Sunday, February 11, 2018

Seventh Circuit Interprets "Ambiguous" Special Needs Trust, Amid Background of Fraud Claims

On February 7, 2018, the Seventh Circuit ruled as a matter of law that language in documentation attempting to create a Special Needs Trust was ambiguous.  In its decision in National Foundation for Special Needs Integrity, Inc. v. Reese, the Court resolved the ambiguity in favor of the children of the Missouri woman who had established the trust, using proceeds of her personal injury settlement. 

The Court, with jurisdiction that appeared to be based on diversity, ordered an Indiana foundation that was named as the trustee of the account to reimburse the estate of the deceased Missouri woman.  The amount awarded is more than $243K, plus prejudgment interest.  The decision by itself is interesting, especially as it touches on issues such as the intention of the settlor, a defense of laches and the roles of a law office or others in counseling the Missouri woman, who was reportedly unable to read, on how to complete the trust documents.  Even more interesting is news indicating that the foundation was created by "a suspended Indiana attorney facing charges that he stole from other clients' trusts." See The Indiana Lawyer's report on Seventh Circuit Reverses, Orders Special Needs Trust Group to Pay Estate.

In the lawsuit, the foundation argued it was entitled to keep the funds designated in the trust, based on a variety of theories including laches; the laches defense failed when the court, in an extended footnote, observed there was no evidence the foundation ever notified the woman's personal representative of outstanding trust amounts, allowing the PR to believe that any proceeds had been used to reimburse the state for Medicaid expenditures.  Instead, the court concluded the foundation simply transferred portions of the mother's account into other accounts, which might have been permitted under certain guidelines, if it had been clear the trust was intended to be a "pooled" special needs trust.   

For another "great and timely" discussion (I have that description on good authority!) of the Foundation v. Reese case, see Arizona lawyer Robert Fleming's newsletter here.  As Robert says, "the background story . . . reinforces the need for transparency and disclosure in pooled special needs trust administration -- and in fact, in all special needs trust management."

February 11, 2018 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Medicaid, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Webinar on Multidisciplinary Teams

Mark your calendars for this webinar from the Elder Justice Initiative scheduled for February 22, 2018 at 2 est, on MDT Member Recruitment and Retention: Building Trust and Traction  Here are the learning objectives from the website

Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding the best practices for recruitment and ongoing engagement of team members.
  • Exploring real-world examples of relationship- and trust-building strategies.
  • Discovering new MDT Guide and Toolkit documents, including a recruitment letter and statement of need.

 

 

Click here to register.

February 7, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Programs/CLEs, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 26, 2018

New Mexico Legislature Considers Comprehensive Reform of Guardianship Laws, Following Fraud & Embezzlement Scandals

In a bipartisan effort, two New Mexico state senators have introduced Senate Bill 19 -- some 187 pages in length -- in an effort to completely overhaul the state's laws governing guardianships in New Mexico.  The proposed changes, which largely track the Uniform Law Commission's recommendations for "Guardianship, Conservatorship and Other Protective Arrangements," will make such proceedings open to the public and require more notification of family members about the process.  The reform follows high-profile scandals involving two companies that are alleged to have "embezzled millions of dollars of client funds," while appointed-guardians also sometimes restricted family access to their wards.

Hearings on the bill began on January 25, 2018, during the regular 30-day session of the legislature.  From the Albuquerque Journal's coverage on the reforms:

Under the bill pending at the Roundhouse, legal guardians would not be able to bar visitors – both in person and via letters and emails – unless they could show the visit would pose significant risk to the individual or if authorized to do so by a court order.

 

[State Senator and Co-Sponsor of SB 19 Jim White] said the legislation does not call for any additional funding to be appropriated, though it could shift some money from the state guardianship commission to the courts for administrative duties. His bill is the only bill filed so far on the issue of guardianships, though others could be introduced in the coming weeks.

 

Meanwhile, the proposed law would also permit bonds to be required of conservators – a protection already proposed by the New Mexico guardianship commission and recently put into place by district judges in Albuquerque.

For more on the criminal charges filed against executives at Ayudando Gaurdians Inc. and Desert State Life Management, read Who Guards the Guardians? by Colleen Heild. 

January 26, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A History of Public Pensions and Corruption in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Attorney Charles Shields and former  Dickinson Law Librarian [now West Virginia Law Librarian] Mark Podvia have teamed to present a provocative history of public pensions and public corruption, using Pennsylvania as the focus.  The first of their two-part series is available in the January 2018 issue of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly.  For an overview, the authors write:

On June 12, 2017, Pennsylvania Governor  Tom Wolf signed a bill authorizing significant reform of the Commonwealth's public pension system.  The law will replace the current traditional pension system with three 401(k) style options for future state employees and public school teachers.   This is the first article in what will be a two-art series on the laws regulating public pensions and pension forfeitures in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  This part will examine the historical development of public pensions and provide an overview of the public corruption in the Commonwealth [tied to these pension systems]. The second part will examine the adoption and application of the Pennsylvania pension forfeiture law.   

