Friday, May 31, 2013

Who is in the Backlog?

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Attorney

Ok, you have heard about the backlog of claims at VA.  But who is in that clog?  Vietnam era veterans account for the largest share of the 865,000 veterans stuck in the clog.  They are 37% of the clog according to VA statistics. The post 9-11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq account for 20%. The remainder,43%, are from the 1991 Gulf War, Korea, World War II and times of peace. Some reasons are obvious - aging population and resulting increasing health issues and some reasons are subtle - changing attitudes.  This LA Times article discusses the clog and the reasons.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fausone Bohn, LLP Negotiates Settlement for its Client

In a victory for its client, Fausone Bohn, LLP has successfully negotiated a $115,000 settlement with the City of Kalamazoo.

As reported in various news sources, including MLive, AOL News, and Durability & Design (an architectural journal), the City agreed to pay the settlement after selling a home that was contaminated with lead-based paint.

The homeowner, along with her husband and 8-year old son, purchased the home from the City and began renovating it.  Months later, it was discovered that the house contained lead-based paint in the dining room floor, kitchen, windows, and the surrounding soil.  Further, the City failed to provide an EPA-approved brochure warning of the possibility of lead – required under federal law whenever homes built prior to 1978 are sold.

Because of the prompt discovery of the lead in the home and the quick work of the attorneys at Fausone Bohn, LLP, none of the occupants will suffer any permanent injury as a result of the lead exposure.

With the funds received from the settlement, the homeowner has completed the restoration of the home and will be moving back in shortly.

Paul Bohn, partner at the firm, and James Pelland, head of litigation, represented the homeowner.  If you have questions about this or other legal issues, contact the experienced and knowledgeable team at Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000 or online at 

To read the articles about this particular settlement, please visit:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Learning Old Skills As A New Employment Proposal for Vets, Notes Disability Attorney

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate

One man thinks he can help lower the 82 percent U.S. unemployment rate for disabled veterans. He suggests that they learn watch-making.

The Delaware Veterans Coalition together with the state council of the Vietnam Veterans of America is helping Sam Cannan open a school which will train vets how to repair watches - tuition-free. There is no other school like it.

"Making and repairing watches is a dying art," stated veterans disability lawyer James Fausone. "This is a vocation that may well be a good fit for a number of vets who enjoy working with their hands."

Good watchmakers are in high demand, and the work can be done by individuals with a variety of disabilities. Cannan and his crew are currently looking for a wheelchair-accessible, 5,000 sq-foot building in which to establish the Veterans Watchmaker School, and plan to train as many as 20 vets in each class.

Cannan attended professional watch-making schools in the U.S. and Switzerland. He states that disabled vets, in wheelchairs or missing a limb, would not be hampered in their ability to do quality watch work, and the work is flexible enough that they could work either at home or in a service sector. Cannan stated that a watchmaker needs analytical skills, nimble fingers, and patience. He has specialized equipment lined up for the venue; the hope is that the school would initiate 25-30 new jobs in the area, for building maintenance and food service work.

The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative has been certified as a 501c3 organization, with at least $150,000 in equipment; grants are being written for more. Housing and meal service has been solidified, and at last count, four instructors have been hired. The school's admission requirements would require a vet to pass an initial interview and a dexterity test. The program would encompass two courses and would run for 14 months, with more than 1,800 hours of classroom work with a graduating class of 15 in each cohort. A watch technicians program would run six weeks as an entry-level prep to learn how to replace crystals, repair watch stems and crowns and do quartz work at a jewelry counter.  Cannan is working to set up positions of employment for vets as they graduate with vendors and jewelers.

There are currently only four watching repair and watchmaking schools in the U.S. The county currently needs approximately 4,000 watchmakers to meet demand, as the renewed interest in Swiss watches gas grown in recent years, but fewer people have trained to repair them. 


Thursday, May 23, 2013

VA Accused of Hiding Veteran Health Data

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate
A scientist is alleging that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is hiding data.

According to a scientist for the VA, the agency’s Office of Public Health has been hiding research which indicated that vets have been affected by exposure to toxins since the Persian Gulf War.

Steven Coughlin quit working at the VA in late 2012 due to what he called “serious ethical concerns.” He testified to the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that the VA's public health office is invested in hiding evidence of illnesses attributed to the Gulf War. Evidence that has been released, alleges Coughlin, has been recalibrated to look "unintelligible.” He also said that his office did not release their findings as part of a study which cost as much as $10 million and which found exposure to oil well fires, pesticides and other toxins for as many as 60,000 Iraq and Afghan war veterans.

