Thursday, March 28, 2013

Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune

Kristina Derro, Esq.
Veteran Advocate

The water at Camp Lejeune, a Marine base that began operating in 1941, isn’t just bad – it’s unprecedented, according to a new federal report.

The study, conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, created a historical model to estimate the levels of carcinogens in the drinking water from 1953 to 1985.  To accomplish this, the scientists examined data from tens of thousands of federal and state documents during the period when the water wasn’t tested.

The results of the study, which are considered highly reliable, are staggering.  Certain carcinogenic substances are believed to have reached levels 33 to 153 times higher than what federal regulators consider safe.  These toxic chemicals came from several potential sources, including industrial solvents used at the base.
While it has been known for years that the water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated, the release of this report renews serious health concerns for the more than 1 million people that lived and worked on the base from 1953 to 1985.
Richard Clapp, an epidemiologist who peer-reviewed the study, said that the findings are dramatic and that Camp Lejeune is the most highly contaminated drinking water in the U.S. that he is aware of.  Residents of the base have reported a wide range of types of cancers, including more than 80 instances of men diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer.

The Marine Corps has not yet commented on the results of this study.  Former residents are hopeful that the government will conduct a cancer incidence study to determine if the contaminated water has caused abnormally high cancer rates.  Unfortunately, without legislation, a study is unlikely to occur.

To read the original article, please visit:

If you are a veteran with questions about obtaining government benefits, contact Legal Help for Veterans, a practice group of Fausone Bohn, LLP, in Northville, Michigan at 800-693-4800 or online at 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Health Care Fraud Indictments

Tariq Hafeez, Esq.
Thirteen individuals from the metro Detroit area have been charged in a large-scale health care fraud and drug distribution scheme, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.
The superseding indictment, adds 13 new defendants and new charges to a 2011 indictment, which charged Canton Pharmacist Babubhai ‘Bob” Patel with overseeing a massive health care fraud and drug distribution ring at more than 20 pharmacies that he owned and controlled in metro Detroit.
The 21-count superseding indictment charges with prescription fraud involving 26 Michigan pharmacies. The indictment alleges that the defendants participated in a scheme whereby the owners/controllers of the pharmacies provided kickbacks, bribes, and other illegal benefits to physicians to induce those physicians to write prescriptions for patients with Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. The prescriptions be presented to one of the defendants’ pharmacies for billing. In exchange for their kickbacks and inducements, the physicians would write prescriptions for the patients and bill the relevant insurers for services supposedly provided to the patients without regard to the medical necessity of those prescriptions and services. The physicians would direct the patients to fill their prescriptions at one of the defendant owned pharmacies, where defendants would bill insurers, including Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers, for dispensing the medications, despite the fact that the medications were medically unnecessary and, in many cases, never provided. Patients were recruited into the scheme by patient recruiters or “marketers,” who would pay kickbacks and bribes to patients in exchange for the patients’ permitting the defendants’ pharmacies and the defendant physicians to bill their insurance for medications and services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided.
The indictment further alleges a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances at the defendants’  pharmacies to facilitate the submission of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. According to the indictment, defendants paid physicians kickbacks for prescriptions for controlled substances for their patients and directed those patients to fill the prescriptions at defendants owned/controlled pharmacies. The controlled substances included the Schedule II drug oxycodone (Oxycontin), the Schedule III drug hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab), the Schedule IV drug alprazolam (Xanax), and the Schedule V drug cough syrup with codeine. According to the indictment, prescriptions for these drugs were written outside the course of legitimate medical practice. 
This most recent indictment falls in line with the federal government’s increased investigation and prosecution of health care fraud across the country.  In May 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) created the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), making the fight against health care fraud a Cabinet-level position. The Heat task force is focused on nine cities including Detroit.
If you have questions about health care fraud or other legal issues, please contact Mark Mandell or Tariq Hafeez at 248.380.0000 or online at