To provide more incentive for our readers to track down this disturbing history, here's a concluding line from part one of the series:

The combination of a corrupt political system with public pension funds -- ranging from local retirement systems, small but with little oversight, to large statewide funds -- created a situation open to graft and corruption..... 

January 23, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Patient Dumping-By the Health Care Provider

There's been a lot of buzz after that video surfaced of a hospital patient left at a bus stop just in a hospital gown. NPR ran a follow up story, Why Was A Baltimore Patient Discharged At A Bus Stop In Just A Gown?  The president and CEO of the hospital in a subsequent press conference indicated that the event was isolated and those involved would answer for their actions.  There is a lot we don't know about the story (and some we may never know because of privacy issues). CBS then ran a story from the mother of the patient. In the story Mother calls hospital "callous and heartless" for leaving her daughter in the cold, the mother explains that her daughter, the patient, has mental illness.

How is this different, if at all, than granny dumping, where a family member might abandon an elder relative at the emergency room? I did a quick google search to see if I turned up any recent articles on granny dumping, and didn't really find much, except for this one from a year ago, Japanese people who can't afford elder care are reviving a practice known as 'granny dumping'.

What's your take? Is this not specifically happening much, if at all, in the US any more?

 

January 18, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Challenge of Finding Safe & Effective Pain-Killers for Older Adults

Over the holidays, unfortunately I had the experience of learning more about how older consumers struggle to understand what safe and effective treatments are available.  In this instance, my mother, in her 90s, was experiencing overwhelming back pain.   She has a long-history of osteoporosis (and it runs in the family on the female side, so my sister and I pay particular attention to this issue!) and in the last few weeks without any known "accident," she had begun to find it almost impossible to walk without pain.  She's not the complaining type, and, having been raised by parents who were Christian Scientists, she tends to follow a "mind over matter" approach to this kind of problem.  But, by Sunday last week, it was no longer possible to pretend she wasn't deeply uncomfortable.

We began another health care odyssey.  Some of the steps we had already learned from past "holiday" experiences with my parents, including calling the "non-emergency" 911 number to get an experienced EMT evaluation of her status in the home, and, if necessary, a transport from her home to the emergency room.  Then, recognizing that New Year's Eve is probably not the best night (if such a thing even exists) to spend in the local hospital's ER, we decided to go early in the morning.  

Five hours after our arrival in the ER, we left with a new "LSO" back brace, instructions on how to use it, and prescriptions for a different walker and a new pain medication.  On the latter point, we informed the ER physician of the fact Mom had not done well on narcotic pain relievers in the past ("why are those ants crawling on the walls") but we were told the drug prescribed was like a very strong Ibuprofen, but in a formulation that would not interact with the blood thinner she was on or her pacemaker.

We duly stopped at the pharmacy on the way home, and I signed my life away in order to pick up her prescription as she was unable to walk in to get it herself.  When we got home,  there were two documents in the bag with the prescription, including what I would call a typical "product insert" that looks like a page from the Physician's Desk Reference and a second sheet entitled "Directions for Use."  The top of the instructions warned, "This is a narcotic drug and not recommended for the relief of pain in...."  And then the list of disqualifying conditions included at least 3 of my mother's age-related conditions.  Yikes!  

My sister and I are  not usually intimidated by product inserts, but here the instructions seemed directly at odds with our concerns about narcotics for mom.  Everything we found on the internet only made us more confused and worried.  

By this time it was late on New Year's Eve, her pain was increasing, and we knew we couldn't persuade her to go back to the ER and her primary care physician wasn't on call.  The bottle said "every 6 hours."  The ER physician had orally told us "every 6 to 8 hours," and finally we knew we had no choice -- her pain was real and we started using it at 12 hour intervals, gradually moving down to 8 hour intervals before she seemed to have real relief.  It was another 5 days before her very kind primary care physician could squeeze us in for an appointment to have a more complete conversation -- and the good news is that we are now more comfortable about a longer range plan.

