Friday, December 28, 2012

Veterans Treatment Court

By Kristina L. Derro

The 17th District Court in Redford, Michigan dedicated a Veterans Treatment Court in November 2011. It offers veterans who are involved in the criminal justice system with a coordinated response by VA, local veterans groups, prosecutors, defense counsel, probation staff, and mentors. It is a unique combination that offers both addiction and mental health treatment. It offers the veterans a chance to receive treatment from VA for any mental health and addiction disabilities that arose as a result of their time in service. It also provides veterans with the tools they need to lead productive and law-abiding lives. 52-1 District Court in Novi, Michigan also has a similar program and was only the eighteenth one in the country. Out of 75 participants since 2009, none have been rearrested.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Detroit Health Care Fraud

Matt Worley, Esq.

Despite regular indictments and convictions of home health care agency owners, Medicare and Medicaid fraud remains prevalent in metro Detroit, according to a new report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found high fraud, waste, and abuse in Detroit.  Other cities found to have high fraud include Chicago, Miami, Tampa, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, and Baton Rouge.

Fraud is a major problem in the Medicare system.  Most experts believe that up to ten percent of the annual $1 trillion cost of Medicare and Medicaid can be attributed to fraud, waste, and abuse.  In 2009 HHS created HEAT – a task force whose aim is to reduce fraud in these programs.

According to this report, as much as 22 percent of claims inspected were filed in error because the services were unnecessary or were coded inaccurately.  This resulted in $432 million in unnecessary payments to home health agencies.  Part of the problem lies in poor record-keeping by the agencies.

The OIG report made three recommendations to home health agencies to reduce fraud.  These providers should (1) increase Medicare contractor standards to identify high risk providers; (2) track license revocation recommendations; and (3) take measures to prevent inappropriate payments to agencies with suspended or revoked licenses.

In response to the report, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said it would implement all three of these recommendations.

If you have questions about Medicare or Medicaid fraud, or other legal issues, please contact Mark Mandell or Tariq Hafeez at 248.380.0000 or online at

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Veterans' Gun Rights An Ongoing Issue

The issue of veterans and gun rights has been a sticking point in the $631 billion defense bill. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. has attempted to halt the Veterans Affairs Department plan to place the names of some veterans into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.  Sen. Coburn has stated that, in order to take away someone's Second Amendment rights, it should be adjudicated, rather than simply mandated by an automated system.

Inclusion on the list would mean those veterans would be prohibited from buying or owning firearms. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has stated that though he loves the country's veterans, if they have been deemed mentally unfit, they should not have possession of a gun.

"The Veterans Administration currently appoints fiduciaries, usually the family members of a veteran, to manage his or her pensions and disability benefits when they have been declared mentally incompetent," said Veterans disability lawyer James Fausone. "When a vet has been declared mentally incompetent, his or her name is automatically entered in the Criminal Background Check System."

A group, led by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has been pushing to change that policy, allowing the addition of the name to the list only if a judge deemed the veteran to be a danger. This latest version of the bill, co-sponsored by 21 lawmakers, passed the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. The legislation also has the backing of the National Rifle Association and numerous veterans' advocacy groups. Meanwhile, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence supports the VA's current policy. Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, has stated that vets who have a traumatic brain injury or PTSD, but who pose no actual threat to others might view the current restriction as a disincentive to seek treatment.

As of 1998, 185 of the 127,000 veterans on the gun-check registry list have worked to have their names removed, according to the VA. Veterans can appeal their diagnosis, and can petition for their firearm rights to be reinstated by the agency to have his firearm rights restored on the basis of not posing a threat to public safety.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Firm Attorney Published

Don Knapp, attorney at Fausone Bohn, LLP, recently had an article published in Michigan Municipal Legal Briefs.

The article focused on an agreement between Livonia, Grand Rapids, and the State of Michigan to create a “Municipal Services Authority,” also known as a “Virtual City.”  This Authority, governed by representatives from the two cities and the state, will provide services to communities around the state.  For a fee, these communities can have the authority provide payroll, assessing, and other “back office” services.

This Virtual City won’t solve all of the financial issues faced by municipalities, but it could offer a means to reduce expenses without affecting the services provided to the average resident.

The Agreement provides that the Virtual City will continue for an initial term of 15 years and renew for additional 10 year term, unless it is not extended.

In addition to being an attorney at Fausone Bohn, LLP, Mr. Knapp serves as the City Attorney for the City of Livonia.

If you have questions about this topic or other legal issues, contact the firm at (248) 380-0000 or online at

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Brighton Nuisance Ordinance Held Unconstitutional

By Paul F. Bohn

No matter how dilapidated your property, Michigan cities must give you the option to repair it before the city can demolish it.

The City of Brighton previously had an ordinance in effect for blighted property.  According to the ordinance, a building was presumed to be a public nuisance if the cost of repairs exceeded the actual cash value of the structure.  In such a situation, repairs on the property were deemed unreasonable.

In a recent Michigan Court of Appeals decision (Bonner v. City of Brighton), the court ruled that Brighton’s ordinance was unconstitutional and violated due process standards.  The court reasoned that the ordinance denied property owners the option to repair an unsafe structure simply because the city believed that such repairs would be economically unreasonable.

