Saturday, December 22, 2018

Massachusetts Seeks to Disbar and Silence Attorney Fighting to Expose Corruption in Senior Medical Kidnappings

Marvin Siegel and “Daddy’s girl” Lisa Belanger, before guardians took them away from each other. Photo provided by family.

Commentary by Terri LaPoint
Health Impact News

Attorneys and guardians have plundered the estate of Marvin Siegel, a retired attorney from Boxford, Massachusetts. At the same time they have gone through the courts to isolate him from his children and essentially imprison him in his own home.

His youngest daughter Lisa Belanger followed in his footsteps in becoming an attorney, inspired by her father’s principles of fighting for what is right. She says:
He taught me to not be silent when wrongs are being done to others.
She and her sister Devora Kaiser were shocked to see the strong arm of the state in keeping them away from their beloved father when he was captured from his family in 2011.

See their original story:

Massachusetts Senior Citizen and Attorney Medically Kidnapped – Estate Plundered – Represents National Epidemic

Marvin Siegel’s daughters had no idea how deeply the corruption in the guardianship issue runs, but they have had a front row seat to see the conflicts of interests, sweetheart deals, drugging of senior citizens, and raping of their estates that are standard fare in some probate courts, such as the one their family has had the misfortune of being subjected to.

According to the Boston Broadside:
In March of 2015, Marvin’s daughter, Attorney Lisa Siegel Belanger, filed an extensive federal civil action in which she claims that Atty.
Kazarosian is part of a long-embedded insidious enterprise of corrupt lawyers and judges using the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court system to exploit elders—and any person of any age for that matter who happen to be vulnerably labeled as “incapacitated.”
Lisa’s extensive, detailed complaint and accompanying exhibits can be viewed by the public free of charge at
In our last update on their story in July 2018, we reported that attorney Marsha Kazarosian retaliated against Lisa Belanger and her efforts to free her father by filing with the Bar Association to have her disbarred.


Massachusetts Attorney Exposing Medical Kidnapping Threatened with Being Disbarred

Marsha Kazarosian is an appointee of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, and she currently sits on the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers – the very group that has the power to ultimately decide the fate of Lisa Belanger’s law career.

Photo Source: The Boston Broadside.
The latest developments seem to paint a picture of the deck stacked against the attorney who is simply fighting with all she has for the God-given human right to have a relationship with her father, without government interference.

According to a recent order from the Board of Bar Overseers, the Board has ruled that Belanger will not be allowed to “introduce any exhibits at the [upcoming] hearing,” nor will she be able to have witnesses testify on her behalf.

The hearing was supposed to take place December 4-6, but it has been continued to early January.

Meanwhile, Lisa and her sister were notified on Monday, December 10, that their father has been hospitalized. He has pneumonia, but Lisa Belanger is forbidden to see her father by Marsha Kazarosian and the new court-appointed guardian for Marvin Siegel, Brian Bixby, who was recommended by Kazarosian.

The Boston Broadside reports these latest developments, up to Mr. Siegel’s hospitalization:

Gov. Baker’s Appointee, Atty. Marsha Kazarosian, Moves in for the Kill ‘to Protect her $$$ Source’

Boston Broadside Dec 2018
The Boston Broadside takes on Attorney Marsha Kazarosian and Elder Abuse.

Full Article & Source:
Massachusetts Seeks to Disbar and Silence Attorney Fighting to Expose Corruption in Senior Medical Kidnappings

‘I can see her spine’: Ohio nursing home cited after several complaints

COLERAIN, OH (FOX19) - A family is demanding changes at a Colerain nursing home after it says a loved one was hospitalized while in the home’s care.

The family made several complaints to the Ohio Department of Health about the Liberty Center of Colerain, which led to an on-site investigation. It claims a woman’s infected wound was left untreated and it nearly killed her.

Since that time the nursing center has been cited for several violations of state and federal regulations.

Elizabeth Smith-Burrell has been staying at the Liberty Nursing Center of Colerain for nearly two years. In October her health declined significantly after she developed a pressure ulcer on her lower back.

"If you have a weak stomach it'll make you cringe," said Michael Nowell, who is the cousin and legal guardian of Smith-Burrell.

Nowell showed FOX19 pictures of the wound on his 71-year-old cousin’s lower back, which are difficult to look at.

“The wound is probably 1 1/2 inch in diameter and 3 inches deep -- and at the base of the wound I can see her spine. I can see white bone, her spine,” said Nowell.

He says Smith-Burrell came to the Liberty Center of Center of Colerain after being partially paralyzed from a stroke. Nowell says that her doctor ordered a cushion to relieve pressure while sitting in her wheelchair. He also prescribed protein supplements to help her body heal and prevent bed sores. However, Nowell says the staff at the facility never followed through with the doctor’s orders.

“She a diabetic and when you have an eruption in your skin like that it could be deadly. This particular episode that’s she’s going through right now is very -- it’s got her close to death,” said Nowell.

Public records from the Ohio Department of Health list multiple violations at the Liberty Nursing Center of Colerain including: “The facility failed to initiate and consistently follow physician ordered treatments to prevent the development of avoidable pressure ulcers and/or promote the healing of three of five residents, which resulted in Immediate Jeopardy for two of five residents.”

The administrator of the Liberty Nursing Center of Colerain, Brenda White, said she was not able to discuss patient care but issued this statement: “We do provide quality care. We have a 5-star rating in our quality measure determined by Medicare and Medicaid Services.”

Nowell says he hopes the nursing home makes major changes to prevent a similar infection from happening to another patient.

“It’s really sad to have that happen to someone," he said.

Nowell is now reaching out to lawmakers in an effort to legalize cameras in private rooms in nursing homes.

Full Article & Source:
‘I can see her spine’: Ohio nursing home cited after several complaints

Vermont man charged with stealing from elderly aunt

NEWPORT, Vt. (WCAX) A Vermont man is accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from his 84-year-old aunt.

