Friday, August 30, 2013

Possible Expansion of VA Benefits

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Attorney

New benefits may be in the pipeline for veterans.  The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has voted to add numerous initiatives to the “omnibus” bill, S 944.  The Committee voted to expand programs aimed at helping more veterans find work, helping more injured vets get reproductive health services, and to pay caregivers of seriously wounded veterans who left service before 9/11 a monthly stipend plus expenses.

How the legislature will pay for these initiatives, which are estimated at $12 billion over the next 5 years, has not yet been determined. 

Other initiatives added to the omnibus bill include: requiring public colleges to charge veterans on the GI Bill lower in-state tuition rates; requiring additional quarterly public reporting by the VA on disability claims processing; greater access to VA disability compensation for victims of sexual assault; and increasing veterans’ access to alternative medicine, chiropractic care, and other new care approaches.  Also included is a proposal to offer new incentives to employers who hire veterans.

Of course, there is some opposition to these measures.  Rep Richard Burr (N.C.), a member of the committee, opposed the provisions that are not paid for.  The Committee Chairman responded by promising to do his “best to find funding” for these programs.

However, all were in agreement on one initiative - granting “veteran” status to more than 200,000 Reserve and Guard retirees.  This includes those who served 20 years or more but less than 180 days were on active duty.  This measure has no cost because these veterans aren’t seeking additional VA benefits.  They simply wish to be able to answer “yes” when asked if they are veterans or to be able to stand and be recognized at a gathering of veterans.  This is a small but meaningful token to show appreciation to those who served this country.

These initiatives will now be added to the “omnibus” bill and forwarded to the full senate for additional debate and amendments before passage.

If you have questions about veteran benefits or potential changes in the law, contact Legal Help For Veterans, a veteran law practice group of Fausone Bohn, LLP, at 800-693-4800 or online at 

Business Courts to Roll Out September 1st

James Fausone, Esq.

As many business owners know, the slow crawl of business litigation can be a drain on time and resources.  However, starting September 1st, every Michigan Circuit Court with 3 or more judges is required to have a dedicated business court in place.  These new business courts are aimed at resolving business disputes efficiently and expediently.

The business court statute, MCL 600.8031, et seq, requires these circuit courts to create a docket specifically for business or commercial disputes.  Judges with expertise, background, or specialized training in business law will preside over these cases.  Any case containing a business or commercial dispute must be funneled into the dedicated business docket.  It is also anticipated that these specially-trained business law judges will have greater involvement in the cases early on in order to expedite the settlement of these cases.

The law is drafted broadly – all cases involving a business dispute, even if there are additional non-business claims, must be heard by the business court.  This rule is mandatory – parties cannot stipulate to have their case heard out of the business court.

Additionally, written opinions of these business law judges will be indexed online and available for viewing.  This is helpful for practitioners looking for insight into how a particular judge may rule on an issue, as well as for other business court judges seeking guidance.  These opinions will not be binding precedent, but are expected to provide a measure of clarity and predictability to the business court.

Litigators won’t be the only attorneys affected by the new business courts – it may change the way transactional attorneys practice as well.  For instance, many attorneys automatically include mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts in the event that a dispute arises.  However, these practitioners may now want to consider allowing these disputes to be heard in the business court rather than through binding arbitration.  The business court preserves the parties’ right to appeal, will have trained business law judges, faster processing times, and the availability of jury trials – all of which may be appealing to business owners.

If you have questions about Michigan’s new business courts, or if you are currently involved in a business dispute, contact the litigation department at Fausone Bohn, LLP, by calling (248) 380-0000 or online at  Our experienced legal professionals are available to give you the guidance your company needs.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fausone, Bohn, LLP Honored as a Tier 1 Law Firm

U.S. News’ prestigious Best Lawyers’ “Best Law Firms” has recently named Fausone Bohn, LLP to its 2014 Tier 1 rankings of Michigan law firms. Best Lawyers is the oldest peer-review publication in the legal profession, and today they rank more than 10,000 firms in 118 practice areas in 170 metropolitan areas and 8 states.

To be eligible to participate in the “Best Law Firms” submission process, a firm must have at least one attorney who has received high enough peer-review to be listed in the current edition of Best Lawyers. Firms are eligible in the practice area(s) and metro region(s) in which they have listed lawyers.