John Walsh Graces Cover of Michigan Bar Journal

As a member of the 97th State Legislature, Lawyer-Legislator John Walsh, Speaker Pro Tempore and an attorney at Fausone Bohn, LLP found himself on the cover of the March issue of the Michigan Bar Journal. Along with 16 other lawyer-legislators, Walsh was interviewed about the juxtaposition between his experiences as an attorney and the life of a Representative in the public eye.
In the article, John states that choosing to enter into public service seemed a natural move from his core training in the legal field. John emphasizes a desire for a “more thoughtful and focused legal system,” one that could be bolstered by his thorough knowledge of our legal history and the current system in which we live.  
While John supports numerous causes, he hopes to bring real change to issues that remain close to home: focusing on the state funding of Michigan courts and the defense system regarding indigent defendants. His drive to improve the operation of local, county, and state funding will help those citizens that the legal system is meant to serve.
Despite their positive contributions to society, many point to the negative public image and constant barrage of criticism that both lawyers and politicians face. John’s response? “While it may sound a bit trite,” John says, “lawyers should accentuate the positive.” His positive outlook for progress serves as a reminder of the beneficial services provided by both attorneys and politicians every day.
To learn more about John Walsh, feel free to visit our website at

Monday, March 25, 2013

Veteran In Need of a Wheelchair

Kristina Derro
Veteran Advocate

Here at Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC, we pride ourselves on going the extra mile for our veterans. One example is that a veteran client of ours needed a wheelchair. We are currently working to get her service-connected for her orthopedic issues. Since she isn’t service-connected yet, VA will not provide her with the wheelchair that she so desperately needs for free. Since she is on a tight budget, it’s not possible for her to purchase one on her own.

As a result, we worked with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in Minnesota to determine that it had an “assistive equipment closet”. The DAV would then loan out the assistive equipment (ex. wheelchairs, canes, walkers, etc.) to local veterans. In this case, the DAV was happy to loan our veteran the wheelchair that she needed.

We find that many times resources are available to help veterans, but oftentimes veterans simply do not know where to turn or get too frustrated to solve the problem. Brig General Carol Ann Fausone (ret), who has contacts all over the country, notes “Whenever I ask a veterans service organization to help, it does not matter where in the country the veteran is located. I always find a partner to assist veterans”.

Our goal at Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC is to ensure that America’s veterans are taken care of. Even if the situation isn’t involving an area of law that we handle, we ensure that we assist the veteran in any way that we can.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Penalties Severe for Pharmacy and Medicare Fraud

Mark Mandell, Esq.

In Detroit on Wednesday, 43 individuals were indicted by the Federal government on allegations of a widespread conspiracy of pharmacy and Medicare fraud.  The indictment alleges that conspiring doctors, pharmacists, and health care workers wrote fraudulent prescriptions for pills such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Xanax.  These pills were then sold on the streets of Detroit and elsewhere at a significant profit.

This conspiracy is believed to have defrauded Medicare for more than $21.5 million.

Defendants were charged with a variety of crimes, the main charges including Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances; and Health Care Fraud Conspiracy.  Also charged were various unlawful monetary transactions and weapons-related offenses.

If convicted of conspiracy to distribute a Schedule II controlled substance, such as OxyContin, Defendants are looking at up to 20 years in prison and more if death or injury resulted from the use of the controlled substances.  This is on top of fines up to $1 million for individual defendants.  If a convicted Defendant has any prior felony drug convictions, the minimum term of imprisonment and fines are increased.

If convicted of a Health Care Fraud Conspiracy, Defendants are looking at up to 10 years in prison, more if injury or death occurs as a result of the fraud.

These fines and imprisonment are in addition to restitution that Defendants may be required to pay to the Medicare System for the fraud.

With the Federal government’s crackdown on all types of health care fraud, these indictments are becoming more and more common.  If you are caught up in fraud or other criminal charges, having experienced and knowledgeable defense attorneys isn’t just helpful – it’s imperative.  Mark Mandell and the fraud team at Fausone Bohn, LLP, have years of experience and are especially suited to negotiate charges with prosecutors and, if necessary, take these cases to trial.

If you need a top-notch legal defense, contact Mark Mandell at 248-380-0000 or online at 

43 Indicted in Michigan on Federal Prescription Drug Fraud Charges

Mark Mandell, Esq.

Yesterday, the Federal government indicted 43 people on charges of running a massive prescription drug scheme.  Those charged include doctors, pharmacists, and home health care workers.

According to the indictment, five of the doctors charged prescribed more than half a million doses of OxyContin – pills with a street value of $10 million.  In addition, those doctors are alleged to have prescribed 2 million doses of Vicodin, 2 million doses of Xanax, and more than 1,000 liters of cough syrup.  All of this occurred over a 21-month period, the indictment said.