Police say Eric Brigham, 52, of Williamstown, stole $48,000 from his elderly aunt who lives in Newport by abusing his power of attorney. They say Brigham spent the money on himself. He's also accused of selling his aunt's belongings when she entered a nursing home. Investigators think he may have left her with debt, too, with more than $20,000 owed to credit card companies and her nursing home.

Brigham is due in court next month. He's charged with financial exploitation.

Full Article & Source:
Vermont man charged with stealing from elderly aunt

Friday, December 21, 2018

Jury awards woman $1.2 million over nursing home's neglect

Shirley Burrows with her granddaughter.
Shirley Burrows needed follow-up treatment for three “superficial” bedsores when she was discharged from a Lockport hospital to a Newfane nursing home.

Instead of getting better, Burrows’ sores worsened, her attorneys said. The wounds became infected, and a bone in Burrows' lower back was exposed.

A Niagara County jury earlier this week awarded $1.25 million to the 72-year-old woman, after determining Newfane Rehab & Health Care Center was negligent in its care of her.

The jury award was unusual: Most lawsuits against Western New York nursing homes are settled before trial and the amount is kept private at the nursing homes' request.

“She had gone to the nursing home for wound care treatment and they horribly neglected her,” said Brian R. Hogan, one Burrows’ attorneys at Brown Chiari law firm. “What makes this egregious is they knew she had sores and she was not seen by a doctor at the nursing home.”

Burrows was transferred from Eastern Niagara Hospital to the nursing home on March 3, 2015, following her approximately two-week hospital stay. After her bedsores worsened, she was taken to Mount St. Mary Hospital’s wound care clinic in Lewiston.

“When she arrived at the clinic, the staff was saw the size and and depth of the wounds they became emotional and immediately admitted her to the hospital for surgery,” Michael C. Lancer, Burrows' other attorney, said.

Her wounds were on her sacrum and backside, the lawyers said.

Bedsores, also known as pressure sores, occur when a section of the body is pressing against a surface for too long and not repositioned to alleviate the pressure. Medical protocol to prevent sores calls for repositioning every two hours.

These injuries remain an ongoing issue in nursing homes despite efforts in recent years in New York State to drive down the number of residents who end up with them.

At Newfane Rehab, 6.02 percent of the long-term, high-risk residents developed bedsores from July 2017 through June 2018. Only 0.2 percent of the short-term residents there had new or worsened bedsores. Both marks were better than the statewide averages: 6.8 percent for long-term residents and 0.8 percent for short-term residents.

“This is the sort of thing we see over and over again at different nursing homes. All they’re doing is documenting, but not really treating the wounds,” Lancer said.

The lawsuit was filed in June 2015 against the Newfane facility, Integrated Care Systems LLC, and Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport. The nursing home was operated until June 2015 by Integrated Care Systems LLC and the real estate was owned by the hospital. Companies run by out-of-town investors in Maximus Newfane LLC bought the operating license and the property at 2709 Transit Road that same month, according to state and federal records.

Attorney Seth A. Hiser, who defended the nursing home and Eastern Niagara Hospital in the two-week trial before State Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. Furlong in Niagara Falls, declined to comment. Craig Shaffer, the administrator at the nursing home, did not respond to requests for comment.

The federal government rates Newfane Rehab as a two star, or “below average,” facility in its five-star rating system.

After her surgery, Burrows was discharged from Mount St. Mary and she now lives at her home in Newfane.

“It took two years of treatment at the wound clinic and she still has an open wound, but it is a lot smaller and her daughter is caring for her,” Hogan said.

Of the verdict amount, the jury awarded $475,000 for past pain and suffering, $300,000 for future pain and suffering, and an additional $475,000 for violating a state public health law that requires special protections to nursing home residents, for the total of $1.25 million.

Attorney Don Chiari said his law firm was initially told by attorneys for the insurance company covering the nursing home that it “would never pay a dime on this case.”

Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co. provided the insurance for the facility.

Full Article & Source:
Jury awards woman $1.2 million over nursing home's neglect

Maryland Probate Court Judge Faces Sanctions Over DUI Arrest

ROCK HALL, Md. (AP) — A Maryland probate court judge is facing disciplinary action following an arrest for driving under the influence earlier this year.

The Commission on Judicial Disabilities charged Amy L. Nickerson with violating the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct in October, a charge that became public Friday after Nickerson filed a response.

The Kent County Orphan’s Court judge was arrested March 9 when she was stopped for speeding. She received probation before judgment in July on a count of driving while impaired.

She was also found guilty to reckless and negligent driving.

Nickerson acknowledged all of the allegations and apologized for her conduct.

She called the arrest “isolated” and pointed out that she was still re-elected this year. She said she would consent to an appropriate reprimand.

Full Article & Source:
Maryland Probate Court Judge Faces Sanctions Over DUI Arrest

In Louisiana, More Than a Third of Ex-Lawmakers Continue to Try to Influence Their Old Colleagues

Jim Tucker, former speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, is now CEO of the nonprofit nursing home conglomerate CommCare Corp. Tucker, shown above in 2011, pushed against legislation discouraging institutionalization of the elderly and disabled. (Travis Spradling/The Advocate)
Louisiana’s nursing homes are among the nation’s worst.

The state ranked 50th in patient quality of care in a recent AARP report, which noted high rates of pressure sores and antipsychotic medications.

Elderly citizens widely prefer staying in their homes with help as long as possible, studies show. And advocates for changing the system say that making institutionalization a last resort would save the state money.

But when legislation was introduced this year to address that imbalance, three prominent former lawmakers helped torpedo it before it could progress.

Former House Speaker Jim Tucker urged the House Appropriations Committee to kill the proposal. Joe McPherson, the former chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, told his onetime colleagues the reform was impractical. And Sherri Buffington, the committee’s former vice chair, watched from the audience.

