Tuesday, April 30, 2013

VA Claim Backlog

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, explained this past week that he is committed to ending the backlog of claims by 2015. His plan to do that?  Replace paper records with electronic records.

Right now, VA considers about 600,000 claims, or 70 percent, to be “backlogged”. These are the number of claims that have been pending for more than 125 days.

The VA has put in a new computer system in place in about 20 regional offices around the country. The goal is to have the system in all of the regional offices by the end of 2013. Part of the computer system allows all of the veterans’ records to be in electronic form. This will enable workers from anywhere in the nation to view the files and will eliminate the time that it takes to ship the file between regional offices or the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Congressional committees have held two hearings on the VA disability claims backlog in the past two weeks. Millions of veterans are tired of hearing the same excuses from VA regarding the increased workload and the increased complexity of claims. We here at Legal Help for Veterans can attest to the backlog firsthand. An average time period for an appeal, between the time we file a notice of disagreement and the time the VA issues a Statement of the Case is about two years.

The fact that the country has been embroiled in a war for 10 years now has only added to the backlog. Unfortunately, these changes should have been made to VA’s antiquated system YEARS ago—way before the problem got this out of hand.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Prescription Drug Fraud in Livonia

Mark Mandell, Esq.

A Livonia doctor and five accomplices were charged last week with running a prescription pain pill fraud scheme.

The indictment alleges that the scheme involved recruiters who would bring patients to Dr. Mohammad Batahney’s office for a “cursory examination or no examination at all.”  Allegedly, the doctor would then write a prescription for Roxicodone, a highly addictive pain pill, and give it to the recruiter. 

The indictment states that the recruiter would then pay the doctor and get the prescriptions filled at a cooperating pharmacy.  After being filled, the recruiter is alleged to have sold the drugs to street dealers in Detroit.

Dr. Batahney is believed to have unlawfully prescribed more than 300,000 doses of Roxicodone from 2011 to April 2013. 

Dr. Batahney and the other five defendants have been charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

With prescription drug fraud rising to epidemic levels, Federal prosecutions have dramatically increased.  The crimes charged are severe and the sentences are long.  Having knowledgeable and experienced counsel on your side is a necessity.

If you or someone you know has been charged with fraud, or are concerned that you may be involved in fraudulent behavior, contact experienced fraud attorney Mark Mandell at (248) 380-0000 or online at www.MichiganFraudLawyer.com. 

To read about this latest indictment, please visit:

Friday, April 26, 2013

New State Law Could Leave Shoplifters with Five-Year Sentence

Mark Mandell, Esq.

Shoplifting, to many, appears as a lapse in self-restraint: kleptomania, psychologists have deemed it. Currently, shoplifters spend 90 days in jail and pay about $200 in fines. Recently, shoplifting has begun to evolve into organized retail crime with farther reaching consequences. A new Michigan state has gone into effect with stiffer penalties aimed to combat this growing problem. Individuals participating in this more sophisticated version of retail fraud could face a five-year felony sentence.

Over the past fives years, rates of shoplifting have risen between 3% and 4%. While the effects of shoplifting aren’t always readily apparent, the average American household pays for the crime: $500 a year to cover losses. And while the ordinary shoplifter is easily deterred by retailers, those involved in organized theft are much more brazen in their actions, often crossing state lines with their stolen merchandise in order to sell it for a profit. As a result, more than 15 states have passed new laws targeting retail fraud; however, legislators are still pushing to make it a federal law.

The penalties perpetrators will face as a result of the new law are meant to deter these individuals. For example, a Clinton Township man stole a shopping cart full of Red Bull energy drinks from a Kroger store in December, planning to sell the drinks to party stores. Under Michigan’s existing retail fraud laws, the most the man would face was 93 days in jail. However, under the new law, he could face five years in prison and a hefty $2,000 fine.

To learn more and read the original article, please visit: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303300100

If you have questions about retail fraud or other legal issues, please contact Mark Mandell or Tariq Hafeez at 248.380.0000 or online at www.MichiganFraudLawyer.com.

Six-Figure Settlement for Kalamazoo Woman

In August 2012, Beth (not her real name), a working mom of Kalamazoo, purchased a duplex from the City of Kalamazoo. At the time of the sale, however, the City failed to provide Beth with any reports or legal disclosures with regard to potential lead paint at the property. It wasn’t until several months after the closing that Beth received the required lead paint disclosure form. After having the property tested for lead, it was discovered that there were substantial lead contaminants on the property.

When brought to the attention of Paul Bohn and Jim Pelland of Fausone Bohn, LLP, the Firm acted quickly moving Beth and her 7-year-old son –who had detectable levels of lead in his blood – out of the home until they could reach an agreement with the City of Kalamazoo.