So on the heels of that multi-day experience, I was very interested in an article I spotted for my airplane trip home to Pennsylvania from Arizona. Phoenix Magazine had a detailed feature story in their January 2018 issue on "Pharma Chameleon," reporting on the arrest for fraud and racketeering charges of INSYS  Therapeutics founder, a "billionaire executive" in Phoenix, well-known for his work on painkiller medicines.  The history of this executive has nothing to do with my mother's pain relief medicine, but it was definitely a reminder that the pharmaceutical industry is deeply involved in pursuit of the "next" generation of painkillers.  And, of course, this article contrasts with the recent news that a different drug company is dropping R & D for a dementia drug.  Pain-killers are still "in," and dementia drugs apparently are "out."  

So, I recommend the Phoenix Magazine article!  I was particularly struck by this paragraph:    

In November, Kapoor [the Phoenix-based INSYS executive arrested by the feds] pleaded not guilty to all charges and is currently awaiting trial, along with the six other former executives, who pleaded not guilty last January. All have severed ties with INSYS, which continues to do business. In July, it received FDA approval for a new drug, Syndros, a synthetic form of THC, the psychoactive component found in cannabis, to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and loss of appetite in AIDS patients. As it did with Subsys, the company is looking into ways to manufacture the drug as a sublingual spray. Under Kapoor, the company donated $500,000 to the effort to defeat the measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use on Arizona’s 2016 general election ballot, paving the way for the synthetic substitute.

January 8, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Growth of Mediation Programs in Orphans' and Probate Courts

Last Saturday, I had the unique privilege to sit in on a day of Advanced Probate Mediation Training, a component of a larger ADR program at the Orphans/ Court for Prince George's County, Maryland.  The attendees included long-serving mediators from other court divisions, judges and attorneys and individuals interested in a formal mediation process for probate cases. The facilitators for the training were Mala Malhotra-Ortiz and Cecilia Paizs, very experienced educators and ADR specialists. Chief Judge Wendy Cartwright welcomed us all and made it clear that mediation, collaborative probate and structured settlements are three vital programs for the probate division.  Certainly this is part of a trend favoring ADR, now applying to post-death disputes. 

My strongest impression of the day was the warm and positive demeanor of the folks I met, especially as they were giving up most of their Saturday.  I had the feeling that they were eager to share this experience.

Part of the training involved role plays -- and everyone in the room took the exercises seriously.  In Maryland, a challenge to a will is called a "caveat" proceeding, and a threshold question for court administrators is whether a specific dispute seems to be a good candidate for referral to mediation.  

In one exercise, I played a minor role (a "grandchild") of the testator, in a fact pattern that involved two named beneficiaries, a biological child and a second beneficiary who wasn't a direct blood relation. The fact pattern was realistic, as both sides wanted "accountings" for pre-death expenses by those serving as the caregiver or  POA for the elderly testator before her death.  The dispute included a long-history of difficult family dynamics, and was realistic as there was a temptation for other family members to take sides with the primary disputants. We even had an "obstructionist" attorney as an assigned role, someone who was still advocating for the purely "legal" outcome during the mediation.  

The majority of the participants were also lawyers -- and I could quickly see how uneasy the fact pattern made some attorneys. One option for the mediated outcome was distinctly "nonlegal" -- i.e., permitting the parties to split the proceeds of the estate in a way that was not the same as the testator's directions in her will.   The facilitators did an excellent job in counseling the lawyers on how to change their thinking, so as to allow consensus to emerge for a final, written settlement agreement. The fact pattern also put us in the position of needing to think about whether there had been any pre-death elder exploitation, and if so, to discuss how mediators should handle the possibility of a "crime."

I know our law students are going to be very lucky to have Mala Malhotra-Ortiz join us at Dickinson Law in the near future as an adjunct professor.   And, by the way, for anyone interested in why probate courts are sometimes called  "orphans' courts," I recommend the Court's link above on the history of Orphans' Courts in Maryland. 

December 4, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 1, 2017

More on Nursing Homes and Disasters

We've been blogging about the fire at the SNF in Pennsylvania and the SNF in Florida during Irma.  Here's an update on the Florida SNF in South Florida. Health News Florida reports that 12 of the 14 deaths are being classified as homicides. 12 Of 14 Nursing Home Deaths After Irma Ruled Homicides  reports that

Authorities say the deaths of 12 of the 14 Florida nursing home patients who died after Hurricane Irma have been ruled homicides.

The Sun Sentinel reports that autopsy results from the Broward County medical examiner's office were released Wednesday.

No arrests have been made. Police spokeswoman Miranda Grossman says the investigation will continue and part of that will be determining who should be charged.

The article also notes that 2 deaths have been determined not to be related from the lack of air conditioning or electricity.