Each of them is deeply connected to the nursing home industry, which has strongly opposed the changes.

Tucker is the CEO of CommCare Corp., a nonprofit that runs 13 Louisiana nursing homes. McPherson is the administrator and part-owner of a nursing home in Lafayette. And Buffington, who as a legislator sponsored laws that helped nursing homes reap more money, now lobbies for the health care sector, including a Shreveport hospital system that owns a nursing home.

The muscular display from former lawmakers is not unusual in Louisiana, a state known for a pro-business climate, and in particular a lax regulatory environment. Former lawmakers, whose legislative jobs brought in $30,000 to $40,000 a year in combined salaries and per diems, frequently leverage the part-time jobs into much higher-paying roles in the private sector or in the upper ranks of government. The bills they sponsored and positions they espoused at the Capitol give them a launching pad for lucrative future opportunities.

Some work around the state ethics law requiring them to wait two years before lobbying the Legislature. Instead, they push industry positions before other government branches, or sign on as “consultants” rather than lobbyists. Others take on top jobs at state agencies or in the executive branch, working on behalf of interests they once championed from the floor.

“There’s a whole flock of them,” said State Sen. Conrad Appel, a Republican who sponsored the bill this year supporting more home- and community-based care. “Do they have any extra authority because they were a legislator? I’d say no. But they do have a leg up because they’re friends with people there, and they know how the system works, and they have contacts.”

To gauge the continuing influence of former lawmakers, The Advocate and ProPublica tracked the 99 former members who left the Legislature between 2010 and last month’s elections. Thirty-five went on to jobs in the spheres of lobbying, consulting, governmental affairs, state government, state boards or as legislative advocates for businesses they run. The group includes members of all political affiliations.

“They’ve proven their loyalty to the industry already, and they still have influence,” said Bruce Blaney, a former state health official, about lawmakers who advocate for nursing homes. As the head of an association of more than 300 in-home support providers, Blaney has often tangled with the nursing home industry. He has yet to prevail.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
In Louisiana, More Than a Third of Ex-Lawmakers Continue to Try to Influence Their Old Colleagues

Thursday, December 20, 2018

VA Still Arbitrarily Cutting Caregivers From Program, Even As It Aims To Expand

Ret. Sgt. Chris Kurtz and his wife Heather Kurtz pose for a portrait on the couch in their living room.
Erica Brechtelsbauer for NPR
Chris Kurtz is trying to keep his sense of humor. Even after the VA told him last summer that he no longer needs a caregiver.

"Apparently my legs grew back, I dunno," he says with a laugh, and sinks into his couch in Clarksville, Tenn. And then he mentions that he probably can't get out of the couch without help from his wife.

In December 2010, a bomb blast ended his Army deployment to Afghanistan. He lost both legs above the knee and half of his left hand. Heather, then his fiancée, joined him at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the VA suggested she apply for their new caregiver program.

The program was set up to support family members of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. They're mostly wives and mothers who receive a VA stipend to provide home health care that would otherwise cost the VA millions of dollars.

When it started in 2011, vets signed up in huge numbers, quickly overwhelming the VA staff assigned to the program.

In recent years many VAs have drastically cut their rolls — often with little explanation to the caregivers.

Top, Ret. Sgt. Chris Kurtz waits for his chair after arriving home. Bottom left, Kurtz wheels himself up to his front door as his wife and caretaker Heather Kurtz follows behind. Bottom right, Kurtz rests his hand, which is missing fingers from his injury. Erica Brechtelsbauer for NPR 
The cuts come at a time the program is supposed to be growing. Congress approved a major expansion of the program in May, though implementation could take years.

Congressional sources confirmed that the VA has missed its first deadline in October to implement new information technology for the caregiver expansion — raising serious concerns of further delay. VA says the department will not deploy the new system until it is ready and has been tested thoroughly
But VA also recently blew through a deadline to fix the IT for a new GI bill rule, and did so without initially telling Congress about the delay.

Jillyan Motter holds her younger brother Gabriel Kurtz.
Erica Brechtelsbauer for NPR 
Chris and Heather Kurtz had been getting the highest level of support — Tier 3. That meant a stipend, health care for Heather and quarterly visits from a nurse. But earlier this year, Heather Kurtz was told her standing in the program was being evaluated. And without anyone from the VA even coming to see them, the Kurtzes got dropped in July.

Not reduced to a lower tier, but simply told that Chris no longer needs any help from Heather.

"He's all better now, all better," she said sarcastically as Chris laughed. "So he doesn't need a caregiver for anything."

"It was part of my identity. And then to have a letter tell me, 'Well you're no longer on the caregiver program,' it hurt like a punch in the gut. Because I didn't stop caregiving. I've always been a caregiver and I always will be," she says.

The home of Ret. Sgt. Chris Kurtz and Heather Kurtz on base at Fort Campbell.
Erica Brechtelsbauer for NPR 
The Kurtzes are not alone. Just across the border near Bowling Green, Ky., Ashlee and J.D. Williams also got bad news, around Thanksgiving.

J.D., a former Army sniper, lost three limbs in a bomb attack in Kandahar. He's fiercely independent, and he still finds ways to bow-hunt and target shoot. But he can't do basic things like put on his prosthetic legs without help from Ashlee.

"It's a 24/7 job," she says. "If he wants to put his legs on he needs assistance. He wants a shower, he needs assistance. It's not my choice. I worked full time before, at a job I enjoyed. [I had] to walk away from that."

The Williams were demoted to Tier 1 of the program — but once their story got negative media attention, they were quickly restored to a higher tier. Still, Ashlee Williams says the way the decision was so easily changed makes her nervous.

Former Staff Sgt. J.D. Williams poses for a portrait with his wife and caretaker Ashlee Williams.
Erica Brechtelsbauer for NPR 
"We're in the clear right now — but for how long? It could be next month and they reassess us again," she says.