Paul and Jim’s efforts led to the negotiation of a six figure settlement that has allowed Beth to abate the lead on her property, return it to its prior condition, and has provided Beth and her son with restitution for their suffering and inconvenience.

The work the Fausone Bohn duo put into Beth’s case leading to its resolution in just six weeks stands as a testament to the attitude displayed at Fausone Bohn, LLP: providing for each client’s legal needs, one case at a time.

Feel free to contact Jim Pelland (248) 380-0000 Ext. 3315, jpelland@fb-firm.com or Paul Bohn (248) 380-0000 Ext. 9988, pbohn@fb-firm.com or you can also visit us online at www.fb-firm.com or call 248.380.0000 for more information.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Vets Working Hard As Entrepreneurs, Notes Veterans Disability Attorney

A nonprofit is working to connect returning vets with innovative investors and new companies.
A new nonprofit organization based in Milwaukee, with funds from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ innovation initiative, is supporting entrepreneurial vets.

"Veterans often are educated in the most cutting-edge technologies available," stated veterans disability attorney James Fausone. "And they have the discipline and drive to succeed."

The nonprofit, VETransfer, is working with current and returning veterans to help them find the funding and the support they need to launch startups ventures. Cofounders Greg Meier and Nick Weichert believe in focusing on getting small business up and running by pairing them with entrepreneurial vets, and by equipping and financing vets with the resources they require to launch their own projects.

VETransfer does not provide companies or startups with the financing they need; they introduce the right clients to the right investors. They also provide free office space and internet access, and the staff helps develop business plans and navigate regulations.

More than 400 vets have gone through the extensive program at VETransfer since 2011, working with everything from game developers to companies that specialize in frozen foods. While the actual jobs are, for now, based in Wisconsin, there are virtual classes that are utilized by vets across the U.S. The business incubator worked with more than 100 veterans in just the first four months it was running.

Founders Meier and Weichert reportedly are looking at how to expand the program to include more vets; more extensive virtual classes are being considered for areas with concentrated populations of vets, including California, Florida, Washington D.C. and Texas. With current estimates indicating that there will be at least one million vets in the U.S. by 2016, VETransfer is looking for additional funding sources, including grants and donations to help expand their program offerings. 

While VETransfer does not and cannot guarantee the success of any venture, the founders are optimistic. So is the VA; based on the success of VETransfer, the VA may be launching another business incubator in the next year via its innovation initiative funding program.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New Michigan Law Provides Protection Against International Custodial Child Abduction

Melissa A. Cox, Esq.

Newly enacted legislation may have a significant impact on child custody within Michigan and even around the world.

On January 9 2013, Michigan enacted Public Act 600 of 2012, which amended the Michigan Child Custody Act, MCL 722.27a, preventing a parent involved in a custody dispute, or whose parenting time or child custody is governed by court order, from taking the child to any country outside the jurisdiction of the Hague Convention unless the travel is agreed to by both parents and the Court.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was established to ensure that the child custody arrangement existing prior to the wrongful removal of a child to a foreign country is enforced. Children removed to countries that are not party to the Convention are often never returned and the parent whose custody rights have been disregarded has no recourse.

In Michigan, child custody is determined by an examination of a child's best interests based on a number of factors relating to the abilities of the parents.  When the parents cannot agree on what arrangement is in the child's best interests, the decision is left to the Court.  It is during such disputes that children are at highest risk of bring removed from one parent and to another foreign country.  The new law is intended to provide protection to children in such situations.
If you have questions about child custody, or have other legal questions, contact Attorney Melissa Cox of Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000 or online at www.fb-firm.com.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Veterans Struggle to Find Jobs

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate

The unemployment problem in the country has been the focus of commentary for the last few years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for female veterans was 8.8% in January 2013, compared to 7.5% for men and 7.7% for female civilians. And with an unemployment rate of about 20% for members of the National Guard and Reserve, they are faring far worse in the job market.

A focused effort to employ our returning military has been mounted with support from the President and every Governor.  However, the statistics are still staggering and the nation must recognize the impact service has on interrupting the employment path for our military men and women.

The resources available are considerable for to military veterans searching for employment.  But the unemployment stats persist. One detailed article on the problem and the resources available can be found at

Friday, April 19, 2013

After Outrage, the Michigan Unemployment Agency Reverses Controversial Directive

Mark Mandell, Esq.

After a harsh grilling of the Michigan Unemployment Agency’s director by a Senate committee last week, the agency has rescinded a controversial directive made in October regarding the handling of fraud cases.

The October directive at issue told agency officials not to show up for administrative hearings for unemployment insurance fraud cases unless the amount of fraudulently claimed benefits was at least $15,000. However, the directive ran contrary to the 2011 law passed by the legislature that makes unemployment insurance fraud above $3,500 a potential felony. As a result, lawmakers were outraged.