Coughlin also stated that a study which was congressionally mandated regarding Gulf War vets and family was not released, and alleges that he was told the results of the study were "permanently lost.” He said that research which points to Gulf War illnesses as neurological was unlikely to be released, and that one of his supervisors threatened to retaliate against Coughlin when he did not want to intentionally leave out data.

The chief of the VA’s public health and environmental hazards office, Victoria Davey, has stated that her office maintains strict analysis and publishing guidelines, but she did not address directly the allegations made by Coughlin. The VA has issued a statement that the VA Office of Research Oversight will be reviewing the claims put forth by Coughlin, and that they took every opportunity to seriously and fully pursue allegations of malfeasance.

Coughlin's claim includes allegations that he was told to not examine data on the number and type of medical visits and hospitalizations as part of his research on burn pits and health issues among troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq and Afghanistan war vets reported a number of debilitating respiratory issues many believe may be the result of inhaling trash burn pit smoke located in combat zones. Coughlin stated that he was threatened after informing his supervisor that he would not continue his research project with redacted information.

Gulf War vets returned to the States after 1991, and have reported numerous medical issues. While the VA has recognized some medical issues as the result of Gulf War service, many vets have been told their medical issues are psychologically based.  The VA formally recognized nine illnesses resulting from Gulf War service in 2010.

The VA has spent an estimated $120 million on research since 2002 to determine the origins of Gulf War illnesses, but some researchers allege that a portion of the funds never made it to back the research. They also allege that ten million dollars from the fund went to the “Gulf War Biorepository Trust,” a brain bank for vets with ALS. But of the 60 brains in the bank, all but one was from older vets, not ones who served in the Gulf War.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Evolution of Drunk Driving

Mark J. Mandell, Esq.

Recently, a principle of one of Michigan’s elementary schools was arrested with charges of Super Drunk Driving. Passed in 2010, the new ‘Super Drunk’ law has created harsher penalties for those driving with a BAC of .17% or higher.

In comparison to a regular drunk driving charge, those convicted of being “super drunk drivers” can face up to 180 days in jail, are required to complete an alcohol treatment program, pay up to $700 in fines and are not allowed to drive for 45 days following the incident. On top of all of that, their driving is further restricted for 320 days with the implementation of an ignition interlock device that prevents the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected on the breath.

While these penalties may seem harsh, alcohol-related traffic accidents account for nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. Each year, tens of thousands of people are killed in such crashes – despite their preventability.

In recent years, Michigan has seen a fall in the rates of alcohol-related arrests; however, it is hard to say whether this trend is a direct result of the new laws and associated penalties or the police force’s loss in manpower due to budget cuts. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning has stated that by advertising and warning the public about the dangers and costs of drunk driving, people are thinking twice before getting behind the wheel while drunk.

To learn more about Michigan’s drunk driving laws, or if you yourself have been charged, please visit: or contact Mark Mandell at (248) 380-9976.

Monday, May 20, 2013

VA & Obama Care

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Attorney

One of the upcoming problems for veterans is understanding how their VA health care and Obama Care fit together.  Since no one seems to understand how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act  (Obama Care or PPACA) will work come January 2014, it seems a little bit of a stretch to think veterans can figure out how to coordinate these different federal health care programs.   Roughly 40 percent of the 22.3 million military veterans receive health care services from the VA.  Some veterans are eligible for both VA health care and Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare. About half of veterans have private insurance.  Approximately one in 10 veterans younger than 65 are uninsured.   About 4 in 10 uninsured veterans are covered by Medicare. How will all this work.  Again no one is exactly sure and how a veteran will get good advice is unclear.  The article below provides some insight.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Changes to Disability Payments

Kristina Derro
Veteran Advocate
The federal government, in an attempt to address its long-term debt problem, has proposed changes to the way it calculates inflation for VA disability payments. Currently, government benefits (ex. VA disability benefits, Social Security benefits, etc.) are adjusted according to inflation. In an attempt to save some money, the government has endorsed using a slightly different measure of inflation to calculate Social Security benefits. This would allow the benefits to still grow, but at a slower rate.

The conventional Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures changes in retail prices of a constant market of goods and services. The Chained CPI (the variation that the government wants to utilize) considers changes in the quantity of goods purchased, as well as the prices of those goods. So, for example, if the price of steak goes up, many consumers will buy chicken, a cheaper alternative to steak, rather than buying less steak or going without meat.