An NPR report this year found that some VAs across the country have cut their rolls drastically. The VA says it's part of standardizing the program and removing some vets who never should have qualified.

But a VA inspector general report in August found that about half the time, the VA wasn't adequately monitoring the veteran's health when it dropped them.

"So many caregivers are having issues," says Williams, "and there's no one to look at their case."

That's certainly true for the Tennessee Valley VA. From 510 caregivers on its rolls early last year, there are now only 104 — a drop of 80 percent.

It's not only Tennessee. A VA spokesman said nationally the total number on the program has decreased slightly as facilities more accurately and consistently identify veterans who meet eligibility criteria for the program.

Caretaker Ashlee Williams helps her husband, Former Staff Sgt. J.D. Williams, put on one of his prosthetic legs.Erica Brechtelsbauer for NPR 
But it doesn't feel more accurate to Sherman Gillums — he's a paralyzed former Marine who uses the VA in Washington, D.C. His wife is his caregiver.

"I was also told that in order to stay on the program, that I needed to have gotten treatment in the VA within the last year," he says, "or else I'll be removed from the program."

Gillums says he had been to the VA for treatment. He thinks either the administrator who contacted him didn't seem to have complete access to his health records, or it was something worse.

"You could take that as just informing me of the policy or it seems like a veiled threat — that's just how I took it," he says.

Gillums is also a senior official with one of the country's largest veterans organizations, AMVETs. And he's the vice chairman of the VA's own caregiver advisory committee. He thinks there's an effort to shrink the program.

"I characterize it this way — beginning a purge," Gillums says.

Old wheelchairs and prosthetic legs sit in a corner of Former Staff Sgt. J.D. Williams' home.
Erica Brechtelsbauer for NPR 
He says getting the program fixed is crucial — because it's about to grow five or six times bigger.

Congress passed a law in May, the VA Mission Act, which begins expanding the program to caregivers for veterans who served before 9/11, starting with vets from World War II, Korea and the Vietnam era.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told NPR last month that improvements in the program are underway.

"I think we are close to fixing that. What was the Mission Act has done [is] provided us with more resources to go out into the community and find those families that we have not been supporting, from the Vietnam era in particular," Wilkie said.

Families like Paula and Chris Minger in Temecula, Calif. Chris suffered an abdominal wound in 1973, and complications led the VA to rate him 100 percent disabled. Paula has been taking care of him — without any VA stipend — for over 30 years. He's in and out of the hospital, and now he's often bedridden at home.

Former Staff Sgt. J.D. Williams practices shooting with his bow in his backyard on Dec. 11, 2018. Williams uses his love of hunting not only as therapy for himself but for other disabled combat veterans.Erica Brechtelsbauer for NPR 
"He's probably just the most amazing guy I've ever known in my life. His mind is so good. He's an avid reader. He does everything he can to make himself better," she says.

But now he's 68 and she's 67, and she'd love some help, so the caregiver expansion was great news.
"I'm thrilled by it — I can't wait," Minger says.

She'll have to wait, though. The timeline isn't clear for when the expansion will start.

Bipartisan sponsors in Congress said they wanted to make sure to get the program right before rolling it out — particularly an update to the IT system. Congressional sources said it could be one to three years before Vietnam vets get in - but that hasn't been communicated to caregivers like Paula Minger, who thought she might be able to apply this spring.

"I'm speechless," she said upon hearing the one to three year estimate. "Think how many will die before then."

Full Article & Source:
VA Still Arbitrarily Cutting Caregivers From Program, Even As It Aims To Expand

89-year-old woman's death at nursing home being investigated as homicide

The death of an 89-year-old woman at a York County nursing home has been ruled a homicide.

An investigation found Nancy Young got into an "unwitnessed" fight with another resident of Pleasant Nursing Home in Springettsbury Township on Dec. 8. As a result of the fight, Young fell and broke her hip.

Young died of complications from the fall on Dec. 15.

"Because the fall was a result of the altercation with another resident, Young's death is ruled a homicide. The coroner's definition of homicide can be broad, referencing death that occurs at the hands of another. This does not mean that the ruling of homicide has legal merit - that may or may not be determined by police, the DA or a court," reads a statement from the York County Coroner's Office.

Springettsbury Township Police have been notified of the death. They are investigating.

Full Article & Source:
89-year-old woman's death at nursing home being investigated as homicide

Management trust can often substitute for guardianship

Sandra Reed
Tina, an only child, who lives in New York City, is concerned that her mother Mary’s Alzheimer’s makes her vulnerable to manipulation concerning her finances. Although Tina speaks with her mother weekly, Mary’s living in Texas means mother and daughter are together in person infrequently. Because of this, Tina did not realize her mother’s mental condition early enough to insist she execute a power of attorney. By the time Tina recognized the extent of her mother’s deterioration, Mary no longer had capacity to create that power.

Now Tina is considering instituting a guardianship proceeding to have herself appointed as guardian of her mother’s estate. Is there an alternative Tina can employ without having to establish a guardianship for her mother?

Mary is financially independent and not the recipient of any needs-based federal or state benefits, so planning to prevent loss of these is unnecessary. The Texas Estates Code §1301, et seq., allows a court to establish a trust for an incapacitated individual if the trust would be in the person’s best interest. Tina is financially savvy and can easily handle her mother’s financial affairs, including the investment of Mary’s assets. Therefore, Tina could be the trustee for the management trust. With today’s online banking features, Tina should experience minimal difficulties in handing her mother’s finances from afar.

Since the incapacitated person must be the sole beneficiary of the trust, Tina may not be a beneficiary of the trust. As trustee, however, Tina can manage her mother’s assets without having to apply to the court for permission to make discretionary distributions, pay expenses and take other day-to-day actions.