“Do you make it a habit of interpreting legislation for your own convenience?” Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, asked UI Agency Director Steve Arwood. “You changed the legislation’s intent; don’t tell me you didn’t.”

Arwood stated that he only signed off on the directive as a “temporary measure” due to staff shortages after the UI Agency laid off 400 of its 1,200 employees at the beginning of October.

When agency officials do not appear for the fraud hearing, the judge finds that the state has abandoned its fraud claim and tosses out the case. While it may be convenient for the UI Agency to ignore smaller claims, such fraudulent claims cost both employers and workers through higher insurance rates.

A new directive was sent out last Friday that referred agency officials to the fraud manual, which specifically states that attendance at civil fraud hearings before administrative law judges is necessary if the amount in question is $3,500 or more.

It seems the UI Agency is back in line with the law.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vets Helping Upgrade Homes of Other Disabled Vets

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

In 2008, two vets pooled their military disability payments to launch Purple Heart Homes, a nonprofit company which modifies or helps work on homes for disabled vets on the East Coast.

Dale Beatty, a vet with prosthetic legs from his time in combat in Iraq, spent a year recovering at Walter Reed, then came home. He had planned to build a house for his wife and children when he returned home, but working in construction with prosthetic legs, and sometimes in a wheelchair, made working harder than he had planned on. Members of his church stepped in and helped build a wheelchair-accessible home for Beatty while he supervised. Beatty also called a building contractor and friend, John Gallina, who had suffered a traumatic brain injury while driving a Humvee in Iraq – in the same blast that cost Beatty his legs. Beatty, Gallina and the work crew finished Beatty's home, and the project was such a success that the two men decided to "pay it forward" for other disabled veterans.   They have so far worked on homes for 17 disabled vets. Thousands more, says Beatty, could use similar help.

Though many nonprofit groups have developed to offer housing assistance specially too vets of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the two wars only account for less than 15 percent of the vets in the U.S. The organization formed by Beatty and Gallina is offering assistance to any disabled vet from any military service, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. One such veteran was Dave Morrell, based in North Carolina. Morrell lost a leg due to Agent Orange exposure during his three tours in Vietnam.  His home was not accessible; he often had to crawl into his bathroom because his wheelchair wouldn't fit through the doorway. Though they simply could have widened the doorways, they instead built a new addition to the home and a new, accessible bathroom.

Purple Heart Homes uses labor and materials donated by the public to help any disabled vet, from building ramps to renovating bathrooms. They also make repairs for free.

Beatty and Gallina have stated that they also aim to help vets purchase their own homes. Purple Heart Homes has built several custom homes, and also has a program which moves vets into foreclosed properties that have been donated by banks and renovated by volunteers. The community involvement is a huge part of Purple Heart Homes' approach; bringing local people into the projects helps to build social connection.

Purple Heart Homes currently had 12 new projects currently under construction, and 13 more scheduled soon. 

For more information about Purple Heart Homes, go to purplehearthomesusa.org.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Michigan Chooses New System to Fight Statewide Fraud

Mark Mandell, Esq.

In order to help combat fraud, waste and abuse in the state’s unemployment insurance and food stamp programs, Michigan’s Enterprise Fraud Detection System has selected SAS Analytics as its program of choice. While unemployment insurance helps to provide a safety net for workers who have lost their jobs, it is easily abused. Just last year alone, $10.3 billion in fraudulent insurance payments were made across the country.

The use of the SAS Fraud Framework for Government allows state officials to not only detect where fraud occurs, but also to help uncover fraudulent claims before they are paid. The system will initially be used to fight fraud and abuse in Michigan’s unemployment insurance and food stamp programs. Over time, it will be integrated and used to spot fraud across all executive branch departments and programs as well.

Instead of simply measuring how much fraud occurs, the system will help experts to examine the different factors that caused the fraud to occur in the first place. The SAS Fraud Framework for Government is specifically tailored to help governmental agencies in multiple ways: from detecting suspicious patterns in social programs, to uncovering tax evasion and even identifying sophisticated fraud rings.

Greg Henderson, Government Practice Lead for SAS Fraud and Financial Crimes Global Practice calls Michigan “a national leader in the fight against fraud.” By utilizing SAS, Henderson says, “it supports Gov. Snyder’s commitment to curtail fraud, waste and abuse, and to get assistance to the people who truly need it.”

The new system will bring transparency to both the unemployment and food stamp programs, helping Michigan to deliver benefits and services to those in need while avoiding costly, fraudulent pay-outs.

To learn more and read the original article, please visit: http://gcn.com/articles/2013/03/05/michigan-analytics-stop-fraud-waste-abuse.aspx

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 www.MichiganFraudLawyer.com.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sequester Even Affects the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds

James Fausone
Veteran Advocate

While the $85 billion in automatic cuts that will affect the federal budget are in pace as part of the ongoing sequester, a little-known ripple effect of those cuts include planned demonstrations by the Air Force's Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels, according to officials.