Firm partners, Jim Fausone and Paul Bohn, represent Fausone Bohn, LLP on this list. Mr. Fausone concentrates his practice in business matters, municipal representation, veterans’ disability law and environmental regulation. Mr. Bohn is a leading practitioner in urban redevelopment, development incentives, wetland and shoreline permitting and municipal law.

The Firm, which started over fifteen years ago helping business clients, has evolved into a full service law firm advising business, municipal and individual clients.  Its fourteen attorneys pride themselves on providing the highest level of individualized service.

Best Lawyers bestows the honor of Tier 1 ranking to only select firms after a survey of clients and peers has been conducted. For more than three decades, Best Lawyers lists have earned the respect of the profession, the media and the public as a reliable and unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere.

About U.S. News
U.S. News & World Report is a multi-platform publisher of news and analysis, which includes the digital-only U.S. News Weekly magazine, and Its “Best” series of consumer guides that include rankings of law firms, colleges, graduate schools, hospitals, mutual funds, health plans, and more.

About Best Lawyers
Best Lawyers® is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. For over a quarter century, the company has helped lawyers and clients find legal counsel in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. Best Lawyers lists are excerpted in a wide range of general interest, business and legal publications worldwide, reaching an audience of more than 17 million readers.

$4.15M Settlement Evidences Benefit of Reporting

Breeda O’Leary, Esq.
The U.S. Government (“Government”) and the State of Michigan (“State”) have reached an agreement in a False Claims Act case wherein the Defendants have agreed to pay $4.15M to the Government and State for fraudulent billings to Medicare and Medicaid.
The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act allows an individual with knowledge of Medicare or Medicaid Fraud, referred to as the “relator,” to file a lawsuit on behalf of the Government against those committing the fraud.  The Government is then provided notice of the lawsuit and is given the option to intervene as Plaintiff in the suit.  If the Government obtains a judgment or settlement in the suit, the relator is provided a percentage of the amount collected.
In the instant case, it was alleged that the Defendants, Dr. Jashu R. Patel and other Jackson Cardiology Associates physicians, performed unnecessary cardiac procedures at Allegiance Health’s W.A. Foote Hospital in Jackson, also a Defendant in the case.  Medicare and Medicaid were billed for these procedures.  Dr. Julie A. Kovich, a former independent contractor at Jackson Cardiology Associates, filed suit as the relator in this case.  While Dr. Kovich faces the possibility of being ostracized by her peers, she will receive approximately $764,700.00 as the relator. 
If you or anyone you know has specific knowledge of fraudulent billing to Medicare or Medicaid, or is facing criminal or civil liability concerning an alleged fraud, contact the experienced and professional fraud team at Fausone Bohn, LLP for sound legal advice.  Contact us at (248) 380-0000 or online at
To read the article about the deficiencies in Medicare’s new accounting system, please visit:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Veterans Benefits for Same Sex Couples

Kristina Derro, Esq.
Just two years ago, gay and lesbian individuals were prevented from serving openly in the military.  Now, same sex spouses of these veterans and service members will be able to share in their government benefits.
In a recent decision, the United States Supreme Court invalidated a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act which denied federal benefits to same sex couples married legally in their states.  This law has a large impact on the same sex spouses of veterans – they will now be able to get help with college tuition, can be buried in a national cemetery, and may be eligible for other financial spousal benefits.  Additionally, these spouses will now be able to receive indemnity pay for the death of a spouse in the military.
President Obama has directed Attorney General Eric Holder to work with cabinet members to ensure that these benefit changes are implemented swiftly and smoothly.  Congress may need to amend the statutes governing VA benefits.  Currently, the statutes don’t recognize a same sex marriage between two residents of a state that hasn’t legalized same sex marriage – even if that couple was married in a state that has.  Legislation to correct this has already been introduced into Congress.
The implementation of these new benefits for same sex couples will make a significant financial difference for many of these veterans.  For instance, a veteran considered 100% disabled is eligible for compensation amounting to $2,816 per month.  However, if that veteran has a spouse, they may receive $2,973 per month – a difference of $1,900 annually.
If you have questions about veteran benefits, contact Legal Help For Veterans at 800-693-4800 or on the web at 
To learn more about the impact the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling has on veteran benefits, please visit: 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sexual Abuse in the Military – a Costly Problem

Brigadier General Carol Ann Fausone (ret.)

