Thursday, February 28, 2013

Veterans Post Surgery Compensation

Jim Fausone, Esq
Veteran Disability Attorney

So now, the Inspector General reports that VA overpays veterans.  Really?  Most veterans fight for years to get the compensation correct.  The IG looked at a narrow batch of cases where veterans temporarily receive a 100 percent disability rating while undergoing surgery or debilitating treatments and convalescing.    Claims examiners allegedly failed —in two out of three sampled cases — to seek a follow-up medical exam to determine if the veteran’s condition has improved and the temporary 100 percent disability rating should be reduced accordingly, inspectors said.  The IG claims this 66% error rate has allowed 12,800 vets to be over compensated during a 16 year period.  This is focusing on the flea on the tail of the dog.  There is a backlog of 900,000 claims.  So this report focuses on 1.4% of the VA backlog claims.  This is typical government thinking; focus on the small problems, make them seem really important and you can ignore the big problems, which are important.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Reduction in Force Increases Veterans

Jim Fausone, Esq.
Veteran Disability Attorney

The nonsense in Washington has included strangling the DOD of defense budget.   With the wind down in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was inevitable that a troop draw down would occur.  The pace and planning on the draw down is now coming into light.  The Army is to be reduced 60,000 troops and the Marines will reduce 20,000 troops.  Those who know the Veteran Affairs world will know that these 80,000 will face years of delay in getting the medical treatment and VA disability ratings to which they are entitled.  Congress should not force DOD to draw down the troops without insuring that VA can take care of these men and women in the VA system.  The impending cuts are independent of the $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts, otherwise known as sequestration, which will take place next month if Congress fails to reach a preventative deal.  Congress should at least try to get this right.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Traverse City Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud

Mark J. Mandell, Esq.

William Lowder, a northern Michigan insurance broker, pleaded guilty to fraud. After manipulating clients to change their investments and encouraging them to put money in annuities handled by his Traverse City office, Lowder cost his clients more than $1 million over an eight-year period.
Only a week after charges were filed, 57-year-old Lowder pleaded guilty in Grand Rapids federal court. Lowder also pleaded guilty to a tax crime. Earlier last year, state regulators suspended his license. While he took advantage of many clients, the state regulators say he also took advantage of at least one client who was mentally incompetent.
He has been given a court-appointed attorney and will receive his sentence on May 29.
If you have questions about criminal matters, fraud or other legal issues, please contact Mark Mandell or Tariq Hafeez at 248.380.0000 or online at
To learn more and read the original article, please visit:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Number of Homeless Vets Declined in 2011, Notes Veterans Lawyer

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Lawyer
President Obama and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pledged in 2010 to work together to end homelessness among veterans within five years.
A report which was released to Congress in December 2012 by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) found that the number of homeless vets has, indeed, dropped. 
According to the report, a 2011 assessment was done by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that found 67,495 veterans were homeless in January 2011 during a one-day count. That number was a 12 percent decrease from the same sort of one-day count a year ago, in January 2010. The USICH report points to an increase of funds for homeless assistance programs and an unusual level of cooperation and collaboration between multiple federal agencies as essential reasons for the lower numbers of homeless vets.
"Any decline in the number of homeless vets is a reason to applaud," said veterans lawyer James Fausone. "Here's hoping the joint efforts continue to help homeless vets and the numbers continue to decrease."
Studies indicate that higher concentrations of homeless vets are found in California, New York, Florida and Texas, in the urban areas of those states. Numbers for how many homeless vets reside in rural areas are harder to come by, as fewer services are available in rural areas and those homeless vets may less visible for any census undertaking. 
The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report found that homeless vets who are  Native American make up a large demographic; while Native Americans make up just 0.7 percent of the total number of U.S. veterans, they account for 2.5 percent of the veterans who are homeless.
Female veterans are also at a high risk for homeless, the study found. Women vets may return to civilian life that includes additional challenges, such as raising children as single parents, and some suffer from PTSD from military sexual trauma.  The VA has services geared specifically for women vets who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, including Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program (SSVF), which awards grants to private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives offering support to low income veterans and veteran families who live in or are transitioning to live in permanent housing.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Increase in Fraudulent Loan Applications Necessitates Vigilance for Lenders

Mark J. Mandell, Esq.