December 1, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Identity Theft and the IRS

Regular readers of this blog know that I will periodically post about identity theft, hacking, etc. even though not specifically elder law issues. With the end of the year looming, I thought it timely to write about a new report from the GAO,  Identity Theft: Improved Collaboration Could Increase Success of IRS Initiatives to Prevent Refund Fraud

The GAO website offers a podcast,  highlights,  recommendations, fast facts and the full report. Here are the highlights:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) launched an Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) pilot for the 2017 filing season. It aims to allow IRS, states, and tax preparation industry partners to quickly share information on identity theft (IDT) refund fraud. The ISAC pilot includes two components: an online platform run by IRS to communicate data on suspected fraud, and an ISAC Partnership, a collaborative organization comprised of IRS, states, and industry, which is intended to be the governance structure. As of November 2017, the ISAC had 48 members: 31 states (including full members and those receiving alerts only), 14 tax preparation companies, and 3 financial institutions. In addition, IRS is using a Rapid Response Team (RRT) in partnership with states and industry members to coordinate responses to IDT refund fraud incidents that pose a significant threat within 24 to 72 hours of being discovered. IRS deployed the RRT for six incidents in 2016 and once in 2017.GAO found that the ISAC pilot aligns with key aspects of all five leading practices for effective pilot design GAO previously identified, but none fully. For example, IRS has worked to incorporate stakeholder input, but its message about the ISAC's benefits has not fully reached states. Further, IRS does not have criteria for assessing whether the pilot's objectives have been met. Without this assessment and better alignment with leading practices, IRS, its partners, and Congress will have difficulty determining the effectiveness of the pilot and whether to implement it more broadly.

Given the number of folks whose personal identifying information was stolen in the Equifax hack, let's hope that the IRS efforts are effective. Stay tuned.

November 28, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Canadian Centre for Elder Law New Report on Vulnerable Investors

The Canadian Centre for Elder Law (CCEL) released a new report, Report On Vulnerable Investors: Elder Abuse, Financial Exploitation, Undue Influence And Diminished Mental Capacity, which can be downloaded as a pdf here. The report was a joint project between CCEL and FAIR (Canadian Foundation for Advancement of Investor  Rights). Here is the executive summary of the report

Canadian investment firms and their financial services representatives1 (hereinafter referred to as "financial services representatives" or simply "representatives") serve millions of vulnerable investors, many of whom are older Canadians. Vulnerable investors may be persons living in isolated, abusive or neglectful situations which can make them more likely to be subject to undue influence. They also may be persons with diminished mental capacity due to health issues, developmental disability, brain injury or other cognitive impairment. Such social vulnerabilities may be episodic, or long-term.2

Who is a Vulnerable Investor?

Older investors, persons with fluctuating or diminished mental capacity, and adults who are subject to undue influence or financial exploitation are collectively referred to in this report as vulnerable investors. This concept of vulnerability is often a contentious one. This report uses the term "vulnerable" to refer to social vulnerability, and does not ascribe vulnerability to older persons as an inherent personal characteristic.3 Rather, the term reflects an understanding that differing social conditions may make a person more or less vulnerable. Individual older investors may personally not be socially vulnerable. But as a group, older individuals may be subject to external conditionssuch as ageismthat negatively affect them. This report specifically notes that ageism can make older people broadly vulnerable as a class, even while individual older adults may not be, or identify, as particularly vulnerable themselves.

This report adopts the core aspects of the Quebec definition of vulnerable investor. A vulnerable investor is a person who is in a vulnerable situation, who is of the age of majority, and lacks an ability to request or obtain assistance, either temporarily or permanently, due to one or more factors such as a physical, cognitive or psychological limitation, illness, injury or handicap.

It is important, and a goal of this report, to highlight the increased social vulnerability risks associated with aging and to raise awareness that aging life-course benchmarks may trigger a representative to start ensuring that increased appropriate protections or standards are in place. In this way, the issue of older investors will be drawn to the fore, without supporting the myth that all old people are vulnerable and in need of protection.


 
 

November 26, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 20, 2017

University of Missouri Law Professor David English Presents Guardianship Reforms to New Mexico

University of Missouri Law Professor David English, who is part of a team working on new Guardianship Law proposals for the Uniform Law Commission, was reportedly in Albuquerque New Mexico recently.  His appearance is in response to one of the latest regional scandals in the U.S. about the use of so-called "professional" guardians.  See here and here for more on the recent history in New Mexico, including the summer 2017 federal indictment of key individuals .

According to news reports, part of Professor English's concern is about the dangers that can attend unnecessary secrecy about proceedings: 

“What struck me when I first looked at New Mexico, I was very surprised as a general matter that guardianship proceedings were not open to the public. That’s not consistent with how most other states address the issue,” he told the guardianship commission on Friday.