The failure to address sexual assault in the military is costing the U.S. billions of dollars per year.

A new study released from the RAND Corporation calculated costs of medical and mental health services that victims of these assaults seek after an incident, as well as other “intangible” costs.  All told, the study believes that these costs reached $3.6 billion last year.

These findings add to a growing sense of urgency surrounding this important problem.  Reports of these incidents have spiked 35% since 2010.  Astoundingly, as many as 26,000 members of the military were sexually assaulted last year.

Currently, military sexual assaults are dealt with through the chain of command.  However, this can result in retaliation from co-workers and might discourage victims from coming forward.  In an attempt to combat this, the U.S. House of Representatives has recently passed a provision providing whistleblower protection to victims of these assaults. 

Additionally, some senators have proposed an amendment taking this process out of the chain of command entirely by creating special military prosecutors in charge of these investigations.

One thing is for sure – all necessary measures need to be taken to stop this atrocious conduct.  It is our duty to protect those who protect us.

If you have questions about this topic or other veteran issues, contact Legal Help For Veterans, a practice group of Fausone Bohn, LLP, at 800.693.4800 or online at 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games Welcomed More Than 500 Athletes

More than 500 military veterans participated this July in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. The annual multi-event program features vets who compete in sports events using wheelchairs due to amputations, neurological issues or spinal cord injuries.  Approximately 25 percent of the competitors competed for the first time. The games promote both national and world-class sports champions and also allow newly-disabled vets to meet and socialize with other wheelchair athletes and get introduced to other wheelchair sports competitions.

"Events like the National Veterans Wheelchair Games are a not only a good time for vets to get together and compete," commented veteran disability attorney James Fausone, "They are also great opportunity to show the public how capable and active so many disabled vets are. We are still facing an uphill battle when it comes to disabled veterans and underemployment, and in seeing them fully integrated in the media when it comes to civilian life."

Athletes are placed in competition in the events ranked with those of similar athletic abilities, age and/or competition experience. Events include archery, air guns, field events, bowling, basketball, hand-cycling, power soccer, slalom, quad rugby, swimming, softball, track, weightlifting and more. The Games are overseen by Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs, funded in part by civic and corporate sponsors as well as veteran service organizations. The Games are also backed by more than 3,000 local volunteers, many of whom return every year to assist in everything from transportation assistance to ticket taking, water distribution, meals and crowd control.
In tandem with the National Veterans Wheelchair Games was the annual Kids Day event. Now in its 14th year, the Kids Day event offers local children with physical disabilities the opportunity to try adaptive sports activities. Kids Day is designed to promote active and fun activities as well as teamwork and determination to children with physical disabilities. Participating children are traditionally presenting with participating medals by veteran athlete mentors at the conclusion of the Kids Day events.

The Games first began in 1981 in the Tampa, Florida area. Thousands of disabled veterans have participated over the past 33 years in the events designed to support sports, competition and camaraderie among the nation's military.


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Truth of How Long it Takes

Brig. General Carol Ann Fausone (ret)

In the last year, I have spoken to VA representatives over 600 times for clients of the firm.  I am asked to call on files where the VA process seems stalled for our clients.  The reason for the stalled claim process varies in each case.  I have to call ROs all over the country.  By and large, the VA employees that I talk to are hard working and dedicated but overwhelmed.  I recently spoke to a RO coordinator that told me they are working on late 2009 and 2010 claims.  Even remands from the Board are taking 3 years.  I know our clients are frustrated and some people will tell you they can move the claim faster, but it is not true.  If you want the truth, it is what I hear from talking to VA every day.  Do not get so frustrated you do something silly like dismissing your claim that has been pending for 2.5 years and starting over because you think it will go faster.   It won’t and all you did was give up the back pay award to which you are entitled.  We will keep marching forward together.
If you are waiting on your claim to be decided, even if it’s on remand, the old rule of 1 year has stretched to 3 years.  That is just the truth of the matter at many ROs. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

VA Backlog Initiative To Process Oldest Veteran Benefit Claims

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it is launching a compensation claims initiative for vets who have been waiting for one year or more.