Though the Blue Angels are scheduled to perform in multiple shows over the next six months, those performances will likely be cancelled in more than two dozen  shows scheduled across the U.S. as part of budgeting issues, said a spokesperson. The Blue Angel shows first slated for cancellation include those in April, in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. The Blue Angel shows slated for May in North Carolina, and for June in Indiana have been canceled. Other shows later in the season are being considered in the light of looming budget cuts.  The shows for the 2013 season for the Thunderbirds have all been canceled, according to a statement released by the Air Force. In fact, all public—facing aviation support has been halted, including trade shows, flyovers, open houses and air shows. The aviation efforts are part of a comprehensive marketing effort to engage the public with the ongoing technological efforts and innovations helmed by the Air Force.

More concerning are the cuts the Department of Defense has stated will threaten aircraft and ship maintenance, limit training efforts and force the majority of the 800,000 civilian employees at the Pentagon to take unpaid leave for 22 days.

The Navy is considering how a cut in funding would push the Blue Angels projects to the background in order to focus the remaining funds on ensuring maintenance on planes and ships currently deployed.

The news has triggered an online petition to save the Blue Angels for the 2013 season. The Blue Angels are a sentimental favorite for many, and also being in much needed revenue in the towns where they perform. A 2012 study, for example, found that the Pensacola, Florida, Blue Angels show brings in an estimated $2.5 million to the area, in lodging, food, retail and other services.

The Blue Angels began in 1946; the program costs approximately $40 million each year. Cancelling will save close to $28 million, say officials. The Blue Angels team is comprised of 130 people: seven pilots who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, maintenance crews and others. They will all be reassigned until the budget is restored.


Friday, April 5, 2013

New Bill Introduced in an Attempt to Fight Bridge Card Fraud

Mark Mandell, Esq.

State Representatives Roger Victory and Gail Haines announced new legislation that will penalize retailers committing Bridge Card Fraud.

“It is my job to protect hard-working Michigan taxpayers from waste and abuse of our welfare system, as well as protect our retailers from unfair competition,” said Victory.

The bills are meant to punish those retailers who abuse the state’s welfare system by allowing Bridge Card holders to purchase liquor and lottery tickets with their Bridge Card funds. By overcharging a customer on another item, retailers allow Bridge Card holders to purchase items the Bridge Card funds do not in fact cover.

Victory says the legislation is an attempt not only to penalize those retailers who abuse the system, but it is also an attempt to discourage future Bridge Card fraud.

If passed, the bills would provide consequences for those retailers abusing the system. With the first offense, the business would have its liquor or lotto license suspended for 60 days. With the second offense, the license would be revoked. Haines says it is these steep penalties that will help to prevent Bridge Card fraud. 

To learn more and read the original article, please visit: http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2013/03/04/new-bill-targets-bridge-card-fraud/

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 www.MichiganFraudLawyer.com.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Veteran Unemployment Still A Pressing Issue, But VetNet Making Inroads

James Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

Unemployment for post-9/11 veterans continues to be at high levels.

The recent numbers confirm what many military unemployment specialists have suspected: unemployment rates for younger vets continues to outpace the numbers for unemployed civilians. Almost one in 10 returned members from Iraq and Afghanistan is unemployed. The latest numbers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that young male vets are unemployed at 9 percent, up from 7.6 percent in February of 2012.  Young female vets who reported an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent last year now face unemployment at 11.6 percent.

"Vets are returning with marketable skills, yet they continue to have trouble finding employment," commented Tampa veterans lawyer David W. Magann.

The number of post-9/11 vets who are unemployed is 203,000 as of February of this year. This time last year, that number was 154,000. There is a growing concern that the federal budgets cuts as part of the 2013 sequestration may spike those unemployment numbers even higher.

According to the founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the sequester is adversely affecting returning vets. More than one-third of the 200,000 members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are employed in government jobs – TSA, Homeland Security, and the Pentagon. Also threatened are contract jobs for vets.

One free employment tool available to vets is VetNet, as part of a joint effort by Google and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. VetNet is an employment database as part of the "Hiring Our Heroes" program; an outreach offering job fairs, career services and community. Now in its second year, Hiring Our Heroes has so far held more than 370 hiring fairs and has found employment for 14,100 vets and military spouses.

The media company Comcast announced in March that it along with NBCUniversal met their goal of hiring 1,000 vets, and has now pledged to "Hire our Heroes" to employ 1,000 more vets by 2015.  The vets working for Comcast and NBCUniversal are employed in  technology, operations, network engineering, programming, theme parks, marketing, customer service, and human resources.