 

In New Mexico, guardianship proceedings are sequestered and closed to the public. The only publicly available record is a court docket sheet identifying the parties involved and a general list of the actions and filings in the case. But, in Missouri, where English lives, the public can attend hearings in which judges decide whether a guardian should be appointed for an incapacitated person. Typically, those placed under guardianship or conservatorships are elderly, those with dementia or Alzheimer’s or others who need help with their decision-making or finances.

 

He said the intent of the new reform laws would be to open guardianship proceedings to the public, unless the person for whom the guardianship is being considered asks for a closed hearing or a judge decides otherwise. “It’s very important that the public have some access to what’s going on in guardianship cases,” English told the guardianship commission. “At least be able to attend the hearing.”

For more on the hearings and possible changes in New Mexico laws and procedures, see New Reforms in Guardian Law Presented by the Albuquerque Journal's investigative reporter, Colleen Heid.  

November 20, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Veterans Victims of Financial Elder Abuse

Boots on the Ground - Fighting Financial Abuse of Elder Veterans explains the Veterans Benefits Protection Project. "One form of financial abuse targets elder veterans and their families, promising to assist them with qualifying for veterans benefits through the sale of unsuitable financial products and irrevocable living trusts. These scams threaten the health, safety, and financial well-being of thousands of elder veterans across the country."  The project started "outreach and website last Veterans Day to share reliable resources for veterans and professionals working with veterans. Since then, the IOA has conducted 14 trainings to over 725 individuals, notified and trained administrators at all licensed residential care facilities and senior centers in San Francisco about the scam, and received an Aging Innovation Award from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging."

Here's an explanation about the scam

Financial predators have been making large commissions by selling medium-and-high wealth seniors unnecessary or unsuitable financial products or services. They tell the seniors that in order to get the benefit, they need to “appear impoverished,” and they can accomplish that by converting their assets into their “veteran-friendly estate plan.” Seniors who follow their advice end up with irrevocable trusts or financial products that tie up their money so they cannot access it for the rest of their lives, while the predators walk away with large commissions or service fees for their “help.”

This multi-agency project offers resources and materials for veterans and families and professionals working with veterans.

November 13, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

NM Commission Submits Initial Recommendations for Improving State's Guardianship System

The New Mexico Adult Guardianship Study Commission has submitted its initial status report to the New Mexico Supreme Court.  

As we have reported earlier (here), New Mexico is one of a number of states that experienced high-profile and very serious incidents of alleged financial abuse of adult clients by their court-appointed guardians.

The report makes some 17 recommendations for prompt action aimed at increasing the quality and accountability of guardians, especially so-called "professional guardians or conservators," including: 

  • Require certification by statute or court rule of professional guardians and conservators by a national organization, such as the Center for Guardianship Certification. This recommendation is not intended to preclude New Mexico from developing its own certification requirements.
  • Require bonding or an alternative asset-protection arrangement by statute or court rule for conservators to protect the interests of the individual subject to the conservatorship.
  • Establish stringent reporting and financial accountability measures for conservators, including the following:
        1. require conservators, upon appointment, to sign releases permitting the courts
        to obtain financial documents of protected persons;
        2. require annual reports to include bank and financial statements and any other
        documentation requested by the court auditor, with appropriate protections
        to prevent disclosure of confidential information;
        3. require conservators to maintain a separate trust account for each protected
        person to avoid commingling of funds; and
        4. require conservators to maintain financial records for seven years.

The report warns that "meaningful reform of the guardianship system will not be easy or inexpensive and cannot be achieved by a single branch of government acting alone."

Rather, true change will require the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary to work together in their respective roles to enact the laws, allocate the resources, and implement the changes that are necessary to improve the guardianship system. The Commission therefore offers its initial status report for consideration, not only to the Supreme Court, but to all who are interested in improving the guardianship system.

The Court invites comments on the proposed recommendations, as well as on additional issues identified by the Commission as requiring further study.  The deadline for the comments is November 8, 2017.

My thanks to my good friend Janelle Thibau for sending me timely news of the New Mexico R & R.  Janelle and I started off as lawyers together in Albuquerque just a "few" years ago!  

October 26, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

More on Guardianships

The ABA Journal ran an article as part of their daily news about some of the cases regarding guardians and questionable acts. Cases raise questions about adult guardianship and lawyer-hospital relationships  focuses on cases in Michigan and South Carolina.  "Cases in Michigan and South Carolina are raising questions about lawyers who receive guardianship appointments as a result of their relationships with hospitals." The story explains that in the Michigan case, the judge noted an agreement between the attorney and the hospital regarding filing petitions concerning certain patients as well as compensation from a third party (hospital).  The South Carolina case involved supposed conflicts of interest, according to the story, when a hospital attorney served as guardian. In addition to discussing the two cases in more depth, the article goes on to discuss the New Yorker article about guardianships in Nevada (see earlier blog posts) and reform activities there.

