding income scale related to previous earnings capped at the average national wage or a maximum credit equal to half the average national income for those who weren’t earning money previously, for up to five years of caregiving. And it would apply to anyone caring for a child, grandchild, niece or nephew, aunt or uncle, spouse or domestic partner, parent, or sibling who needs daily assistance with basic activities like eating and bathing or even managing finances and shopping for food.

And while full-time caregivers will be covered, those who provide part-time care — 80 hours or more a month — can also get coverage. “Our bill acknowledges that this isn’t just about the handful of individuals who are full-time caregivers,” Murphy said.

The hope is that the credits would help ease the burden on people who are deciding whether to provide care for their family members themselves or, in many cases, put a sick or elderly relative in assisted living or a nursing home. Keeping people in their homes comes with its own savings for the government.

“Nursing home care is the most expensive type of care,” Murphy said, and it’s often paid for by Medicaid at a cost to the government. “Every effort we can make to promote people being cared for in the home is an enormous savings.”

It would also help women, who thanks to the fact that they are much more likely to leave work for caregiving, as well as the gender wage gap, get far less in Social Security benefits when they retire, part of why they are so much more likely to live in poverty when they enter old age.

He also hopes the credits start to make some more philosophical changes in the country. “The caregivers in Connecticut, the parents in Connecticut that I talked to, they know what they’re doing is work, just like people who show up at the office every day,” he said. But as policy currently stands, that unpaid work, done in the home, is not counted the same way as work done for pay outside the home.

“We are long overdue for a paradigm shift in terms of how America thinks of work,” he said. “This bill would acknowledge that taking care of a child or a parent is work too.”

The bill has already found a Senate sponsor in Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and the House version, which is slightly different, has 54 cosponsors. Yet most Republicans in Congress have voiced concerns over Social Security’s finances — although it is solvent for at least two decades and fixing any issues after that requires relatively small tweaks — and appear ready to cut, not expand, benefits. Murphy hopes his bill starts to reverse that trend as well.

“We have to shift the conversation from shifting down Social Security to expanding Social Security,” he said. “My hope is that this proposal is another brick in a growing wall of resistance to calls to strip down the size and scope of Social Security benefits.”

Full Article & Source:
One Small Fix To Help People Who Leave Their Jobs To Care For Loved Ones

The Webber estate case is about probate piracy

March 22 — To the Editor:

 Councilor Lown believes that the Webber estate case should have ended in a settlement rather than a trial in order to preserve the value of the estate and avoid “condemnation or admission” of those involved in the financial abuse of an elderly woman. (Portsmouth Herald, March 22, 2016).

 But, as former Commissioner Gerry Howe aptly stated when he voted against the mediated settlement in August 2014, “I think that's selling the reputation of the city pretty low.” (Police Commission rejects Webber estate settlement. Seacoastonline, August 13, 2014). Yet, even after the commission voted to refuse to settle, Councilor Lown persisted, along with other city officials, to settle the case to prevent it from going to trial. Ironically, by doing so, attorney charges accrued unnecessarily.

 Back in August 2014 Judge Maher, who was paid over $20,000 to help settle the case as a mediator, cited concern over the cost of litigation when he told the Police Commission and citizens, “Attorney Eby’s charges are over $400K right now; his office has taken five depositions. They have 17 more to take; add that to several weeks of trial costs.” (Portsmouth Police Commission Meeting Notes, August 2014)

 Attorney Eby’s final 2016 bill is $579,240. This means that prior to August 2014, 70 percent of his charges were accrued with the intent to settle the case (that would have allowed the offending officer to receive $425,000.) If one looks at the entire bill, it appears that a good portion of it, before and after August 2014, is due to efforts to settle the case.

 Settlement of this case would not have served the public – but only a select few who did not want the transparency achieved through the probate trial.

 Simply understood, the Webber case is about an elderly woman with dementia who became unduly influenced by a young Portsmouth police officer in order for him to gain control of her substantial estate.

 But it’s about so much more; it’s about the community’s failure in both the public and private sphere to protect an elderly, wealthy resident of Portsmouth from financial exploitation and physical neglect.

Specifically, it’s about the failure of local officials – both elected and appointed - to “police” their own and promote the well-being of Portsmouth residents, not only Webber but the community she had intended to benefit from a $1.2 million bequest for police and fire safety equipment - that is, until the young officer befriended her. In fact, one of the lessons of this case is that there seems to have been an almost blatant disregard for the public by those sworn to serve the public.

 Probate piracy has been described as:

 “Uncannily similar to organized crime defined in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 (RICO), probate piracy can involve the involuntary redistribution of assets, which is also known as property poaching, with the elderly person becoming the enterprise that is defrauded.”


 Exploited elders share the plight of other vulnerable populations that are victims of human trafficking, which has been defined as, “a form of modern slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others.”

 The Webber case continues to alert us to the fact that the national epidemic of probate piracy and elder financial exploitation (and its disturbing aftermath for victims and their families) impacts residents of New Hampshire.

 Jane Zill

Full Article & Source:
The Webber estate case is about probate piracy