Supporters of Chained CPI argue that it’s a truer indication of inflation. However, it tends to be less than the conventional CPI. Under the conventional CPI, disability payments increased 1.7 percent this year. Under Chained CPI, the disability payments would have only increased 1.4 percent. \

There has been talk by the government to apply this alternative inflation measure to VA disability payments for nearly 4 million veterans, as well as pension payments for 500,000 low income veterans and surviving families. However, veterans groups are rallying together to fight any potential change in the calculation. The argument is that the veterans have already suffered through their wounds and sacrifices while in service, and now they would be unduly burdened while they are trying to recover from those wounds. The groups are complaining that the government is attempting to balance a budget on the backs of disabled veterans, which is absurd given the administration’s history of generous funding for the VA.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Detroit Man Pleads Guilty to $29.1 Fraudulent Medicare Fraud Scheme

Mark J. Mandell, Esq.

For five years, Sachin Sharma of Detroit, 37, oversaw and directed the operations of a broad network of home health, psychotherapy, and medical clinics. As the ringleader of the operation, Sharma – with the help of many – fraudulently billed Medicare for $29.1 million in medically unnecessary claims. Now, Sharma has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of tax evasion this month.

Apart from the fraudulent kickbacks, Sharma also trained others in techniques used to both defraud the system as well as conceal the fraud. By directing employees to fabricate and alter medical documents, the broad network of home health, psychotherapy, and medical clinics involved gave the impression that medical services were provided.

As a result of the scheme, Sharma admitted to receiving substantial proceeds of the fraud from these companies, however, he failed to report these proceeds on his individual federal income tax returns. Moreover, Sharma failed to file tax returns from 2007 to 2011.

At sentencing, Sharma faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Several of Sharma’s co-defendants have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud for their roles in the scheme, and one remains a fugitive.

To learn more about Michigan’s drunk driving laws, or if you yourself have been charged, please visit: or contact Mark Mandell or Tariq Hafeez at (248) 380-9976.

To read the original article, please visit:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Installment Payments Unavailable to LLC

Matthew Worley, Esq.

In Michigan, when a judgment is entered against a defendant, that Defendant is generally entitled to ask the court for permission to pay that judgment in installments.

In a breach of contract case settled this year, the parties agreed that the Defendant, a Limited Liability Company (LLC), would pay $51,000 to the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff sought and received a judgment from the court enforcing the settlement agreement.

The Defendant LLC sought court approval to pay the judgment in installments under MCR 3.104 and MCL 600.6201.  The Plaintiff argued that those sections only apply to individuals and not to business entities.  In support of its argument, the Plaintiff cited to another portion of the Act that discusses what must be included with a petition for installment payments.  That section states that the petition must include an affidavit showing an inability to pay a lump-sum with the funds earned as wages by that party.  Since limited liability companies do not receive wages, Plaintiff argued, they are not entitled to make installment payments.

The Macomb County Circuit Court held that the purpose of the statute and court rule is to protect individuals from having their wages garnished while still allowing creditors to protect their interests. Defendant, as a business entity, is not at risk of having wages garnished.  Further, the court agreed that Defendant failed to provide sufficient evidence supporting its inability to pay.

For these reasons, the Court denied Defendant’s motion for installment payments and ruled in Plaintiff’s favor.

If you have questions about this or other legal topics, please contact the experienced legal team at Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000 or on the web at 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Disabled Vets Still Waiting for Benefits in Seattle, Notes Veterans Disability Attorney

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate

Disabled vets are still waiting too long for medical benefits.

In Seattle, Washington, 25,000 disabled vets are still waiting to receive medical benefits. According to a new report, it could take a year or more for those benefits to be processed.

Claims by disabled vets to the Veterans Administration have at least tripled throughout the U.S. since 2010, and the influx of Iraq and Afghanistan returning home has helped to overburden the already-strained disability benefits system. Adding to the mix is a new, electronic medical and service record system.

"There are at least 2.1 million claims for vets currently pending before the Veterans Benefits Administration," commented veterans disability attorney James Fausone. “These men and women deserve to better supported be by their government, and not have to wait an egregiously long time for basic benefits to which they are entitled."

One such vet who is still trying to get his benefits is Seattle-based Aaron Bisol, who says his wait has lasted, at last count, more than 505 days. Bisol completed two tours in Afghanistan as part of the airborne infantry, and sustained a leg injury and damage to his hearing while serving. He filed his medical claims with the Veterans Administration in October 2011, and has yet to begin receiving his benefits. When he calls the VA 1-800 number, he says that he typically waits on hold for two hours before speaking with someone. 