October 25, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Robert Matava Elder Abuse Prosecution Act of 2017: Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act

The Robert Matava Elder Abuse Prosecution Act of 2017, Senate Bill 178, has been sent to the President for signature. Here's the summary of the act:

Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act

TITLE I--SUPPORTING FEDERAL CASES INVOLVING ELDER JUSTICE

(Sec. 101) This bill establishes requirements for the Department of Justice (DOJ) with respect to investigating and prosecuting elder abuse crimes and enforcing elder abuse laws. Specifically, DOJ must:

  • designate Elder Justice Coordinators in federal judicial districts and at DOJ,
  • implement comprehensive training for Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, and
  • establish a working group to provide policy advice.

The Executive Office for United States Attorneys must operate a resource group to assist prosecutors in pursuing elder abuse cases.

The Federal Trade Commission must designate an Elder Justice Coordinator within its Bureau of Consumer Protection.

TITLE II--IMPROVED DATA COLLECTION AND FEDERAL COORDINATION

(Sec. 201) DOJ must establish best practices for data collection on elder abuse.

(Sec. 202) DOJ must collect and publish data on elder abuse cases and investigations. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must provide for publication data on elder abuse cases referred to adult protective services.

TITLE III--ENHANCED VICTIM ASSISTANCE TO ELDER ABUSE SURVIVORS

(Sec. 301) This section expresses the sense of the Senate that: (1) elder abuse involves exploitation of potentially vulnerable individuals; (2) combatting elder abuse requires support for victims and prevention; and (3) the Senate supports a multipronged approach to prevent elder abuse, protect victims, and prosecute perpetrators of elder abuse crimes.

(Sec. 302) DOJ's Office for Victims of Crime must report to Congress on the nature, extent, and amount of funding under the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 for victims of crime who are elders.

TITLE IV--ROBERT MATAVA ELDER ABUSE PROSECUTION ACT OF 2017

Robert Matava Elder Abuse Prosecution Act of 2017

This bill amends the federal criminal code to expand prohibited telemarketing fraud to include "telemarketing or email marketing" fraud. It expands the definition of telemarketing or email marketing to include measures to induce investment for financial profit, participation in a business opportunity, or commitment to a loan.

A defendant convicted of telemarketing or email marketing fraud that targets or victimizes a person over age 55 is subject to an enhanced criminal penalty and mandatory forfeiture.

The bill adds health care fraud to the list of fraud offenses subject to enhanced penalties.

(Sec. 403) DOJ, in coordination with the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, must provide information, training, and technical assistance to help states and local governments investigate, prosecute, prevent, and mitigate the impact of elder abuse, exploitation, and neglect.

(Sec. 404) It grants congressional consent to states to enter into cooperative agreements or compacts to promote and to enforce elder abuse laws. The State Justice Institute must submit legislative proposals to Congress to facilitate such agreements and compacts.

TITLE V--MISCELLANEOUS

(Sec. 501) This section amends title XX (Block Grants to States for Social Services and Elder Justice) of the Social Security Act to specify that HHS may award adult protective services demonstration grants to the highest courts of states to assess adult guardianship and conservatorship proceedings and to implement necessary changes. The highest court of a state that receives a demonstration grant must collaborate with the state's unit on aging and adult protective services agency.

(Sec. 502) The Government Accountability Office (GAO) must review and report on elder justice programs and initiatives in the federal criminal justice system. The GAO must also report on: (1) federal government efforts to monitor the exploitation of older adults in global drug trafficking schemes and criminal enterprises, the incarceration of exploited older adults who are U.S. citizens in foreign court systems, and the total number of elder abuse cases pending in the United States; and (2) the results of federal government intervention with foreign officials on behalf of U.S. citizens who are elder abuse victims in international criminal enterprises.

(Sec. 503) DOJ must report to Congress on its outreach to state and local law enforcement agencies on the process for collaborating with the federal government to investigate and prosecute interstate and international elder financial exploitation cases.

(Sec. 504) DOJ must publish model power of attorney legislation for the purpose of preventing elder abuse.

(Sec. 505) DOJ must publish best practices for improving guardianship proceedings and model legislation related to guardianship proceedings for the purpose of preventing elder abuse.

Note specifically sections 504 and 505.  The text of the enrolled bill can be found here as a pdf.

Stay tuned....