If Tina were appointed her mother’s guardian, she would have a duty imposed by Texas Estates Code §1161 to keep all of her mother’s assets invested, except for those funds immediately necessary for her mother’s education, support and maintenance. As a guardian managing her mother’s estate, Tina would have to act as a person of “ordinary prudence, discretion and intelligence.” She would be required to consider her mother’s probable income and increased value of the assets; safety of capital; anticipated costs of support; her mother’s age, education, current income, net worth, liabilities, and ability to earn additional income; the nature of the ward’s estate; and any other resources reasonably available.

As Trustee of the §1301 management trust, Tina can choose whether it is wise to invest certain assets, because the estates code provides very little restriction on the trustee. This increased flexibility is a distinct advantage, particularly in today’s volatile investment environment.

Tina will have to file an application for creation of a management trust established in the Texas probate court with jurisdiction and venue over her mother’s estate. However, once the court establishes the management, Tina will not have to obtain the court’s permission for actions as she would with a guardianship. This substantially decreases the cost of securing control over and protection of her mother’s assets.

Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm in Fort Worth. She lives in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain.

Full Article & Source:
Management trust can often substitute for guardianship

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

No Time to Lose: Ideas for Improving Guardianship In NYS

Photo by Steve Buissinne (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

The evolution, realities and need for reform of New York State’s Guardianship Law

“Only those with a calcified heart could have read the recent New York Times artcle, I’m Petitioning…for the Return of My Life, without becoming heartsick and concerned,” commented Risa Breckman, Executive Director of the NYC Elder Abuse Center, after having read the December 7, 2018 article. This New York times article motivated NYCEAC to publish this blog focusing on New York State’s guardianship law.

In some cases of elder abuse, the drastic intervention of requesting a guardian is sometimes deemed to be in the best interest of the victim. In New York state, an overhaul of Article 81 of the state’s Mental Hygiene Law was aimed at providing a more flexible, individualized approach for incapacitated individuals older than 18 years of age. It limited guardians to only those legal powers required to satisfy personal or financial care needs and mandated that courts consider alternatives to guardianship.

The February 2018 podcast Guardians of New York, hosted by New York State Watch’s David Lombardo, highlights ways in which New York’s current guardianship is now plagued by a lack of resources, shortage of guardians and court examiners, and outdated and inconsistent data methods. The podcast features an interview with Jean Callahan, head of the Brooklyn Neighborhood Office of the Legal Aid Society and former director of The Guardianship Project at the Vera Institute of Justice. It also includes comments, such as the one below, made at a New York Senate roundtable discussion in January 2018.
“By 2030 … there will be more 80-year-olds here than 5-year-olds,” New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Diamond stated during the January roundtable. “We are not prepared to care for and handle what’s coming soon.”
After considering the challenges of the state’s system, Judge Diamond and other attendees brainstormed such ideas as pilot programs testing local guardianships and strengthening the court examiner system.
Callahan also expressed optimism. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and I think that our statute is actually really a strong statute. We just need to stick to it a little better.”
Below are highlights of the main issues mentioned in the podcast.
Broader and More Diverse Pool of Available Guardians for People with Low or No Assets
New York needs a broader and more diverse pool of available guardians, said John Holt, the Vera Institute’s Deputy Director of Legal Services.
“It’s important that we make sure that good guardianship from the enforcement end doesn’t get reduced to merely making sure that the fiduciary duties of a guardian are kept,” said Holt in remarks during the January roundtable discussion. “The quality of life aspects are critically important to good guardianship, but also the most difficult to gauge, particularly in the format of an annual report or the other metrics we currently use in New York to measure whether or not a guardian is performing adequately.”
New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Diamond agrees that it’s hard to get quality guardians especially for people with little to no assets. This shortage is one of the main reasons that brought the January 2018 round table discussion in the first place.
Improved Monitoring, Centralized Reporting and Data Collection
Improved monitoring is required to ensure that Article 81 of the state’s Mental Hygiene Law is being applied only to individuals who need it.

Centralized reporting and data collection would streamline the process and make it easier for prospective guardians to serve, said Callahan.

Minnesota, for instance, has a searchable statewide database and online portal where individuals can search cases and guardians/conservators can upload their inventory and annual reports.
“I don’t think we can really, fully appreciate the scope of the problem until we have better data,” Callahan also said in the podcast interview.
Compensation for Lawyers, Court Examiners and an Increase in Funding Agencies
Lawyers are refusing to accept cases because of the time involved and lack of compensation from wards with no or low income and assets, said several discussion participants. A basic guardianship can take 50 to 100 hours, by one estimate, with a commitment that can last for years, and no sanctions exist for lawyers who refuse cases.

New York also needs more support for court examiners who review the annual reports of guardians and a greater public awareness of guardianship and other options, speakers said.
There is often no money to pay for lawyers or court examiners, and the problem will reach crisis proportions unless action is taken, said New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Diamond, a member of the New York State Advisory Committee on Guardianship Matters.
In addition, Jean Callahan believes that there are not enough service providers and funding agencies to connect people with these services.
It would “go a long way” to fund agencies currently doing quality work, said Jean Callahan.
– By NYCEAC’s Elder Justice Dispatch Team: Risa Breckman, Cara Kenien and Nathalie Perez

Full Article & Source:
No Time to Lose: Ideas for Improving Guardianship In NYS

Judge Approves Guardian Ad Litem Appointment for Media Mogul Sumner Redstone

Executive chairman and CEO of Viacom and CBS Corporation Sumner Redstone attends a ceremony honoring him with the 2,467th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 30, 2012 in Hollywood, California.
A Los Angeles judge Monday named a longtime probate attorney to be the guardian ad litem for 95-year-old Sumner Redstone in trial of the billionaire's upcoming litigation against a former live-in companion, subject to the nominee's acceptance of the job.

Attorneys for both Redstone and his former companion, Manuela Herzer, told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan that the appointment of Samuel Ingham III -- who has represented singer Britney Spears since 2008, when she was placed under a conservatorship after exhibiting bizarre behavior -- was acceptable to them. Ingham's role would be to help protect Redstone's interests leading up to and through the trial, given the former media mogul's severe speech impediment.