The problem is that refusing to allow a property owner the option to make a timely repair to their structure does not advance the city’s interest of protecting the health and welfare of its citizens.  That objective is served just as well if the city allows the property’s repair, and is actually cheaper for the city.  Whether it makes economic sense for the owner to repair the property is irrelevant – the property owner must be given that option.

This opinion makes one thing clear – a property owner, not the government, has the last say on the right to repair and maintain structures.

If you have questions about this or other legal topics, contact Paul Bohn at Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000, ext. 9988 or my e-mail

Monday, December 17, 2012

Man Pleads Guilty to Mail Fraud Totaling $2.6 million

Mark Mandell, Esq

While we may not often think of inmates as vulnerable, it is upon these individuals that John Wilson preyed, conning both the inmates and their families out of $2.6 million.

It has been two years since Wilson was accused, but he has finally pled guilty to fraud. Wilson worked with Lari Zeka, a Macomb Township man, running three businesses that sent mailings to inmates across the nation. The mailings, which targeted both the inmates and their families, presented an offer of legal services on the inmate’s behalf. The catch, however, was the necessity of payment upfront, money that would supposedly be used for legal research and lawyer retainer fees. The research would help toward the inmate’s appeal, while the retainer fee would be put toward the case. Once fees were paid, however, the money disappeared. No research was conducted and no attorney was ever assigned to work on the inmate’s appeal.

Wilson seemed to target both black and Hispanic inmates specifically; however, the nature of the scheme was universal in nature. The mailings preyed upon the desperate desire of family members to help their loved ones behind bars.

As a result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Wilson was indicted on 66 counts of mail fraud in October 2010 and finally pleaded guilty in January. For now, he awaits sentencing.

To learn more and read the original article, please visit:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

VA To Consider Ease in TBI Secondary Claims

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer
The VA compensates veterans for primary and secondary disabilities connected with service.  Traumatic Brain Injury is a signature injury of Iraq and Afghanistan wars because of IED.  So it is good news that VA is considering the secondary effects of TBI.  Last week  VA began the process of adding five illnesses -- unprovoked seizures, dementia, Parkinsonism, some hormone deficiencies and depression -- as “secondary” illnesses connected to a proven TBI injury.   Researchers from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine have found relationships between brain trauma and these other illnesses.  VA does not anticipate significant changes because of the new rule change, because the secondary illnesses still require an existing TBI diagnosis. Those of us who work with VA would disagree because the recognition of these secondary conditions eliminates proving such to VA which can take years and every RO treats these matters differently.  A secondary condition recognition will force that a national standard be applied.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rebuilding Detroit

Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, has proposed a $650 million development plan for a new hockey and multipurpose events center in the city of Detroit: “From the time we bought the Fox Theatre, I could envision a downtown where the streets were bustling and people were energized.”

The Ilitch family’s Olympia Development arm presented the plan Tuesday to the state Senate panel, who, in a 5-0 vote, approved the proposition. According to Rep. John Walsh of Livonia, the Senate panel’s approval will allow Olympia Development to apply for almost $13 million in funds from the Detroit Downtown Development Authority.

John Walsh, an attorney at Fausone Bohn, LLP in Northville, Michigan, is the legislative sponsor.

The development plan would include a new hockey arena for the Detroit Red Wings, one to replace the Joe; however, the arena would be combined with a multipurpose events center. Walsh stated that the proposed center would be located near the Fox and Comerica Park – creating a new retail, residential, and mixed-use commercial district.

The proposed project is estimated to have quite an impact on Detroit’s economy, both during its construction and after its opening. The project would create approximately 5,500 jobs for the arena construction, while construction of the mixed-use commercial district would create another 2,750 jobs. After its opening, Olympia Development estimates that the multipurpose events center would bring 1,100 jobs and upwards of $210 million in annual economic impact to the city of Detroit – a boost the city seems to so desperately need. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing states that the proposed project could be “a vital contribution to a more vibrant downtown,” one that could lead to a stronger economy.

The project, however, is dependant upon the approval of $12.8 million from Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority. Detroit’s DDA taxes businesses for such bond and development projects. The “repurposing of existing revenue” is not a tax increase, Walsh said.

The project, especially its long-term impact, could positively affect the city. The proposed project could increase the desirability of living in Detroit, drawing more residents into core areas of the city. The Ilitch family may be onto something in an attempt to revitalize the city of Detroit.



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It Takes Too Long

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

We talk to hundreds of veterans a month about their VA disability claim status.  Many people want to know why it takes so long and when will their case be decided.  Well it is not getting any better based on a recent VA report.  The delays in processing went up 40% in 2012.  In fiscal 2012, the average days to complete a VA disability compensation or pension claim rose to 262 days, up from 188 days in fiscal 2011, according to a recently completely VA performance report. During that same period VA hired more staff and poured resources into training. The department has seen a massive increase in claims from veterans in recent years, both younger ones from Iraq and Afghanistan and older ones who have recently been able to file claims on new conditions. Claims the past four years have topped 1 million a year.  We do not expect that 2013 will be any better.  We advise patience and persistence with dealing with VA.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lansing to Local Event a Success

Paul Bohn, Esq.