 

October 12, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Guns, Aging & Suicide

The last few weeks have been very tough, haven't they?  As have the last few months, and perhaps even the last few years.  

Many seem to be trying to understand why a 64-year-old "retired" man in the U.S. would assemble an arsenal of weaponry, unleash it on a crowd of innocents enjoying a last few weekend hours of music, and then take his own life.  While it is, on a comparative scale, unusual for a 60+ individual to be involved in a mass shooting, "older men" apparently have a comparatively high suicide-by-gun rate.  While there may be no way to understand the motivation for the most recent murders, there are still reasons to ask whether aging and deteriorating cognitive health can be factors in gun-related deaths.  

In the search for some understanding I read Leah Libresco's opinion piece in the Washington Post:  "I used to think gun control was the answer.  My research told me otherwise." 

In that article, her research on the annual 33,000+ gun deaths in America, led her to several interesting observations and conclusions.  She writes, for example, that the statistics showed her:

  • "Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States every year are suicides."
  • "Older men, who make up the largest share of gun suicides, need better access to people who could care for them and get help."

Libresco's essay sent me in turn to a feature story, part of a FiveThirtyEight series analyzing annual gun deaths, on "Surviving Suicide in Wyoming," by Anna Maria Barry-Jester.  She writes in greater detail about warning signs of deteriorating mental health, especially among older men: isolation, sometimes self-imposed; sleeplessness; depression; anxiety; and unresolved physical health problems. 

As these articles point out, limiting access to guns is appropriate for individuals with suicidal thoughts. That's different than "gun control laws."  And while guns may too often be the means to effectuate "rash desperate decisions," these researchers also suggest the greatest need is for better public awareness and response to warning signs, and for improved diagnosis and access to effective care, including social, mental and physical health care.    

October 6, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Crimes, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 2, 2017

"Probable Cause" Prevents Son-in-Law/Agent from Suing for Malicious Prosecution in Elder Fraud Case

The case of Fisher v. King, in federal court in Pennsylvania, strikes me as unusual on several grounds.  It is a civil rights case, alleging malicious prosecution, arising from an investigation of transferred funds from elderly parents, one of whom was in a nursing home, diagnosed with "dementia and frequent confusion."  

Son-in-law John Fisher was financial advisor for his wife's parents, both of whom were in their 80s. He and his wife were charged with "theft by deception, criminal conspiracy, securing execution of documents by deception and deceptive/fraudulent business practices" by Pennsylvania criminal authorities, following an investigation of circumstances under which Fisher's mother-in-law and her husband transferred almost $700k in funds to an account allegedly formed by Fisher with his wife and sister-in-law as the only named account owners.  A key allegation was that at the time of the transfer, the father-in-law was in a locked dementia unit, where he allegedly signed a letter authorizing the transfer, prepared by Fisher, but presented to him by his wife, Fisher's mother-in-law.  The mother-in-law later challenged the transaction as contrary to her understanding and intention.

Son-in-law Fisher, his wife, and his wife's sister were all charged with the fraud counts.  They initially raised as defense that the transactions were part of the mother's larger financial plan, including a gift by the mother to her daughters, but not to her son, their brother.  

As described in court documents, shortly before trial on the criminal charges the two sisters apparently agreed to return the funds to their mother, and, with the "aggrieved party" thus made whole, Fisher and his wife entered into a Non-Trial Disposition that resulted in dismissed of all criminal charges. At that point, you might think that everyone in the troubled family would wipe their brows, say "phew," and head back to their respective homes.

Not so fast.  Fisher then sued the Assistant District Attorney and the investigating police officer in federal court alleging violations under Section 1983 -- malicious prosecution and abuse of process. 

Continue reading

October 2, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Black, White & Gray of Consent to Sexual Relations in Long-Term Care

Eagle Crest, a 126-bed skilled nursing facility in California, once known as Carmichael Care & Rehabilitation Center, is "voluntarily" closing its doors. A major reason for parent corporation Genesis HealthCare's  decision appears to be an incident of sexual contact between two aged residents at the facility in February, 2017.  Not a violent contact and apparently not one involving physical or mental injury.  But clothing was removed and fluids were later documented.  Now residents are being transferred and more than 70 employees will reportedly be laid off. 

As one of the two residents had Alzheimer's disease, and thereby was deemed unable to consent to sexual relations, the facility "self-reported" the contact as possible abuse to appropriate state authorities.   A criminal investigation found no grounds for prosecution.  A California Department of Public Health report, however, made the recommendation to federal authorities last summer to "drop the facility from its medicare provider rolls, a drastic action that strips a nursing home of its critical government funding," according to news reports.  The actual closure action was made voluntarily by Genesis.