The indictment alleges that the defendants held “patient parties” and hired recruiters to obtain new beneficiaries for the scheme.

It is believed that the fraud bilked Medicare for more than $21.5 million.  Also included in the indictment are charges for bribery, money laundering, kickbacks, and weapons-related offenses.

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

To read the original Free Press article detailing the indictment, please visit:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Military Dog Advocates Push For New Status For Canines

James Fausone
Veteran Advocate
Currently there are an estimated 2,500 dogs deployed oversees to assist American troops, sent into situations which include detecting explosives and chasing down an enemy while facing combat and gunfire. It is estimated that each military dog saves approximately 150 soldiers during its years of service. Though in past conflicts, such as Vietnam, military dogs were given away, euthanized or abandoned, today,  a law was passed in 2000 to ensure that canine troops were well-treated. Some 400 military canines are retired from service every year, and adopted into new homes.
Robby's Law, signed in 2000 by President Clinton, allows for the adoption of working dogs (as well as working horses) owned by the Department of Defense -- adopted by their handlers, by civilians with training in their care, and by law enforcement agencies. Robby's Law also requires an accounting of all dogs; the Secretary of Defense must submit an annual report which documents all of the dogs adopted under the program, the dogs still awaiting for adoption, and the dogs that were euthanized, and why (the official policy is that euthanasia is used if the dog is too aggressive to be rehomed, or to prevent suffering).    
Dogs have a long history on the battlefield.  They were used in battle by Attila the Hun and Frederick the Great, by ancient Britons, Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, and Slavs. During World War I, dogs were used in the military by Belgium, Germany, France and Russia as scouts, as carriers, and to help find the injured on the field. In The U.S., dogs were officially trained starting in 1942, for the U.S. Army. More recently, military dogs have served in Afghanistan, Desert Storm, Iraq, Korea, and Vietnam. After service, a dog is not left in the combat zone, but is brought back to their duty station.  
Unfortunately, military dogs are still classified as "military equipment," and, as such their transport from their duty station to a new, nonmilitary life is not paid for by the government. The burden is on the dog's new owner to get it home. Currently there are at least two bills proposing that military dogs be reclassified as "canine members of the armed forces" and are awaiting attention from Congress.
There are organizations dedicated to working for these dogs, as well. The nonprofit organization Operation Military K-9 ships care packages to military working dogs and their handlers in the field. The public is invited to donate money or send their own care packages from a list of much-needed items U.S. War Dogs Association works to assist injured military dogs and their handlers recover back on U.S. soil. Military Working Dog Adoptions and Save A Vet work to heighten public awareness of the issues and needs of military working dogs.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cutting-Edge Balancing Wheelchair Can Benefit Vets, Notes Veterans Disability Attorney

James Fausone
Veteran Advocate

A new technology may help vets in more ways than one.
A new wheeled chair which resembles a wheelchair but can go up stairs, over curbs and can even balance on two wheels to allow the rider to "stand" on two feet is an elegant solution for many disabled vets and civilians alike. The chair is the iBOT, invented Dean Kamen, the creator of the Segway.  The iBOT runs on the typical four wheels, can balance on two wheels when height is needed, and can traverse up stairs and go over curbs with no problem.  This new mobility is changing the lives of the few people who can use them, but they are not widely available and new iBOTS are not being manufactured.
The Huey 091 Foundation is working to provide an iBOT for any vet who wants one, whether from a recent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan or from a previous conflict.  Huey 091 is asking for donations from the public to jump start an iBOT manufacturing program and support program which will specifically employ veterans who will both build and service the iBOTS, potentially employing a yet-undetermined number of skilled vets. The foundation are hoping to get the support of the Veterans Administration, as well.
"The dual goals of outfitting more vets with iBOTs and employing vets to manufacture and service iBOTS could be of benefit to multiple groups," noted veterans disability lawyer James Fausone.
Governmental red tape, a lack of interest from the medical community and the exorbitant cost (current at more than $25,000) all stand in the way of getting the iBOT into the marketplace. That shut down means even current iBOTs that will need to be serviced to continue running smoothly for the few people who use them will not get the maintenance they need.
The iBOT has exceptional balance due to six gyroscopes which corrects and adjusts when the rider shifts his or her weight. It also modifies its position to allow the rider to 'stand,' allowing the individual to see over large crowds. The standing feature is an added benefit, says advocates, for combat vets who may experience anxiety when seated in a typical, "low" wheelchair in a crowd.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Veteran Retirement Home Layoffs Concern Residents, Notes Veterans Disability Lawyer