Last Friday, Fausone Bohn, LLP hosted its third “Lansing to Local” event at Schoolcraft College’s VistaTech Center.  The event provided an informal discussion on pending legislative and regulatory reforms and how they affect business in Wayne County.  The event was attended by over 60 guests including several local mayors and supervisors, Michigan judges, Wayne County commissioners, and business leaders from southeast Michigan.

The event boasted two great speakers – John J. Walsh, Speaker Pro Tem of the Michigan House of Representatives and Hon. Chad C. Schmucker, Michigan State Court Administrator.

Mr. Walsh discussed the priorities of the legislature and the bills to be debated during the last few weeks before the holiday break (termed the “lame duck” session).  In addition to serving as the Speaker Pro Tem of the Michigan House of Representatives, Mr. Walsh is an attorney with Fausone Bohn, LLP in Northville.

Mr. Schmucker then discussed the implementation of Michigan’s new business courts.  These courts will be required in circuits that have three or more judges.  They should provide for better predictability of business cases and judges with more expertise in that area of the law. 

Additionally, Mr. Schmucker discussed the State Court Administrative Office’s new measures to improve the performance and efficiency of Michigan courts.  This will be achieved by identifying problem areas, setting goals, and evaluating performance through a variety of means including customer satisfaction surveys.

If you have questions about these or other legal topics, or would like to be invited to the next Lansing to Local event.  Please contact Paul Bohn at (248) 380-0000 ext. 9988 or

Michigan Working to Make Courts More Efficient

Matt Worley, Esq.

Michigan Trial Courts may soon be working smarter and more efficient, thanks to an initiative by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO).  With a program entitled “Courts Working Smarter for a Better Michigan,” the SCAO will be measuring the performance of Michigan trial courts.

The plan allows the courts to identify performance issues, set goals, and improve performance.

For example, the plan analyzes how long it takes for a case to be heard by a judge.  Courts can then see where the problems lie and work to correct them in order to shorten the time cases sit in limbo.

Additionally, courts will measure what percentage of jurors called to duty actually serve on a trial.  Customer satisfaction surveys will also be provided to people using the courthouse as a way to improve customer service. Lastly, the courts will also be able to review the reliability and integrity of case files – having accurate court records is indispensable for an effective appeal.

Perhaps best of all, these measures will be provided to members of the bar and the public, providing for greater transparency of the courts to Michigan citizens.

To read the Michigan Bar Journal article about the steps being taken by the SCAO to improve the efficiency of the courts, please visit:

If you have legal questions, contact the experienced team of attorneys at Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000 or


Monday, December 3, 2012

Judge to Hear Motion to Dismiss for Congressman McCotter Staffer

Mark Mandell, Esq.
Attorney General Bill Schuette deemed the acts of Paul Seewald and Don Yowchuang a “disgraceful violation of the public trust” on Tuesday. The two, who worked for former congressman Thaddeus McCotter and were involved in McCotter’s petition scandal, entered pleas to all but one of the criminal charges brought against them. Seewald and Yowchuang, along with other members of McCotter’s Michigan staff, were involved in the fraudulent copying and altering of petitions that led to McCotter’s qualification for the 2012 Michigan ballot.

Yowchuang pleaded no contest to ten counts of forgery – a felony – and six counts of falsely signing a nominating petition – a misdemeanor. Seewald, on the other hand, pleaded guilty to nine counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator.

One charge remains, however. Conspiracy to Commit a Legal Act in an Illegal Manner is still pending against both Seewald and Yowchuang. Judge Marie Braxton is expected to hear an argument on January 9, 2013 from Mr. Seewald’s attorney, Mark Mandell, to have this remaining felony charge dismissed. Mandell, a partner at the law firm Fausone Bohn, LLP, will face opposition from the Attorney General’s office when they oppose the motion in court.

A handful of other McCotter staffers have previously made pleas in regards to the petition scandal. Members include Lorianne O’Brady, a former scheduler for the congressman, who pleaded no contest to five counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator. She has been sentenced to 20 days in jail or in a work program. Further, O’Brady will serve probation for 18 months following the sentence, and she has been ordered to pay over $2,000 in fines.

One member of McCotter’s staff still faces criminal charges. Mary Melissa Turnbull, who is scheduled to appear for a Pre-Trial hearing on January 8, 2013, has been charged with one count of Conspiracy to Commit a Legal Act in an Illegal Manner and one count of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator.

These convictions have come as a result of Attorney General Schuette’s creation of the Public Integrity Unit in 2011. Since its creation, the unit has filed over 200 charges in various cases involving corruption at both the state and local levels. The unit continues to pursue convictions in such fraud and corruption cases.

If you have questions regarding fraud or other legal issues, please contact Mark Mandell at 248.380.0000 or

To learn more and read the original articles, please visit:


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PTSD: Is it Real?