A study recently released by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that the wait nationally for vets is 273 days, on average. The time can vary by state: Seattle vets wait an average of 323 days; and New York City vets can wait as long as 600 days for their benefits. Even the assistant supervisor of Seattle Disabled American veterans, Greg Kotanchick, had to wait for four years for his claim to go through after his Persian Gulf service. Kotanchick has stated that he , too, believes the new electronic records system is likely to blame for the long processing time.

The VA has stated that it anticipates the two-year backlog of claims will be cleared within 90 days once the system is fully operational and running at top speed.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Strides in Medical Research

Kristina Derro
Veteran Advocate

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on for over a decade now. Since 2001, the U.S. has sent more than 2.2 million troops to battle, more than 6,600 were killed, and 50,000 were injured. This is a dismal reality of war.
However, the strides that have been made in medicine as a result of the war are astounding. The signature wounds of both conflicts, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), have led the Department of Defense to apportion hundreds of millions of dollars for research studies and treatment.
In the past six years, the Department of Defense has invested a minimum of $2.7 billion in understanding psychological and neurological injuries. $700 million has been apportioned for TBI research which has included an effort to develop a portable diagnostic tool for TBIs. Additional funding has gone towards researching combat wounds that failed to heal, partly attributable to unique bacteria present in Afghanistan.
The VA has its own set of priorities when it comes to researching. The VA is currently faced with rehabilitating veterans who have suffered complex wounds and are considered “polytrauma”, those who have sustained injuries to more than one organ system, or have severe brain injuries, or are amputees, or were severely burned. VA has worked on improving how it coordinates care to this group of veterans. It’s also worked on developing hearing and vision implants as well as robotic prosthetic devices. It even has pioneered its own TBI program which explores different treatment modalities like personalized medicine and nerve regeneration.
There are challenges in coordinating massive research programs and implementing them for our troops and veterans. A January 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Defense’s mental health and TBI research needed better quality control mechanisms to report financial data. However, despite these limitations, some of the world’s best researchers and massive amounts of money are being utilized in an attempt to assist our nation’s troops and veterans.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Award under Michigan Whistleblower Act Reversed

Matthew Worley, Esq.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has reversed a jury verdict awarding more than $147,000 to a woman who claimed she was fired for reporting illegal activity.

Barbara Hays was a home care worker for Lutheran Social Services of Michigan.  One of her clients smoked marijuana in his house, including when she was present.  Ms. Hays informed her supervisor and, at one point, contacted the Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team (BAYANET) to find out if there were any legal consequences to her.  At the end of the phone call, she was asked if she wanted to take any further action but she declined.

When her supervisor later found out that she disclosed this patient information to an outside party, which was a violation of her confidentiality agreement, Ms. Hays was terminated.

Ms. Hays then filed a lawsuit under Michigan’s Whistleblower Act which provides a remedy to people who are fired for reporting a violation of law.

In order to provide relief, the Act requires the person to make a “report” of illegal activity; however, the Act does not actually define what constitutes a “report.” 

The Court of Appeals determined that Ms. Hays did not make a “report” of the incident to anyone because when she called law enforcement, she didn’t give any names, locations, or even the type of drug used.  She was merely seeking information and advice.  To provide her relief, the court said, would not further the purpose of the Whistleblower Act which is protecting the public by encouraging the reporting of illegal activity.

Because she failed to meet the requirements under the Act, the Court of Appeals reversed her jury award and dismissed her case.

If you have been retaliated against for reporting illegal activity, or have questions about this or other legal topics, contact the experienced legal team at Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000 or online at 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Provisional Rating Approach

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Attorney

VA has been under tremendous criticism for the backlog of claims that it has which is approaching 1,000,000 this year.  Congress has been holding hearings on how to clear up the backlog.  Heads may actually roll at VA over this embarrassment.

So VA has to resolve the new claims being filed and the old claims waiting around.  VA has been thinking about how to handle recent filings so they don’t become part of the backlog.  VA plans on computerization to assist on the new claims.  We have heard stories of a software program that will scan applications and use artificial intelligence to make the rating. Call me skeptical that rating by buzz word is a better approach.

On the backlog, VA is proposing to have raters review the oldest claims first and issue a provisional rating based on the file.  VA would not have a complete file or send out questions or send the veteran to an exam.  The VA Fact Sheet on this provisional rating states that the veteran will have up to one year to submit additional evidence to change the provisional decision.  The provisional rating can also be appealed.   Ok, I am still skeptical that this will work.  It should help some people who have good records, but other files are not developed sufficiently for a fair rating.  Time will tell if this approach cuts the backlog.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Winchester Consulting Group: A Dynamic Trio Takes the Reigns

Spearheaded by Paul Bohn, a partner with the firm Fausone Bohn, LLP, the Winchester Consulting Group brings together Paul’s legal expertise with Lisa Nocerini’s extensive experience as a lobbyist and Stephanie Moran’s journalism background to create a dynamic group. The various talents brought to the table provide an attractive alternative to municipalities strapped by the economic downturn that has left staff members doing the work of two or three people. From grant writing to public relations, economic development to communications expertise, the broad spectrum of services the group provides has helped to offset the loss of public employees that some towns can no longer afford.