Those are some of the black and white facts reported by the Sacramento Bee, which has published a series of news articles tracking this facility for many months. The "gray" facts are more complicated, and raise questions at the heart of any LTC operation:

  • Is it possible the state overreacted and misconstrued a "quasi-consensual" contact between a "lonely man and a confused woman"? 
  • How far must a LTC provider go to prevent intimate contact between residents?
  • After one report of sexual contact between residents, does that mean one or both residents must be treated as a risk that requires special procedures to prevent -- or at least reduce the likelihood -- of them being involved in future sexual contact?
  • How does a long-term care facility achieve a restraint-free environment -- a federally sanctioned goal -- while also charged with protecting ambulatory residents from intimate contact?  
  • Is it possible for residents (and their family members or other health care agents?) to release a facility from liability arising from "un-consented" sexual relations among residents?

Continue reading

October 1, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It's All About Identity Theft These Days

This is not an elder law specific topic so if that doesn't interest you, stop reading now (we have plenty of elder law specific posts in the archives). It seems like every week (if not more often) we read about a data breach. The one gathering all the headlines right now is the Equifax breach, which I'm sure you all have heard about (unless you are one of the ones without power Post-Irma).  Having been a victim of ID theft and the Equifax breach, I'm a little wound up about these issues so forgive me if I get a little too "enthused" discussing this. Within 11 minutes today I got two agency emails warning me about ID theft. Social Security sent out a note about Protecting Your Social Security. Here are some suggestions from SSA:

  • Open your personal my Social Security account....
  • If you already have a my Social Security account, but haven’t signed in lately, take a moment to login to easily take advantage of our second method to identify you each time you log in. This is in addition to our first layer of security, a username and password....
  • If you know your Social Security information has been compromised, and if you don’t want to do business with Social Security online, you can use our Block Electronic Access You can block any automated telephone and electronic access to your Social Security record...

The second email I got was a consumer alert from NAIC.  Identity Theft: Protect Yourself in wake of breaches, hacks and cyber stalkers explains

Big data is big business. But it can also lead to bigger headaches when large-scale breaches expose personal information. Large companies including insurers and credit bureaus have been the victims of cyber thieves who accessed private customer information. Most recently, the Equifax breach of could affect 143 million Americans.

Identity theft occurs when a person uses your personal information to commit fraud or unlawful activity. Using your social security number or date of birth, someone may open new credit card or bank account in your name, and even take out a loan using your personal information. Affected consumers can help protect themselves with identity theft insurance—or by using safeguards provided by the impacted company. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers these consumer protection tips.

The tips include what not to carry in your wallet, what to do if your identity has been stolen,  not to proactively protect yourself against identity theft and the pros and cons of purchasing identity theft insurance.

I'm just saying now... this isn't going to be the last time I write you about this.  Hopefully none of you will be in my boat.  Safe travels through cyber space.

September 27, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Other, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Nursing Home Abuse: Reporting to Law Enforcement

Check out this updated policy brief, Policy Brief: Requirements for Reporting to Law Enforcement When There is a Suspicion of a Crime Against a Nursing Home Resident.  The Long Term Care Community Coalition  (as an aside, take a look at their cool url) released this updated brief with information about changes and 2017 updates

2017 Updates:
1. The potential fines for violations of the law are subject to adjustment for inflation. The fines indicated below are current as of September 2017.
2. New CMS guidelines for these (and other) requirements are in effect as of November 28,
2017. A summary of the guidelines for reporting can be found at the end of this brief. The
full federal Guidance can be found on the CMS website:

https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Provider-Enrollment-and-
Certification/GuidanceforLawsAndRegulations/Downloads/Advance-Appendix-PP-Including-Phase-2-.pdf.

The overview explains that

The law broadens and strengthens the requirements for crime reporting in all long term care
facilities (including Nursing Facilities, Skilled Nursing Facilities, LTC Hospices, and Intermediate Care Facilities ...) that receive $10,000 or more in federal funds per year. The facility must inform the individuals covered under the law - its employees, owners,
operators, managers, agents, and contractors - of their duty to report any "reasonable
suspicion" of a crime (as defined by local law) committed against a resident of the facility. After forming the suspicion, covered individuals have twenty-four hours to report the crime to both the State Survey Agency and to a local law enforcement agency. If the suspected crime resulted in physical harm to the resident, the report must be made within two hours.

The brief explains the policy requirements and offers recommendations for consumers, state agency folks and long term care facilities. There is also a summary of the regs as well as definitions of commonly used words.

The brief can be downloaded as a pdf here.

September 26, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)