A troubling spike in fraudulent loan applications in Flint, Michigan between June 2012 and October 2012 is the highest in the nation. According to Kroll Factual Data, a Colorado-based lender verification service, Flint saw a 50.3 percent increase in fraudulent loan applications to banks, mortgage lenders, and credit unions. While fraud alerts saw declines in some areas of the country, these declines were offset by significant increases in other areas of the country.
“The spike in potential fraud is troubling, coming at the same time the mortgage industry is beginning to turn the corner,” said Rod Bazzani, president of Kroll Factual Data. More so, the increase in potential fraud poses a risk for lenders and highlights the need for lenders to continue to be vigilant.

The results of the study were announced just two weeks after the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued new regulations for borrowers. Such regulations include the need to verify financial records in order to ensure one’s ability to repay mortgages.

Kroll Factual Data examined multiple metropolitan areas and used proprietary risk analysis and verification engines to isolate files that contain indicators of mortgage origination fraud. While Flint saw the largest increase, other cities that made the top ten include Colombia, Missouri; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Tacoma, Washington. While most other cities that saw increases in fraudulent loan applications hovered around an increase of 20 percent, Flint saw an increase of around 50 percent. Nationally, fraudulent loan applications increased just 1.1 percent. In comparison, the increases in Flint are quite troubling.

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

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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meditating Marines

Kristina Derro
Veterans Disability Lawyer
The U.S. Marine Corps has instituted a pilot program to study how mindfulness and meditation can assist its warriors in becoming even tougher. The goal is to make Marines even tougher through meditative practices, yoga-type stretching, and exercises based upon mindfulness. With a record high suicide rate this year and thousands of veterans seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, the military has been searching for ways to reduce strains on its members.

The Marine Corps officials are testing a series of brain calming exercises that they believe could enhance the performance of troops. The purpose is to mentally prepare the troops to better handle stress. Camp Pendleton will offer the eight-week course to about 80 Marines.

This class builds on a 2011 experiment involving 320 Marines whose results are set to be published this coming fall. In that experiment, 160 Marines were taught to focus their attention by concentrating on their body’s sensations, including breathing, in a period of silence. After learning these techniques, the 160 Marines went through a mock Afghan village with screaming actors and controlled blasts to expose them to combat stress. Their reactions and images of their brains were recorded. Another 160 Marines who did not have mindfulness training, acting as the control group, went through the same mock village and had their reactions recorded. The hypothesis was that the exercises help the brain better react to high-stress situations and recover more quickly from those episodes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Seventeen-Year Sentence Awaits Pharmacist

Mark J. Mandell, Esq.

After billing the government for more than $57 million worth of medically unnecessary painkillers, Babubhai (Bob) Patel now faces 17 years in prison.

Owning and operating more than 26 pharmacies across metro Detroit, Patel had a myriad of doctors at his fingertips. He paid such doctors to write orders and had recruiters offer cash to lower-income individuals in exchange for their Medicare or Medicaid numbers. The scheme operated on a business model that paid kickbacks to physicians in exchange for their writing prescriptions for expensive – yet unneeded – medications. As a result, between 2006 and 2011, Patel billed Medicare and Medicaid for over $57 million. At least 25 percent of those billings were for drugs that were never dispensed or were unnecessary to begin with. Not only did Patel take advantage of the government, but he also fraudulently billed to private insurers, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

In addition to the years Patel will face behind bars, he has also been ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $17.3 million to Medicaid and Medicare, as well an additional $1.5 million to Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“What you have done,” the court told Patel, “is reprehensible.”