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate

Nursing assistants at The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans have been given their pink slips.
In Michigan, almost 150 nursing assistants working in a state-run home for veterans have been told they are being laid off. The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, one of two state-run hospitals for veterans, currently cares for more than 700 veteran residents.
Governor Rick Snyder has approved the privatization of the nursing assistant jobs as a way to save an estimated $4 million each year for the state of Michigan. Other services provided to the home such as laundry and security are already outsourced to   private companies.

"Quality care for our elderly service members should always be a priority over cost savings," commented veterans disability lawyer James Fausone. "And the concern of some individuals is that cost-cutting measures may mean that quality care is being sacrificed."

One of the vet residents filed a lawsuit regarding the privatization, alleging that he and his fellow residents were facing “significant injury… abuse and neglect at the hands of a private company.” A judge ruled in favor of the vet and halted the plans, but the case was dismissed last month and the privatization implementation plans are now moving forward.

Michigan’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has stated that it is providing proactive job hunting help to the nursing assistants in the form of a rapid response workforce development team. The nursing assistants have also been informed that they can apply for their former jobs under the new management. In addition, a three-judge panel stated that several allegations of contract works who provided inadequate care did not mean every contracted worker would provide substandard care, and that no veterans were required to live at The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and if any vets felt they were receiving substandard care, they were free to leave.  The Governor's Deputy Press Secretary issues a statement that the privatization would allow for "the best possible health care" while saving the U.S.  taxpayers significant money. 


Monday, March 11, 2013

Worry over Healthcare Leaves Elderly Vulnerable to Medicare Scam

Mark Mandell, Esq.           

Scammers are now targeting the elderly, a population who are increasingly concerned over their health care, especially in light of the Affordable Care Act’s ensuing changes. A Medicare-card related scam has left a trail of elderly victims across at least 15 states, including Michigan, West Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, New Jersey and California.

Individuals fall prey to such a scam after receiving a phone call informing them of the need to verify information in order to receive a new Medicare card. Despite being warned to never give out personal information over the phone, when the caller on the other end of the line seems legitimate, it is hard to pick out a fraudulent call.

"Medicare is my lifeline,” says Bessie Bell, 72, just one of many senior citizens who has received a fraudulent call within the last year.

When fraudulent callers pick up on these worries and focus on current issues such as Medicare changes and the cost of prescription drugs, it is easy for concerned individuals to believe the newest pitch. Lately, Medicare beneficiaries are being told they must verify their account information by giving out their bank account or Social Security numbers in order to receive a new Medicare card. Others have been lured into believing in a new, “Preferred Medicare” card that would somehow be used alongside the current card.

The public is concerned with how to spot the scammers as they grow more convincing. Before giving out any personal information, individuals are warned to stop and think: would the government call each individual if changes were made to the Medicare program? Senior citizens have been advised to first call their doctor, the drugstore, or the AARP before taking any action. While a call may seem legitimate, it is important to remember that bank routing numbers are public information, and while a caller’s knowledge of such information may make the call seem more legitimate, it is better to be safe than sorry.
While this Medicare-card related scam may be one of the newer fraudulent schemes occurring across the nation, these scammers are not alone. Just last year, millions were called to verify their personal information in order to receive diabetic test strips; fraudulent online pharmacies lure in many each year by offering prescription drugs at prices too good to be true.

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 visit the original article, please visit:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Service Member Autopsies Are Helping Medical Researchers

James G. Fausone
Veteran Advocate

More than one out of every 12 U.S. service members who died during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were found during autopsy to have early signs of heart disease. While none of the service members were diagnosed with heart disease prior to their deployments, all of them were found to have plaque buildup in the arteries around their hearts. How did such a young, fit group of people "pass" health screenings when they had early-stage heart disease?  Many heart diseases such as plaque build up are asymptomatic in the early stages, showing no sign of trouble down the road.

In the civilian population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease accounts for roughly one-in-four deaths each year, or approximately 600,000 U.S. residents.  