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

It would be easy to get made about this. But many people feel free to comment that PTSD is not a real condition.  I suspect they mean it’s not an "injury" that you can attribute to a single act or event. It is not a sprained knee or back.  You have to remember that some people believe the following (1) man has never walked on the moon; (2) the earth is flat ; (3)  one's race impacts one's intelligence; (4) global warming does not exist; (5) there is no god  and a variety of other commonly held believes are not true just because. 
So when I hear about the veteran and PTSD haters talk about PTSD, I just lump them in the "it takes all kinds" category.   In 2011, the VA listed the three most common service-connected disabilities among veterans receiving federal compensation that year: tinnitus (ringing in the ears) at 10.9 percent, hearing loss at 7.5 percent, and PTSD at 5.3 percent.   According to the VA the percentage of veterans of World War II and Vietnam who obtained disability compensation is 11 percent and 16 percent, respectively.  

So does that mean PTSD has been faked for the last 70 years?  I dont think so.  Despite exhaustive scientific studies that have explored the symptoms, causes, diagnoses, and prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, hardcore skeptics remain.  If you want to read about the skeptics see the following blog:

Georgia Woman Faces 20 Years for "Robo-Signing" Scheme

The name “Linda Green” sounds ordinary enough to fly under the radar, and that’s just what it did as it appeared on thousands of mortgage-related documents across the United States. The only notable distinction on the documents was a variation in the handwriting.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette has charged Lorraine O’Reilly Brown, the former president of DocX and the woman behind the mortgage document “robo-signing” scheme with racketeering – a felony charge with the potential to bring Brown a 20-year sentence.

From 2006 to 2009, Brown instructed her employees to fraudulently sign various bank officials’ names (e.g. Linda Green) on mortgage documents, which resulted in quicker document processing and more money for Brown and her company. Workers at DocX allegedly forged close to a million signatures on home mortgage documents, and while the scheme may have begun in Georgia, Michigan officials discovered over 1,000 fraudulent signatures on mortgages in their own state. As Brown and DocX workers produced these fraudulent signatures, banks have used such “robo-signed” documents in order to initiate improper foreclosures.

Attorney General Schuette was one of 49 state attorneys who entered into a $25 billion settlement with five of the largest U.S. banks over improper foreclosure processes and mortgage services. As a result of the settlement, Michigan will receive over $760 million, $97 million of which will go towards Michigan’s new Homeowner Protection Fund – signed recently into law in order to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and assist law enforcement in putting an end to deceptive practices.

If you have questions about fraudulent conduct, contact Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Charged with Real Estate Fraud

Diane Hathaway, Michigan Supreme Court Justice, may be facing political pressure to resign, but it seems she will not go down without a fight. Accused of real estate fraud, Hathaway may face criminal charges.

In 2010, Hathaway and her husband, attorney Michael Kingsley, contacted ING Bank in pursuit of a short sale on their Grosse Point Park home, a transaction in which a bank and borrower agree to sell a property for less than what is owed on the mortgage.

The hardship letter sent to ING Bank, however, failed to disclose the recent transfer of their Florida home to Kingsley’s daughter. As Hathaway claimed she did not possess the financial resources necessary to pay the mortgage on her Michigan property, her Florida residence seemed to have been hidden away. After the short sale of the Gross Pointe home, resulting in the erasure of over $600,000 in mortgage debt, the Florida home was quietly transferred back into Hathaway’s name.

Federal authorities filed a lawsuit to seize Hathaway’s Florida residence, accusing her of hiding real estate while persuading a bank to allow the short sale of her Gross Point residence. Hathaway and Kingsley, however, will have the chance to challenge the government in this forfeiture action.

While Michigan Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. urged Hathaway to make a statement, clearing the air and explaining the transactions, Hathaway declined to speak publicly. Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party, pushed for Hathaway’s resignation: “Her actions are offensive to the many Michigan families who have faced difficult times during Michigan’s economic downturn.”

If you have real estate or fraud issues, contact Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Judge to Hear Motion to Dismiss for McCotter Staffer

Paul Seewald, former staffer for U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter, was charged with nine misdemeanor counts for falsely signing election nominating petitions as a circulator and one felony conspiracy charge. 

On Tuesday, Mr. Seewald pleaded guilty to the nine misdemeanor counts in Wayne County Circuit Court.  However, Judge Margie Braxton will hear an argument from Mr. Seewald’s attorney, Mark Mandell, to have the remaining felony conspiracy charge dismissed.

The judge is expected to hear Mr. Seewald’s motion to dismiss on January 9th.

Mark Mandell, a partner at the law firm of Fausone Bohn, LLP in Northville, is defending Mr. Seewald against these charges.