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


Monday, February 11, 2013

Proposed Veterans Court to Help Vets With Substance Abuse, Mental Illness

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

Legislators in Missouri want a court created specifically for veterans.
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, has drafted legislation requesting that Missouri circuit courts create a place specifically for current and former U.S. military who are struggling with substance abuse or mental illness issues. Barnes stated that the country owes it to the veterans to get them the treatment they need to get their lives back on track. The idea is supported by Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, who said the vet treatment court would run like a drug courts, where a judge would have the ability sentence a defendant to a rehabilitation facility or to perform some community service, without mandatory prison or jail time. Judges overseeing a veterans court can use the power of the court to force a vet to get treatment; proponents believe that recidivism rates for vets processed through a specialized vet court are lower than for those vets who do not go through a veterans court.

The court would be well-versed in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) issues as well as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) issues, two conditions which can lead to law-breaking behaviors among military vets back in civilian life. According to a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vets with PTSD or TBI were far more likely than vets without either condition to be arrested. The bill currently proposed would not only help vets get treatment while taking into count their specific circumstances, the court would also be able to more efficiently deal with the backlog of veterans with court issues.

Objections that were previously raised in the Senate when discussing a veterans court included concerns from some that it would be used for veterans accused of committing violent crimes.

The veteran’s court model includes veteran mentors who assist with the program.  While some systems vary, generally, a collaborative team made up of the judge, probation officers, a public defender, and a Veterans Administration representative get together to review cases to decide which veterans will be admitted to veterans court for a multi-phase, long-term system.

The first veterans court of this type was put into place in Buffalo, New York, in 2008. As of 2011, there were no reports of recidivism among the vets who completed the Buffalo program. There are now more than 70 veterans courts in the U.S.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Soldier Suicides

Kristina Derro
Veterans Disability Lawyer

Heartbreakingly, a new report out from the Department of Defense shows that in 2012 more soldiers took their own lives than died in combat. Through November 2012, 177 active-duty personnel had committed suicide compared with 176 soldiers who were killed in action during the same time frame. Army suicides have increased by at least 54 percent since 2007.

Blame has been placed on the military culture in which soldiers believe they will be deemed weak and denied promotions if they seek mental health aid. There is also the problem that our soldiers today face multiple deployments during their service. However, the Army has referenced the anti-suicide strategy that that it put in place in April 2009 and claims that with the new programs in place it will just be a matter of time until they start making a dent in the issue. The Army stressed that soldiers are assured that seeking mental health counseling will not harm their chances at gaining a security clearance.

In July 2010, the Army released a report that purportedly explained its suicide epidemic. The report referenced loosened recruitment and retention standards due to the furious pace of repeated deployments. The Army claimed this allowed more than 47,000 people to remain in the Army, despite histories of substance abuse and misdemeanor crime. Obviously, this report only angered families who had lost members to suicide because it insinuates that those individuals were in some way “flawed” and prone to suicide, despite the fact that they served honorably. It also completely overlooked the fact that soldiers were subject to multiple deployments.
These findings only highlight the fact that the military culture is still one where mental health treatment is not fully embraced. It is also a sign that further programs need to be put into place in the military to prevent further suicides. Having our active-duty personnel being placed in harm’s way during combat is a necessary evil. Having them end up surviving combat, but dying once they get home due to a lack of a supportive military environment—the same military that sent them to combat—is atrocious.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Store Owner Sentenced in Food Stamp Fraud

Mark Mandell, Esq.
The Bridge Card is debit-card like device in use today that electronically tracks food stamp benefits for those in need at the hand of taxpayer dollars. For Noha Fofana and Akhir McFarland, however, the bridge card represented an opportunity to pull in revenue at the Mandingo African Market.
Fofana and others at the Mandingo African Market would obtain card numbers and call them into the store, where they would be manually entered into the system allowing for the transference of benefits from the card to the store’s bank account. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade says that Fofana, the owner of Mandingo African Market, pulled in more than $750,000 in food stamp benefits from February 2009 to July 2011. State officials have calculated Mandingo’s average food stamp redemption amount - $26,798 per month – which stands in stark contrast to other convenience stores in the area that only redeem approximately $5,479.
As a result of the fraudulent scheme, Fofana was sentenced to four years, three months in prison. Moreover, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered Fofana to pay $612,980.96 in restitution to the USDA-Food and Nutrition Service.
“We hope that other merchants will become aware of prosecution like this one and be deterred from engaging in similar fraud schemes,” McQuade said.
If you have any questions about criminal or fraudulent activity, contact Mark Mandell or Tariq Hafeez of Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000.
To learn more and read the original article, please visit:

Monday, February 4, 2013

New Bill to Support Post-9/11 Vets

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer
The House of Representatives has passed HR 4057, a new bill designed to help student veterans. HR 4057 will allow post-9/11 student vets one comprehensive place online to find information about their applications for various colleges and institutions, and track any issues that may arise. The bill instructs the Veterans Administration to launch a website for this purpose and also to offer educational counseling to the student vets.

The bill will include education counseling, extensive information about schools, programs, financing, school retention and graduation rates, transfer credit opportunities, and what academic, technical and support services are available to them. The overall plan to make the Post-9/11 GI Bill easily accessible to all who qualify for it.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill includes education and housing financial support for military personnel with 90 or more days of service after September 10, 2001, and for individuals who were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. Students must have been honorably discharge in order to receive the benefit the benefit covers as much as 36 months of expenses if they are education-related and approved, and can be used as late as 15 years after active duty has ended.

Another veterans-based bill sent to the President is the Dignified Burial and other Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2012, which allows provisions for burials for veterans who leave behind few or no resources and no family members to oversee their burial. The bill includes instruction for a registry which would track the service-related symptoms and illnesses of vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who were exposed to toxic contaminants.

Both bills have been designed to provide support for veterans, from educational opportunities to comprehensive civilian transition programs to services that allow them burial with dignity.

The Dignity bill authorizes the VA to: provide a casket or urn, if needed; follow the wishes of next of kin regarding the funeral or memorial service; claim unclaimed or abandoned veteran remains for proper burial; use $5 million for a military cemetery in the Philippines; and establish an "open burn pit registry" to track vets who were exposed to probable toxic materials from Middle East open burn pits, and track their ongoing health concerns and explore treatment options.  Additionally, the bill authorizes the VA to provide transportation of vets to and/or from counseling, vocational and rehabilitation treatment and care.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Retires After Accusations of Bank Fraud

Mark J. Mandell, Esq.

Amidst federal charges of bank fraud, Diane Hathaway has filed for retirement, stepping down from her post as Michigan Supreme Court Justice. The charge was filed Friday as a “criminal information,” which means it was negotiated and that a guilty plea is expected in federal court. As a result, Hathaway faces the loss of her law license and time in prison.
In order to convince a lender that she qualified for a short sale on her $1.5 million home in Grosse Pointe, Hathaway concealed her ownership of a Florida home by placing the home in husband’s daughter’s name. As a result, the short sale went through in November 2011 and erased the $600,000 debt they had with the bank. Following the short sale, the Florida home was transferred back to Hathaway in March 2012. Hathaway has refused to make any public comments explaining the transactions; instead, she claims that the property shuffle was a private matter.
Now, the judge that sentences her must be concerned with the message that is sent by his decision: “Do you cut a break to a sitting Supreme Court Justice who has to know better?” Peter Henning, a professor at Wayne State University Law School, asked. The maximum penalty for bank fraud is 30 years in prison. While such an extreme sentence seems rare, Hathaway should expect some time in custody. Former federal prosecutor Lloyd Meyer of Chicago believes it “would be unthinkable to have this type of defendant get a slap on the wrist.”
Governor Rick Snyder plans to appoint a replacement. Last year, the Michigan Judicial Selection Task Force made a recommendation for the process, suggesting that when a vacancy occurs on the Michigan Supreme Court, a non-partisan panel should screen candidates and then submit three to five choice from which the governor could choose. As of late, Governor Snyder is conducting his own search, hoping to appoint a replacement sooner rather than later.
Chief Justice Young called the scandal one that “diminishes the public’s trust in government.” Hopefully, Synder’s newest appointee will help to rebuild this trust.
If you have questions about criminal matters, fraud or other legal issues, please contact Mark Mandell or Tariq Hafeez at 248.380.0000 or online at