Autopsies performed on service members who died in combat or from other injuries between 2001 and 2011 were originally done to give an accounting of how they died to their family members. The results were studied, not unlike research on autopsy results performed on vets from the Korean and Vietnam wars. Those studies found that as many as 75 percent of the vets had heart disease at the time of death. Those findings were considered critical in helping the medical community recognize that coronary disease could start at a younger age than previously thought, and stay "silent" or asymptomatic for longer than had previously been assumed.

The autopsy results for service members from the Vietnam and Korean wars are not considered directly comparable to that of the Iraq and Afghanistan service members, as researchers believe the draft may have affected the healthier versus less healthy individuals who enlisted voluntarily. Researchers also believe the lower number of service members found with heart disease is likely a strong indicator of a decline in heart disease throughout the U.S.

Researchers looked at more than 3,800 autopsies; 98 percent were men. Of the 9 percent who were found to have plaque buildup in their coronary arteries, roughly 25 percent were found to have severe blockage. Those who had been obese or had high blood pressure or high cholesterol when they began service were far more likely to have excessive plaque buildup. Researchers hypothesized that the lower percentage of heart disease they found was due in large part to improved, early treatment of high blood pressure and cholesterol as well as a drop in smoking among today's service members. Ongoing concerns for heart disease risk include obesity and diabetes, which researchers say still need to be addressed in our country.

Sources Journal of the American Medical Association, online December 25, 2012

Friday, March 8, 2013

Debate Over Penalties Facing Fraudulent Bottle Returners

Mark Mandell, Esq.

The House Regulatory Reform Committee debated bills relating to the fraudulent return of out-of-state cans and bottles for refunds in Michigan. If passed, an individual attempting to return between 100 and 10,000 non-returnable containers could face up to 93 days in jail along with a $1,000 fine. Currently, the law only penalizes those who have actually returned fraudulent containers.

Angela Madden of Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers emphasized how this practice hurts businesses. Many Michigan businesses lack the proper machines to read the special mark or code on containers that is meant to prevent this type of fraud.

The committee has yet to vote on the legislation, and while only a dime per returned container does not seem like much, thousands of these returns could be costing the state a pretty penny.

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


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Stop Banging Your Head

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate

We receive about 300 emails a month asking for help.  We try to sort out those VA disability claims where we can really help.  The first two rules are you have to have a current disability and then explain how it is service connected.  If you just feel entitled or need money or the government owes you for serving, it is not a claim that should be filed or re-filed.  If you do not have a legitimate claim, you are part of the 900,000 claims backlog and only clog the system.

Today I received an email stating, “I am at the point that I must procure legal representation for my claim.  I am on my third appeal.  Have been diagnosed with PTSD and have knee problems as well”.  The veteran was last denied in 2010.

If you wait until your third appeal, or second, to get help, then you are your own worst enemy.  Either you don’t have a legitimate claim (an attorney or VSO should tell you that) or you don’t speak VA’s language and you need professional help.

Stop banging your head against the wall.  Please get help earlier in the process.

Auto Industry Looking to Create Insurance Fraud Authority

Mark Mandell, Esq

Michigan’s auto insurance industry is looking to tackle the issue of fake medical claims relating to auto accidents and scams that involve the billing of insurance companies for procedures more expensive than those actually performed. There has been a recent increase in such questionable claims, and Michigan now ranks third in the nation in such claims. Even Gov. Rick Snyder is onboard, addressing both the issue of auto insurance fraud and no-fault insurance in general during his State of the State address last month.
The robust no-fault insurance provision can be a “magnet for unscrupulous and fraudulent claims activity,” says Meghan Cass, an Allstate Insurance spokeswoman. Under Michigan’s no-fault law, it is required of motorists to purchase unlimited, lifetime medical benefits. While the concept has worked well, it has resulted in steady premium increases.

The proposed Fraud Authority would involve the ferreting out of what scams are taking place while providing financial support to law enforcement, prosecutors, and insurance associations. While insurers may have to dedicate up to $15 million per year towards such an authority; it would save millions more. It is estimated that 10% of all claims in Michigan are fraudulent. The result: the opportunity to save at least $40 million per year.

The high fraud rate in Michigan may be the result of other states cracking down, driving con artists to find new stomping grounds. While Florida and New York grew more stringent, questionable auto insurance claims related to medical issues rose 70% in Michigan from 2010 to 2011.