Claims raters working with the VA have been combing through the oldest claims in the system to allow those vets to get their benefits, if eligible. The Veterans Administration has announced that vets who are waiting for their claim to be processed are able to submit additional materials as evidence up to one full year after their provisional rating and prior to the VA issuing its final decision on their claim. Provisional decisions are intended to provide vets with their benefits faster and also will allow them the safety of an additional year to submit additional evidence if necessary. Those cases will be "fast-traced," said the Undersecretary for Benefits, Allison Hickey.
In tandem with this initiative, VA has announced that it still intends to prioritize the benefits claims of veterans who are homeless as well as the benefits claims for former prisoners of war, terminally ill vets, vets who claim financial hardship, and recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Decisions on benefit claims will be predicated on the evidence submitted, if needed, medical exams will be ordered and processed expeditiously. If an increase of a benefit is determined after additional evidence is submitted, those benefit payment will be paid retroactively to the initial claim file date.

This new initiative is also designed to allow a vet to appeal a decision, including lower benefits than expected, a denial of claim or another issue. The vet will have one full year to submit additional evidence, after which, the VBA will contact the vet to inform them that their rating has been determined and will provide standard appeal information. 

The plan is that, as the oldest claims are processed, the average claim competition time through the VA's system will improve and the average number of days a claim is in the benefits inventory will dramatically decrease.

During the pending phase of compensation claims, vets who are eligible can receive their healthcare benefits from the VA. Vets from recent conflicts are currently eligible for as many as five years of VA healthcare for free. More than 55 percent of vets who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan are now using VA health care.

Wounded Warrior claims, meanwhile, are continuing to be processed separately with Department of Defense via the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). Vets designated as "Wounded Warriors" are receiving their VA compensation benefits just 61 days, on average, after separating from military service.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Local Oncologist Charged with Medicare Fraud

Mark Mandell, Esq.

Yet another Michigan doctor has been brought up by the FBI on charges of Medicare fraud this past Tuesday. Although this seems like an unfortunate regular occurrence nowadays, this specific case is one of the worst our state has seen.

Dr. Farid Fata, a 48-year-old oncologist from Oakland Township, was arrested Tuesday morning for submitting over $35 million worth of false claims to Medicare. Despite this large fraud, however, the FBI are alleging even worse crimes than cheating Medicare.  In their criminal complaint against Fata, the FBI states he “administered unnecessary chemotherapy to patients in remission.” As shocking as it sounds, not only was Fata fraudulently billing Medicare for his own benefit, but he was abusing the trust and confidence of his cancer patients.

The FBI said that Fata deliberately misdiagnosed patients with cancer so he could bill them for chemotherapy and that he told cancer-free patients who had entered remission that they were still in need of chemotherapy medications. While it is unclear whether Fata’s actions resulted in any severe medical issues or deaths at this point, the FBI is not ruling out the possibilities.

With over $14 million in liquid assets and a house in Lebanon, the FBI considers Fata a flight risk and are holding him until his hearing date arrives. For his current charges he faces up to 20 years behind bars if he is convicted.

If you or someone you know is the target of a fraud investigation, or if you have already been indicted, contact the experienced team of fraud attorneys at Fausone Bohn, LLP, at (248) 380-0000 or online at 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Former VA Secretary Calls for VA Disability Benefits Reform

According to former VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi, the VA backlog of disability claims is in large part due to the more recent policy decisions and laws have burdened the system. 
Principi argued that current eligibility requirements are far more liberal than, as President Lincoln once charged, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan." He said that the 50,000 veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan who have filed for disability claims are not the reason the system is clogged, but that the system was already overwhelmed by veterans who were filing claims from long-ago service.  

"While every benefits system may face the occasional questionable filing, the focus of the VA disability benefits system needs to support the servicemen and servicewomen who need those benefits to which they are entitled," commented veterans disability attorney James Fausone.

Principi called for the restoration of the "integrity" of the Veterans Administration claims system in a keynote address this June at forum on the VA. The forum, co-hosted by Concerned Veterans for America The Weekly Standard magazine, featured Principi's keynote, where he stated that Congress, vet service organizations and the VA must address the expansion of disability pay eligibility. Principi has called for a "rebalancing" of priorities or the VA system will be at risk, he said. His remarks were in sharp contrast to other speakers, who urged the VA to work more efficiently and faster on the backlog of disability claims still pending.

More than one million claims are filed each year; an estimated 80 percent of these are filed from veterans who served prior to 2001, Principi said. A vet who served a single day in Vietnam can file for medical conditions typically seen in aging men, Principi said, such as prostate cancer, lung cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Type II diabetes.