If you have questions regarding fraud or other legal issues, contact Mark Mandell at 248.380.0000 or

To read the Detroit News article about the hearing, please visit:


Female Vets and PTSD

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

An underreported problem with female veterans may be PTSD.  We see women vets complaining about PTSD when military sexual trauma is involved.  However, we do not yet see the expected complaints of PTSD that these wars in general cause.  Women vets are leading and driving convoys in the war with no front.  They are exposed to IEDs and random attacks.  Researches in California claim that women may be more susceptible to PTSD.  Women may be at greater risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder than men because of what researchers call their “heightened fear response.”  Time Magazine recently posted on this research which includes an interesting video clip.  This University of California San Francisco work is done in conjunction with the VA Medical Center in San Francisco.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Medicare Fraud Not Limited to Home Health Agencies

Tariq Hafeez, Esq


Home healthcare companies aren’t the only ones overbilling Medicare – nursing homes are at it as well.  According to a report by the staff of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, a review of nursing home Medicare bills found that about one-fourth of them were incorrect. 

This adds around $1.5 billion in annual costs to the Medicare program, according to the report.
Much of the incorrect billing involves upcoding, a common scheme where the facility submits bills to Medicare for more intensive services than actually performed to receive a higher reimbursement.  Additionally, some facilities provide treatments to patients that are inappropriate or unnecessary.

“What makes this report stand out is the sheer amount of dollars inappropriately spent,” said Jodi Nudelman, New York Inspector General who oversaw the study.  These companies are “billing for therapy that they don’t provide or which the patient doesn’t need.”

Medicare accounted for 13.5% of Federal spending last year – and that percentage is expected to grow.  With estimates labeling 30% of U.S. medical spending as “unnecessary,” cutting fraud, waste, and abuse is a key part of reducing Medicare spending - $3.7 billion has been recovered in the past 3 years. 

The OIG has said that Medicare has made several significant changes but that more needs to be done to reduce inappropriate payments.  This systematic overbilling at the expense of taxpayers is unacceptable.

If you have questions or have witnessed a nursing home or other provider committing Medicare fraud, contact the experienced fraud team at Fausone Bohn, LLP.  Call Tariq Hafeez or Breeda O’Leary at (248) 380-0000 or visit our website at

Friday, November 23, 2012

Veteran Jobs in Energy Sector

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate

New program for veterans…Alpena Community College, Schoolcraft Community College have partnered with DTE Energy, Local 223 of the Utility Workers Union of America, Consumers Energy, the Center  for Energy Workforce Development and the Michigan Workforce Intelligence Network to help veterans retrain in a new Natural Gas Boot Camp, a seven-week pilot program that’s preparing Michigan veterans for jobs as maintenance fitter apprentices. For an article on this program, please go to


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Veteran Scam Stopped

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate
Neil Thrasher was sentenced to 17 months to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of embezzlement from a charitable organization and one count of violation of the charitable solicitation act. 

According to authorities, Thrasher created two fake charities – Paralyzed American Veterans and Disabled Veterans of American – both of which had confusingly similar names to the legitimate charities Paralyzed Veterans of America (MPVA) and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).  Thrasher used these fake charities to collect more than $180,000 from unsuspecting donors seeking to aid veterans.  He then stole a substantial portion of this money to make personal purchases at athletic clubs, liquor stores, and restaurants.

Fausone Bohn, LLP, previously represented the longstanding and well-respected charitable organization MPVA in a trademark infringement suit against the fake charities.  After a getting Thrasher to agree to a consent judgment in that case, Fausone Bohn, LLP informed the Michigan Attorney General of these fraudulent charities.  The Attorney General then pressed charges against Thrasher.

Len Selfon, Acting General Counsel for MPVA, stated that the organization is proud of the service it provides to veterans and that they will continue to protect their reputation to maintain public confidence in their mission.

In addition to prison time, Thrasher must also pay $74,400 in restitution.

If you know of someone who might be committing charity fraud, contact the experienced legal team at Fausone Bohn, LLP – Paul Bohn and Breeda O’Leary at (248) 380-0000.

To read the original article, please visit:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Regular Attendance is Essential Job Element

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate

According to a recent Ninth Circuit opinion, it is not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to fire an employee who repeatedly fails to show up for work.  It’s amazing that such a question would even have to be decided by a Federal Court of Appeals.

In Samper v. Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Plaintiff was a neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse who suffered from fibromyalgia.  Providence Hospital had a very generous attendance policy which allowed five unplanned absences of unlimited duration per year, as well as other permitted absences.  Additionally, because of her condition, Providence worked with the Plaintiff to give her even more flexibility than the standard policy.

The Plaintiff was not satisfied and sought an accommodation that would allow her an unlimited number of unplanned absences from her job – in short, she wanted to come and go as she pleased.  Providence refused and eventually terminated Plaintiff due to her chronic and continued attendance problems.

Plaintiff sued the hospital arguing that the hospital violated the ADA by not offering her reasonable accommodations.  The trial court disagreed and ruled in favor of Providence; the Ninth Circuit affirmed.

The court reasoned that, because of the nature of being a NICU nurse, regular and predictable attendance at work is an essential job function. NICU nurses provide intensive life-saving care to premature infants.  Absences among the NICU staff can jeopardize the care these infants receive.  If the hospital agreed to Plaintiff’s proposed “reasonable” accommodation, Plaintiff would be exempt from an essential job function – showing up to work.

The court stated that an employer does not need to provide accommodations that compromise performance quality – to require this of a hospital could, quite literally, be fatal.