Cowan also found that Redstone's grandson, Tyler Korff, had the legal standing to bring a petition asking for the appointment of a guardian. Herzer's lawyers maintained Korff lacked standing to file the request, but Cowan said Korff had a legitimate interest in knowing that his grandfather's wishes were communicated to his attorneys.

Cowan also denied Herzer's request that Redstone be examined by an independent medical expert, but said her lawyers could raise the issue again later if the course of the litigation warranted them doing so.

Herzer's lawyer, Ronald Richards, said he is considering asking a state appeals court to hear Cowan's rulings. He noted that Cowan said he did not view iPhone video footage shot by Redstone's late film producer friend, Arnold Kopelson, at Redstone's mansion on Jan. 28. Herzer's lawyers maintained it was obvious from the video that Redstone has severe cognitive issues.

"I am concerned he didn't even watch the video,'' Richards said.

"There is a multiplicity of legal issues.''

Kopelson died Oct. 8 at his Beverly Hills home at age 83.

Herzer maintains that Redstone's October 2015 revision of his family trust deprived her of her claims to $50 million in cash and to Redstone's Beverly Park mansion, which is valued at $20 million. In April, Redstone filed a petition asking that the trust amendment be validated by a judge, and trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 14.

Herzer's lawyers maintain that Redstone lacked the mental capacity in April to make the trust amendment.

Redstone has another open case against Herzer that alleges elder abuse and seeks to recover assets he maintains she wrongfully extracted from him. The case is set for trial in February 2020, but Redstone's lawyers are asking for a date in 2019 because of their client's age.

Herzer has also sued Redstone's daughter, Shari Redstone, alleging she convinced the nurses serving her father to turn him against Herzer, who was forced to move out of his home in 2015 and deprived of assets she claims belong to her.

Trial of Herzer's suit is scheduled for December 2019.

Lawyers for the former chairman of CBS and Viacom have argued their client is not mentally incapacitated, but only physically limited because of his communication problems. His lawyers said he answers questions by writing his responses on an iPad.

In his petition, Korff maintained that Redstone "suffers from a number of health conditions, including most notably a severe speech impairment that limits his ability to communicate verbally.''

Redstone's lawyers filed court papers stating they supported Korff's petition.

Herzer was not present in court, but sitting in the courtroom were former District Attorney Steve Cooley, who said previously that he sees "intriguing issues'' in Herzer's case, and Gary Snyder, who said he is a cousin of Redstone.

Snyder briefly addressed the court after Cowan told the lawyers that he had received an email from him. Snyder declined to reveal the contents of the email after the hearing.

Full Article & Source:
Judge Approves Guardian Ad Litem Appointment for Media Mogul Sumner Redstone

Man home from hospice robbed just before he dies

FORT WORTH, Tex. - It's a crime police in Fort Worth, Texas are calling "the lowest of the lows."

Startled and scared, Suzy Alummuttil found a strange man in her home on Dec. 10. The 83-year-old was lying on a hospital bed in her living room. Next to her, her husband John who had just returned from hospice care.

"He saw it, but he could not talk," said Allummuttil.

She cried as she recounted how her dying husband watched as the man ransacked their home.

Surveillance video shows him pushing their door in, left open for the hospice nurse they were expecting.

The man searched the house until Alummuttil tried to call 911 and her son for help. She said the man walked over to her and tried to take the phone away, but she refused.

The intruder left with keys to a Chevy Silverado. He had driven the pickup truck away by the time Alummuttil's son arrived at the house. The son was panicked after getting the call from his mother.

"All I could hear was some sort of a struggle is what I can best explain it as," he explained.

He arrived to find them scared but not harmed. The day after the robbery, husband and father John Alummuttil died.

"It's also one of his last memories, assuming that he was not really cognizant. We had a hard week last week," the son said.

Unbelievably enough, the doorbell camera that caught the suspect's face was installed just two days before the robbery.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Judge Rules Sumner Redstone is Incapacitated and Needs Independent Legal Guardian

Media mogul Sumner Redstone is set to be the latest client of Samuel Ingham, who previously served as a court-appointed conservator for pop star Britney Spears.

Redstone, the controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom, was ruled incapacitated by a Los Angeles Judge on Monday. Ingham was appointed as an independent legal guardian.

The ruling came as part of ongoing litigation about Redstone’s trust. Manuela Herzer, a former companion of Redstone’s, filed a lawsuit to be reinstated in his will after she was written out in 2016. That lawsuit has been withdrawn, but earlier this year Redstone filed to preserve the 2016 change.

Herzer’s lawyers have argued that Sumner Redstone’s daughter, Shari Redstone, is directing the litigation, and lawyers for Sumner Redstone and his grandson, Tyler Korff, asked for a review of his competence to prevent appeals on those grounds at a later date.

The judge ruled that Sumner Redstone was incapacitated on the grounds of a severe speech impairment, but specified that the ruling had no bearing on his mental competence.

A lawyer for Sumner Redstone said the ruling would not affect his role at National Amusements Inc, which owns a controlling share in CBS and Viacom. CBS sued National Amusements earlier this year in an attempt to wrest back control from the Redstones, and prevent a merger with Viacom, which is favored by Shari Redstone.

But the ouster of CBS CEO Les Moonves earlier this year following sexual harassment allegations may have opened a path to push through the merger. Moonves was one of the merger’s biggest opponents at the network.

Full Article & Source:
Judge Rules Sumner Redstone is Incapacitated and Needs Independent Legal Guardian

Grenadian American lawyer indicted for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from retired couple

(CMC) –A Grenadian American lawyer in Brooklyn has been indicted on a grand larceny charge for allegedly withholding proceeds from the US$1.7 million sale of a building in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn owned by a retired couple.