The firm has recently done grant writing work for the cities of Westland and Wayne: as a result of Winchester’s help, the cities received a $791,000 grant to help ensure the successful merger of the cities’ fire departments. Impressed with the result, the City of Wayne has already hired Winchester to help them to secure outside grants to help offset budget cuts.

Wayne City manager Robert English notes that Winchester’s “proven track record” is increasingly attractive: with their expertise and established contacts, the group will undoubtedly be an asset to the city of Wayne.

“We love doing this. It is fulfilling to us,” says Lisa. “Sure it is a challenge, but when you are successful, you can really see the difference you make for these communities.”   

To contact the Winchester Consulting Group, visit or call 248.912.3240.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Government Financial Help for Businesses

Keith Madden, Esq.

Businesses in Michigan that are relocating or making improvements to their buildings or property may be eligible to receive grant money or tax abatements from local governments.  Under a number of Michigan laws, including the Downtown Development Act and the Brownfield Redevelopment Act, many local governments offer grant funds for businesses to use to make improvements to their property.   In addition, other Michigan laws, like the Commercial Redevelopment Act and the Industrial Facilities Development Act, allow local governments to provide tax abatements to qualifying commercial and industrial businesses.
If your business is relocating, or if you are considering making improvements to the business' buildings and property, it is worthwhile to find out if there are local grants or tax abatements that may be available.  At Fausone Bohn LLP, we have extensive experience in applying these state laws, and working with the local governments who are authorized to make the grant and tax abatement decisions.  If you would like further information about these business grants and tax abatements, contact Keith Madden at (248) 380-0000.      


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nevada Bill Would Bar Disability Pay from Divorce Split

Jim Fausone
Veteran Advocate

To help further protect their veterans, lawmakers in Nevada have put forth a bill that makes veteran disability pay untouchable in divorce proceedings.

The bill, AB271, was presented to members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and specifies that during divorce settlements, judges cannot consider veteran disability pay when dividing assets.

Supporters of the bill state that disability pay is not taxable income and is given to the veteran to compensate them for their physical sacrifices during service. Under this view, the pay is not to be looked at as ‘earned income’ for divorce purposes, but instead as strictly a compensatory payout. 

Opponents of the bill state that disability income is intended for caregivers (potentially spouses) as well as veterans and that the pay should be considered as part of the couple’s overall financial situation.

Despite the fact that in the end no action was taken by the committee, no veterans testified in opposition to the bill.  This is an idea to keep an eye on in Nevada and maybe in other states.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Meningitis from Injection

Matthew Worley, Esq.

The first Michigan lawsuit based on the nationwide outbreak of meningitis has been filed in Livingston County Circuit Court.

The outbreak stems from the production of contaminated steroid injections produced by New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Massachusetts.  Michigan is the hardest hit state in the country with a reported 261 instances of which 17 resulted in death.

The lawsuit alleges that a Brighton clinic, Michigan Pain Specialists, PLLC continued using the tainted steroids after NECC issued a recall.  The recall occurred on September 26, 2012, and this complaint states that Plaintiff was injected with the tainted steroid six days later on October 2.  The complaint alleges general negligence against the clinic and failing to complete due diligence on NECC.  Robert Sickels, attorney for the plaintiff, believes that at least 22 more Michigan lawsuits will be filed for additional plaintiffs.

This local lawsuit is in addition to many Federal lawsuits filed against NECC across the country.  It is likely that these Federal suits will all be consolidated and tried in Federal court in Massachusetts.  These suits claim that unsanitary and substandard conditions at the facility caused the steroids to be contaminated with fungus.  Additionally, a Federal grand jury is currently conducting a criminal investigation into the owners of NECC.

NECC does have a $21 million insurance policy, but with over 700 cases of infections reported across the country, that amount is “woefully insignificant,” given the large number of plaintiffs and the magnitude of their damages.  Plaintiffs are now seeking to recover from other parties that may be liable.  State lawsuits have been filed against clinics in other states as well, including Virginia and Tennessee.

If you have any questions, please contact Jim Pelland or Matthew Worley at 248.380.0000 or online at