To read the Ninth Circuit’s Opinion, please visit:[3]

Monday, November 19, 2012

Record Number of Veterans Back Home, Many Running for Office

Brig. Gen. Carol Ann Fausone (Ret)
Veteran Advocate

The population of recent combat veterans in the U.S.  is higher than at any time since the Vietnam era. So it should not be surprising that there seem to be an unprecedented number of veterans running for local and state offices this election cycle, including Illinois congressional candidate and Iraqi vet Tammy Duckworth, California's Republican nominee for the 53rd Congressional District and Iraqi vet Nick Popaditch, and Iraqi vet and Arizona State House candidate Mark Cardenas.
Meanwhile, the number of service people who hold public office continues to decline. Close to 90 percent of the members of the U.S. House and Senate  were military members in 1969; currently, according the Congressional Research Service, only some 20 percent of members serve or have served in the military.  The peak of post-military politicians peaked in the postwar era; by the end of the Second World War, there were roughly 16 million service people who "came home" to serve, including in political offices.  
"Working in public office is just another way these men and women are serving their country," stated veterans' lawyer James Fausone.
The push to get more veterans into public office is helmed by Veterans Campaign, a non-partisan organization working to train veterans to run for public office. Their stated goal includes supporting and encouraging veterans by running workshops, lectures and research to demystify the campaign process. Veterans Campaign supports veterans as valuable and electable leaders, possessing exemplary leadership backgrounds, the ability to work with many different types of people and a depth of understanding the bureaucratic steps and tangles so familiar to anyone working with foreign policy affairs and government systems.
According to a Harvard study cited by Veterans Campaign, Americans are only becoming more confident in military personnel; currently, they state, 82 percent of U.S. citizens report confidence in the members of the armed forces. Younger Americans, ages 18 to 25, also report that they believe U.S. politics is excessively partisan. According to Veterans Campaign, this dissatisfaction with the current atmosphere is an opportune time to help veterans continue to serve their country, this time in office. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guard & Reserve Denials

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Lawyer

In order to receive VA disability compensation, you have to prove a service connected disability.  The disability has to occur on active duty as compared to monthly training in which National Guard and Reserve have traditionally participated.  But since 9/11 the Guard and Reserve components have made up about 40% of the active duty assignments both here and abroad. 
It is not clear that VA understands the way that DOD utilizes these components today. New data obtained by Veterans for Common Sense under the Freedom of Information Act shows the denial rate for claims filed by reserve component combat veterans is 4 times higher than for post-9/11 combat veterans who were active-duty members. 
Guard and Reserve troops tend to be older and have less years of service than active troops. These facts may make proving claims more difficult.  This discrepancy has come to light and we hope the VA and National Guard leadership work to eliminate this disparity.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Here we go again - Missing Records

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Lawyer

After handing thousands of veteran claims for disability over a dozen years some patterns emerge.  One of the more frustrating is the loss of military records that veterans need to prove disability claims to the VA. 
A joint investigation by ProPublica and The Seattle Times has found that the recordkeeping breakdown was especially acute in the early years of the Iraq War, when insurgents deployed improvised bombs with devastating effects on U.S. soldiers. The military has also lost or destroyed records from Afghanistan, according to officials in previously undisclosed documents.  The loss of field records — after-action write-ups, intelligence reports and other day-to-day accounts from the war zones.  This is a chronic problem that certainly dates back to the World War II, Vietnam and other war zones.

Recordkeeping was so poor in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2007 that "very few Operation ENDURING FREEDOM records were saved anywhere, either for historians' use, or for the services' documentary needs for unit heritage, or for the increasing challenge with documenting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)," according to an Army report from 2009.   Entire brigades deployed from 2003 to 2008 could not produce any field records, documents from the U.S. Army Center of Military History show.

So guys, save your records.  Keep notes of your buddy's name and the letters and emails you wrote home.  That may be the only proof you have years from now about your service experiences.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Metro Detroit Veteran Inventors

TechShop, Inc. is a Silicon Valley firm that runs an expanding chain of membership-based shops, featuring a wide array of equipment and computer workstations for designing, prototyping and manufacturing a wide array of items. TechShop is a place designed for inventors, innovators and 'makers', working alone and with others. A typical TechShop 'shop' is 20,000 square feet of space (the size of a medium supermarket) chock full of a wide array of equipment, including metal working, cutting, shaping, welding, electronics, fabrics and textiles, woodworking and 3D printers, along with the computer workstations and assorted software needed to manage CAD/CAM (computer assisted design/computer assisted manufacturing) and CNC (computer numerical controlled) execution. TechShop appeals to hobbyist and inventor alike. More can be found at

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, through the efforts of its VAi2 (Veterans Affairs innovation initiative), has secured two thousand, one-year memberships in select TechShop, Inc. locations. These memberships will be given away free to qualified Veterans. You will need to pay for any materials you use at TechShop, but they can be purchased anywhere. These are full, one-year memberships, plus $350 in additional classes, with a total value of approximately $1,500.
The initial Veterans memberships will be for two locations, one of which is Allen Park, Michigan. More locations will be added later, so please check back if you are not located in these two areas. These free memberships are limited and will be awarded over the next two years.