“This defendant was trusted with funds that he was obligated to give to his clients,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Friday.

“Instead, he allegedly betrayed that trust and kept $650,000 of his retired clients’ money. We will now seek to hold him accountable for this alleged theft.”

The District Attorney identified the lawyer as Gerald Douglas, 50.

Douglas was also arraigned on Thursday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun with second-degree grand larceny.

He was ordered held on bail of $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash and to return to court on February 6.

Douglas faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Gonzalez said according to the investigation, between August 2016 and March 2017, Douglas represented a couple in the sale of their nine-unit building at 11A Spencer Place in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Gonzalez alleged that Douglas represented the victims, a married couple, 70 and 71 years old, at the closing of the sale of their property on September 12, 2016, “at which time he received checks totaling nearly US$1.5 million, which, less the down payment, represented the balance owed.”

“It is alleged that the defendant kept the funds, depositing them into his escrow account,” the district attorney said. “He was also in possession of a down payment of US$170,000 that he received in August 2016.”

At the end of October 2016, Gonzalez said Douglas sent the victims a check for US$200,000 and a week later wired them US$600,000.

In March 2017, Gonzalez said Douglas gave the couple another check for US$100,000.

“Despite repeated and urgent requests from the victims, the defendant failed to turn over the balance of the funds, less his legal fee and a broker’s fee, which was approximately US$650,000,” Gonzalez said.

Full Article & Source:
Grenadian American lawyer indicted for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from retired couple

Tue 8 AM | Disability Group Wants Oregon's Guardianship Law Changed

No one wants to reach a place in life where a guardian is appointed to make decisions on her or his behalf.  Guardianship situations arise when the law determines that people are unable to care or make decisions for themselves.

Under guardianship, they can no longer make decisions about their care or their finances. Disability Rights Oregon has worked with the legislature to add some safeguards to Oregon's guardianship law, but DRO still feels some further refinements are needed, and will ask for them when the legislature convenes next month.

Jan Friedman from DRO visits with details.

Full Article & Source:
Tue 8 AM | Disability Group Wants Oregon's Guardianship Law Changed

Monday, December 17, 2018

American parents are spending billions on their adult children

From Ashton Kutcher to Bill Gates, there's a growing list of notable figures who say they will not be leaving an inheritance for their children. For the average American, there might not be much to leave behind when faced with the choice between supporting adult children or saving for retirement.

Parents are choosing to cover the costs of groceries, rent and cellphone bills for their adult kids.

A recent study from Merrill Lynch found that 79 percent of parents continue to serve as the "family bank" for their grown-up children, paying for big-ticket items like college and weddings, but also for smaller, everyday expenses. Parents of adult children contribute $500 billion annually -- twice the amount that they invest in their own retirement accounts.

Sixty-three percent of parents said in the study they have sacrificed their financial security for the sake of their children.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 34.1 percent of people aged 18 to 34 lived under their parents' roof in 2015. That's up from 26 percent in 2005. One in four young people living in their parents' home neither go to school nor work. 
Denver tax and estate planning attorney Denise Hoffman White worries that propping up adult kids today hurts them tomorrow.

"You start to see adult children who are not being put in a position where they can be successful in their own right because they have a crutch which is different than an opportunity," said Hoffman White, who tries to train clients who are parents to talk to their kids about money the same way they teach manners or good grades.

Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, noted another possible outcome of supporting adult children.

"If you get to a point where truly your retirement savings or savings just in general is completely depleted to support your kids, ultimately your kids may actually have to provide financial support for you later on in life as well," she said.

Gary and Sandy Cooper's children may be grown up far beyond their years.

"You want to give … but sometimes giving them isn't actually helping them," said Gary Cooper, a private wealth adviser at UBS Financial Services. "Our job is to help them, not do for them, right?"

The Coopers try to teach life-long lessons in budgeting and money discipline with things as simple as a box of Oreos.

"You're welcome to eat them all tonight or you can allot them out and learn to make them last until the next time we go buy the next box of Oreos," said Sandy Cooper. "It's a concept of saving, of budgeting, of understanding -- that feeling of delayed gratification."
The Coopers  CBS News
The Cooper kids have learned some lessons.

When 16-year-old Kyle wanted to buy the family car, he paid for it by maintaining a $1,000-a-year high school academic scholarship.

"I think the lesson was regardless of the money, if you work hard for something then you will be rewarded, whether it be by some physical thing or some emotional-- you'll be rewarded for hard work."

Kyle does part-time jobs like tutoring and shoveling snow to pay for extras like gas.

Nolan, 14, already knows his parents will only fund four years of college. After that, he's on his own.

"So, if my parents start us while we're young with the expectation that we have to work to get what we really want, that later in life we'll be able to prosper in that sort of environment," he said.

At age 11, Sofie is so financially farsighted she is already saving money for the apartment she will rent after college.

"Everybody is going to reach a challenge in their life where they can't ask for help, and they need to be able to do it by themselves, and by our parents making us grow up this way, it's going to help us be able to overcome that more than somebody who just gets stuff," said Sofie.

Sandy Cooper hopes these lessons will fortify her children for the future.

"So I think they'll have the intrinsic pride and motivation to deal with anything that gets thrown their way," she said.

Raising financially independent kids these days may be about teaching an old-fashioned lesson: earn before you spend.

Full Article & Source:
American parents are spending billions on their adult children

Manitowoc Chamber Notebook: Corporate Guardians, based in Two Rivers, looks to expand

Corporate Guardians of Northeast Wisconsin, Inc., is a locally owned and operated agency that provides services related to guardianship throughout the state of Wisconsin. The agency began providing services in Manitowoc County in 2006 as a result of a request by the Manitowoc County Aging and Disability Resource Center. 

Since that time, the agency has grown to serve all counties throughout Wisconsin. In addition to guardianship, it also assists those who require support with services closely related to the agency's area of expertise, including: case management, guardianship consulting, power of attorney, trustee, special administrations and personal representative for estates. 