If the issue of a fraud authority does not get too tied up in the more controversial debate over no-fault insurance in general, some say the creation of such an authority may stand a chance this year.

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:



Tuesday, March 5, 2013

$350,000 Whistleblower Verdict Reinstated

Mark Mandell, Esq.

The Michigan Supreme Court has recently reinstated a $350,000 verdict in a whistle-blower lawsuit brought against Lake County by a former employee.
Former Lake County 911 department director Cheryl Debano-Griffin sued the county in 2005 under the Whistleblowers Protection Act. Cheryl complained about the handling of emergency funds when property tax money for ambulance services was being funneled into another county account. As a result, Cheryl lost her job.

While Cheryl originally won her case at trial in Lake County Circuit Court, the case has been sent to the state Court of Appeals twice, as well as to the Supreme Court. Most recently however, in a 4-0 opinion authored by Justice Michael Cavanagh, the court did in fact find a causal link between Cheryl’s termination and the complaints she made to the county board.

Cheryl’s objections included opposition towards the use of a Lake County EMS ambulance for the transportation of residents from other counties in non-emergency situations, as well as the county board’s authorization to transfer $50,000 from the ambulance account to a “mapping project account.” However, the board voted to return the funds to the ambulance account two days after voting to merge two county positions, which eliminated Cheryl’s job due to “budgetary problems.”

The court determined that although there may have been financial issues at the time, it did not appear that these difficulties were the board’s motivating factor when it eliminated Cheryl’s position. As a result, the original $350,000 verdict to Cheryl was reinstated.

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, March 4, 2013

Sexual Assault Bill

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Attorney

One of the saddest situations we help with involves military sexual trauma (MST). The rape of men and women in the military is a black stain on the Defense Department. The VA disability process only makes this stain more stubborn.  
We have developed an approach that looks at markers that show the MST even when it has not been reported.  The fact is that 70-80% of MST is not reported.  We often approach the VA process to prove the mental aspect of the MST, such depression, PTSD, etc.  We point out the fall off of performance ratings, discipline issues, AWOL, drug use, alcoholism or dark letters home. 

This unique problem is now getting Congressional attention. The Ruth Moore Act aims to reduce the standard of proof for victims of military sexual assault so that they can more easily obtain benefits, similar to how the Veterans Administration two and a half years ago relaxed the burden of proof for combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.  The Ruth Moore Act, if it passes, would make it so that victims need only a diagnosis of a mental health condition and a link between the assault and that condition to receive benefits.  This is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope Veteran Service Organizations support this bill and Congress acts on this bill.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Pell Jumpers Cost Taxpayers Millions

Mark Mandell, Esq.

Pell Grants, maxing out around $5,500 per year, are available to college students for tuition payment, as well as living costs such as rent, groceries, and transportation. However, when a student who receives a Pell Grant never shows up to class and disappears with the money, the college is left high and dry.

Because of their lower tuition rates, community colleges are victimized more so than costly universities. When a student signs up for a full semester of classes for $700 to $900, he can choose to pocket the leftover cash, received as a check from the school. While a thousand dollars may not seem like much for a college collecting thousands in tuition money from students every semester, the money lost to these Pell Jumpers adds up. Mark Kantrowitz, a leading expert on financial aid issues, estimates that 3.6 percent of Pell Grant recipients collect the money fraudulently. As a result, taxpayers lose $1.2 billion per school year. In context, it seems, Pell Grant fraud can be incredibly costly.

While colleges can attempt to go after these scammers, it’s an uphill battle to track down students after they leave the school with their check in hand. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education has proposed ways to put a stop to the fraud before it begins: by delaying payments to students until a few weeks into the semester and requiring professors to take attendance, schools hope to differentiate the students who are committed to their education from those who are interested in the money but not necessarily an education. Other suggestions include requiring financial-aid recipients to put a bank account or credit card on file in order to make them more easily traceable if they disappear with their Pell Grant check. However, such tactics may be potentially harmful for those who truly need the money – the delay in receiving a necessary check may prevent students from purchasing text books or paying rent.

One such college, Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, has implemented such procedures and, and a result, cut its financial-aid losses in half in recent years. While Kellogg Community College represents one success story, there is yet to be an ideal remedy for preventing Pell Jumpers from running away with taxpayer dollars.

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