To be considered for a membership in Allen Park, please email with your full name only. Do not include any other personal information, such as Social Security Number or home telephone. Include in your email a brief statement (fifty words or less, and bullet points are fine) how you would use and benefit from a one-year TechShop membership.

The Department of Veteran Affairs will make selection decisions. TechShop does not decide who will be enrolled. 

Anyone chosen for a membership will be contacted by email and required to provide proof of Veteran status to the Department of Veterans Affairs before enrollment.

It is highly recommended that you tour the TechShop location before applying. The tour will allow you to see the array of machinery and IT that will be available. If you would like a tour, simply call our location and ask for a "Veterans Program Tour".

TechShop – Detroit
800 Republic Drive
Allen Park, Ml 48101

Phone: (313)583-3831
These memberships are limited, so apply soon.

Thank you for your past and ongoing service to our nation.
VA/TechShop Veterans Program

Gynecologist Medicare Fraud

Tariq Hafeez, Esq.

A five year sentence and $3 million in restitution awaits Jonathan Agbebiyi, the Michigan gynecologist behind a $5.4 million Medicare fraud scheme. Between 2007 and 2010, Agbebiyi practiced at three different clinics in Livonia, running a Medicare fraud scheme from each.

However, it is not just Agbebiyi’s fraudulent use of the Medicare system that draws concern, but his recruitment practices raise alarms as well. Rather than being referred to the clinic by a primary care physician, Agbebiyi recruited patients with promises of cash, fast food, and prescriptions for illicit substances.

Once recruited, patients underwent medically unnecessary neurological tests during which they received electrical impulses through their arms and legs. Agbebiyi then billed Medicare for these tests, while patients never received any type of neurological follow-up.  Clearly, any legitimate purpose for the tests was non-existent.
After the FBI investigated the scheme, Agbebiyi was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and six counts of health care fraud. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade hopes that cases such as Agbebiyi’s will “deter other doctors from using patients as commodities for personal gain.”

Cases such as these are common. The prosecution of Agbebiyi was a direct result of the federal government’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations, which is responsible for charging over 1,330 defendants since 2007, reigning in over $4 billion in fraudulent Medicare billing practices.

If you need to discuss Medicare or fraud issues with an attorney, please contact Mark Mandell or Tariq Hafeez at (248) 380-0000.

To learn more and see the original article, please visit:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Prescription Drug Addictions Continue to Plague Veterans

Kristina Derro
Veteran Advocate
According to an investigation by American-Statesman, of all the Texas veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and were receiving disability benefits when they died, a majority accidentally died from drug overdoses or toxic prescription combinations.

Information released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs indicated that almost 350 veterans from Texas with VA benefits died between 2003 and 2011; investigators from the American-Statesman went on to identify those veterans and confirm that 266 of them, 77 percent, died of accidental drug overdoses or from an accidental and toxic combination of prescription drugs.

There is a dramatic lack of research on veterans' deaths and drug overdoses. According to Amy Bohnert, a researcher at the University of Michigan and Department of Veterans Affairs, the lack of research is a concern. Bohnert recently published the first-ever systemic examination of overdoses and recent veterans.

Bohnert looked at all the veterans nationally who were receiving VA services in 2005. She deduced that more than 1,000 of them died from accidental drug overdoses, with, accounting for age and gender, is double the rate of accidental drug overdoses for the civilian population. Bohnert conclude that accidental drug overdoses are a far greater threat to military veterans than suicidal acts, through suicide has been far wider publicized.
Analysis by the Statesman suggests that for veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, drug overdoses may be even more of an issue than for all military veterans.

A review by the Statesman of autopsy reports for Texas veterans determined that while a few of the overdoses were attributed to illegal drugs, most of the drug-related deaths were due to prescription medications, including pain medication, sleep aids and medication for anxiety and depression. While 3 out of the 47 listed overdoses were determined to be suicides, the others were accidental miscalculations of toxic drug combinations or dosages.  The average age of death for the Texas veterans examined as part of the study was 29, and three of the veterans were women.

Prescription drug addictions, especially addictive opiate painkillers, are at the forefront of the drug issue with recent veterans; nearly half of service people returning from Afghanistan and Iraq reported pain-related issues. Military doctors in 2009 prescribed an estimated 3.8 million narcotic pain pills, an increase of 400 percent since 2001. In addition, the Army reports that amphetamine prescriptions to treat adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder doubled between 2006 and 2009. An Army study from 2010 found that one-third of soldiers were taking prescription meds, and almost 50 percent of those soldiers were taking opiate painkillers.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

PTSD 30% of Treated Troops

James G. Fausone
Veterans Disability Attorney

A report, posted to the VA's website, showed that 247,243 of the 834,463 treated veterans from the two current conflicts were diagnosed with PTSD.  So the question is does VA intend to have the resources necessary both in health care and in disability benefits to meet this reality.  Based on the recent VA report, on post-traumatic stress disorder that nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and treated at VA hospitals were diagnosed with PTSD what are you doing to address this situation.  At the law firm we help hundreds of vets with PTSD. The story is often the same VA diagnoses for PTSD but treatment is another challenge and disability benefits are years in waiting. Let’s solve this problem now.