Presently, the agency works out of three offices: a corporate office in Two Rivers and two satellite offices in Beaver Dam and Richland Center. It has plans for expansion and expects to open several more satellite offices in the next several years.

The agency has a team of 16 highly trained professionals who exemplify positive, solution-driven leadership. The team feels passionately about providing the highest quality of service. The agency says it believes "in promoting independence, encouraging financial responsibility, reflecting professional attitudes and working towards positive, solution-driven outcomes."

The owners of CGNEW are a husband-and-wife team, Kay and Brian Schroeder. Kay and Brian believe in providing exceptional service and filling the gap for those whose family may be unable or unwilling to serve in these vitally important roles. They are committed to ensuring this excellence through continually striving to do better and be better. The CGNEW team is provided "out-of-the-box" training opportunities in an effort to help them to be their best selves.

Agency team members take part in various community outreach programs, including Kiwanis, The Chamber of Manitowoc County, Local I-Teams, WINGS (Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders), The Mental Health Coalition Board, Manitowoc Co-Op, Memory Cafés, The Alzheimer's Association, Wisconsin Guardianship Association and National Guardianship Association. Additionally, its members have been honored to take an active role in several committees throughout the state whose goals are to better the guardianship system in Wisconsin.

In serving vulnerable individuals, it is Corporate Guardians of Northeast Wisconsin's passion and mission to ensure all individuals in need of guardianship services, trustees, estate representatives and power of attorneys have access to the highest quality services from its agency and beyond.

"We continue to strive for excellence in our field and collaborate with various guardianship stakeholders to pursue positive change throughout our state," the agency said.

For more information, visit 

The Chamber of Manitowoc County, with its publishing of The Chamber Notebook, provides space for Chamber members to present information about their business. The publishing of this information is in no way intended as showing preference for that business by The Chamber.

Full Article & Source:
Manitowoc Chamber Notebook: Corporate Guardians, based in Two Rivers, looks to expand

We Say Goodbye to Dorothy Luck: A true advocate for guardianship reforms

The recent passing of Dorothy Luck, will be sad news for the many people she worked to help free from this human trafficking of the elderly.  Having freed herself from one of these so called guardianships, Dorothy spent the remainder of her time on earth helping to try and reform this insidious system.  She was described by those close to her as “a true advocate and wonderful friend”.

Dorothy traveled many times to the Texas State Capital and worked with many advocates for guardianship reforms.  She never feared those who forced her into this injustice and she accomplished freeing herself from those who used her for her wealth.  Her guardianship was closed and her rights were restored.  She accomplished this by exposing what Guardianship was truly about, money, as it was much better protected than she was, yet many court appointees profited from her wealth.  She tells it like it is in the story below.

Imagine losing control of the most basic decisions in your life: the right to speak for yourself, how to spend your money or even what medicines you should be taking. Dorothy Luck was in a dispute with family over trust money. After a court-ordered medical exam, she was declared incompetent to make big financial decisions and ended up a ward of the state. In this excerpt from America Tonight, Sheila MacVicar investigates shocking cases of elderly Americans at the mercy of court-appointed guardians.

Thank you Dorothy for all your dedication and efforts on behalf of others.  You will be dearly missed!

Full Article & Source:
We Say Goodbye to Dorothy Luck: A true advocate for guardianship reforms

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Loneliest Generation: Americans, More Than Ever, Are Aging Alone

Danny Miner, a 66-year-old retired chemical plant supervisor, spends most days alone in his Tooele, Utah, apartment, with “Gunsmoke” reruns to keep him company and a phone that rarely rings.

Old age wasn’t supposed to feel this lonely. Mr. Miner married five times, each bride bringing the promise of lifelong companionship. Three unions ended in divorce. Two wives died. Now his legs ache and his balance is faulty, and he’s stopped going to church or meeting friends at the Marine Corps League, a group for former Marines. “I get a little depressed from time to time,” he says.

Baby boomers are aging alone more than any generation in U.S. history, and the resulting loneliness is a looming public health threat. About one in 11 Americans age 50 and older lacks a spouse, partner or living child, census figures and other research show. That amounts to about eight million people in the U.S. without close kin, the main source of companionship in old age, and their share of the population is projected to grow.

'Being alone isn't that bad of a deal, but it can be boring,' said Danny Miner, adding, after a pause, 'lonely.' Photos: Briana Scroggins for The Wall Street Journal(3)
Policy makers are concerned this will strain the federal budget and undermine baby boomers’ health. Researchers have found that loneliness takes a physical toll, and is as closely linked to early mortality as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day or consuming more than six alcoholic drinks a day. Loneliness is even worse for longevity than being obese or physically inactive.

Along with financial issues including high debt and declining pensions, social factors such as loneliness are another reason boomers are experiencing more difficult retirement years than previous generations.

The lack of social contacts among older adults costs Medicare $6.7 billion a year, mostly from spending on nursing facilities and hospitalization for those who have less of a network to help out, according to a study last year by Harvard University, Stanford University and AARP.

“The effect of isolation is extraordinarily powerful,” says Donald Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “If we want to achieve health for our population, especially vulnerable people, we have to address loneliness.”

The Trump administration is looking at expanding faith-based partnerships to combat isolation among seniors, says U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging Lance Robertson. Earlier this year, the British government appointed its first minister of loneliness to tackle the issue.

The baby boomers prized individuality and generally had fewer children and ended marriages in greater numbers than previous generations. More than one in four boomers is divorced or never married, census figures show. About one in six lives alone.

The University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, which has tracked American attitudes since 1972, asked respondents four years ago how often they lacked companionship, felt left out and felt isolated from others. Baby boomers said they experienced these feelings with greater frequency than any other generation, including the older “silent generation.”  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
The Loneliest Generation: Americans, More Than Ever, Are Aging Alone