Michigan Medicare Fraud Strike Force

By Mark Mandell

Recently, in the Eastern District of Michigan, five more individuals were charged for their participation in yet another Medicare fraud scheme. The Department of Justice, FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the charges in late September, stating the individuals were involved in fraudulent health and psychotherapy services.

Defendants charged in the documents include: Mohammed Sadiq, 65, Troy, Mich.; Jamella Al-Jumail, 23, of Brownstown, Mich.; Firas Alky, 40, of Shelby Township, Mich.; Clarence Cooper, 53, of Detroit; and Beverly Cooper, 58, of Detroit.

According to court documents the scheme involved a total of more than $24.7 million in fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare. The majority of this total was billed as home health care and psychotherapy services that were either medically unnecessary or had never really occurred.

The investigation was triggered by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the strike force has charged more than 1,330 defendants who collectively have fraudulently billed Medicare for more than $4 billion. Working in conjuncture with the FBI and HHS, the strike force hopes to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Fausone Bohn’s team working on Medicare fraud cases include Mark Mandell, Tariq Hafeez, Breeda O’Leary and Matt Worley.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Increased Incidences of Suicide and Self-Harm From Veterans

Brig. Gen. Carol Ann Fausone (Ret)
Veteran Advocate

Veterans and current military personnel have a higher rate of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder than do non military, states Peter Gutierrez, the co-director of the Military Suicide Research Consortium in Colorado. Individuals with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder are more prone to suicidal and self-harming behaviors. Gutierrez's consortium has paired with the U.S. military and additional research scientists to work to better understand and prevent self-harming behaviors and suicidal acts.

According to recent data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of suicide attempts and other self-harming behaviors among veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq was at the highest levels for two years after active duty and declined 50 percent between four and six years after active duty had ended.

"Our veterans need a broad and comprehensive support system to help them transition to civilian life and get the assistance they need," stated veterans attorney James Fausone. 

Still not widely understood is whether currently returning veterans, those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, have a higher rate of suicide compared to other veteran groups from previous wars. A study from the VA released this summer determined that the suicide risk for veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq who have been diagnosed with one or more mental health issues condition was four times higher was four times higher than for veterans without a diagnosed  mental health issue. Additionally, male veterans were found to be more than 200 percent more likely to commit suicide than males who were not military veterans.

The risk for suicide does not seem to significantly decrease for veterans who pursue higher education. According to a study from the University of Utah, “Student Veterans: A National Survey Exploring Psychological Symptoms and Suicide Risk," presented to the American Psychological Association, almost 50 percent of currently enrolled college students who served in the military have reported that they have considered suicide, a rate dramatically higher than for those college students who are not veterans. The need for adequate mental health support both for nonstudent and student veterans is of utmost importance, said study head, M. David Rudd. Researchers surveyed more than 500 veterans; 98 percent served in wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. Of those surveyed, almost 50 percent reported suicidal thinking, 20 percent indicated that they had experienced not only suicidal thoughts but also a plan.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Defense for Employers to Fight FMLA Abuse

Don Knapp, Esq.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees can take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year for a variety of reasons, including caring for close family members with serious health conditions.  An employee may use paid sick, personal or vacation leave as part of the FMLA leave.  An employer may not interfere with an employee’s exercise of this right and they cannot terminate an employee for taking FMLA leave.
Employers were without much recourse against employees who exploit the FMLA, until a 2012 Seventh Circuit decision.

In Scruggs v. Carrier Corp., the Seventh Circuit recently held that employers may terminate employees who are suspected of violating the FMLA as long as the employer has an “honest suspicion” or “honest belief” that the leave was being abused.  In other words, an employer can defeat a claim by the employee if they show that the employee did not take the leave “for the intended purpose.”

In Scruggs, an employee was fired after an investigation showed that he did not leave his house on a day that he claimed he was taking his mother to a medical appointment.  The investigation consisted of a private investigator hired by the employer to provide surveillance on the employee.  After being fired, the employee sued arguing that he did take his mother to her appointment and that the employer did not conduct a thorough investigation.  The Seventh Circuit ruled that the employer’s honest belief of abuse was sufficient to rule in their favor.  The decision provides some comfort to employers and allows them to more aggressively police employees abusing the FMLA. 

The Sixth Circuit similarly held this year, in Seeger v. Cincinnati Bell Telephone Co., that an employer can fire an employee as long as there is an honest suspicion of abuse.  The Sixth Circuit also ruled that an employer cannot rely on suspicion alone – some form of investigation must be conducted.  In Seeger, the Plaintiff’s co-workers saw him at a local Oktoberfest festival, walking unhindered despite his supposed back injury, and informed their employer.  This was sufficient to support the employer’s honest belief.

One thing is for sure – employers can now rest easier knowing they have a way of combatting employee abuse of the FMLA.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

The men who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are staying in place during Hurricane Sandy.  We expect so much of our men and women in the military. I pass along this news story because it gives me goose bumps.  I hope it does for you as well.