It has been 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War, and 37 percent of VA claims have been filed by Vietnam vets, twice as many as those filed by recently discharged vet, according to Principi. And, says Principi, as much as 11 percent of claims, 100,000 or more, have been filed by veterans who never saw conflict. Vietnam-era vet claims increased, posited Principi, due to assumptions that "ailments of aging" such as some heart diseases and Type II diabetes, were added to the list the VA accepted as caused by exposure to Agent Orange.

The VA paid out $26.6 billion in 2005 in disability compensation. By the end of 2013, it will pay out more than $60 billion.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Detroit Area Man Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud

Mark Mandell, Esq.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, a Detroit-area Physical Therapist Assistant, Syed Shah, has pleaded guilty to participating in a $22 million home health care fraud.
Prosecutors say that the 51 year old West Bloomfield man acknowledged that he conspired to bill Medicare for home health services that weren’t performed or were not medically necessary.  These actions occurred between 2008 and 2012.
Mr. Shah will be sentenced on November 19th and he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. 
Long prison sentences such as this are further evidence of the Federal government’s crackdown on health care fraud.  The Federal government is ramping up its investigation and prosecution efforts in an effort to combat the billions of dollars lost annually to Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
If you or someone you know is the target of a fraud investigation, or if you have already been indicted, contact the experienced team of fraud attorneys at Fausone Bohn, LLP, at (248) 380-0000 or online at 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Military Renews Focus On Drinking In Wake of Sexual Assaults

Incidents of binge drinking and sexual assaults involving military personnel have highlighted an ongoing concern for the service. The Army's Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, notes that while there are many different treatment programs for servicemen and servicewomen who grapple with drinking problems, there is now a concerted effort on prevention, before drinking gets out of hand.

The Pentagon estimates that there may have been as many as 26,000 sexual assaults perpetrated against military members in 2012, a dramatic jump from the estimated 19,000 assaults which occurred in 2010. The numbers are difficult to correlate, as many assaults are never reported. According to both studies and surveys conducted by the military and by independent agencies, alcohol abuse was a factor in almost 50 percent of sex abuse incidents.

Horoho spoke at SHARP, the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention conference at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland last month. She reported that troops are routinely asked about their level of alcohol consumption at medical appointments, as are their family members.
Drinking issues have been dealt with previously by various means, from barrack sweeps for beer and liquor to random breathalyzer testing to therapeutic efforts. This new push, to prevent problem drinking before it starts, is a sea change. She stated that the new push is focusing on prevention of alcoholic abuse both in barracks and off-base. Army barracks will be swept more often for alcohol in personal spaces, while the Marine Corps is now performing random breathalyzers tests to base-based troops on base.

Alcoholic consumption and sexual assault are frequently linked behaviors; a significant number of the reported sexual assault occurred when service members had also been socializing in settings where alcohol was consumed, or the alleged sexual perpetrator was often reported to have been drinking prior to the assault. 

The Army is now pushing for increased confidentiality for members who request help for a drinking issue, Horoho added. The potential stigma involved in having a chain of command know that a service member is work gin on a drinking issue is likely keeping many troops from accessing treatment, Horoho said.

The public recognition that alcohol plays a major role in the number of sexual assaults and sexual abuse is a change; Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently stated that while sexual assaults and sexual abuse in the military was due to a complex number of issues, one of the largest factors was alcohol use.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

That is Not Fair

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer
Veterans have to really prove up PTSD to VA rating officials to receive about $25,000 a year in disability payments.  But here is a report of a student locked up and forgotten by DEA for five days and he gets $4.1 million from the federal government.  This is not fair.
A UC San Diego student who was forgotten in a Drug Enforcement Administration interrogation room for five days without food or water described the incident as a "really, really bad, horrible accident."
Daniel Chong, 25, will receive $4.1 million from the government to settle his claim.  For reasons that remain unclear, Chong was left for five days in a 5-by-10-foot windowless room without food, water or toilet facilities after being swept up in a campus raid on April 20, 2012.
He claims his quick weight loss allowed him to slip out of a pair of handcuffs.  He also claims to have suffered hallucinations and having to drink his own urine to survive. He tried to break a fire sprinkler to get water but failed.  He screamed for help but soon became too weak.
DEA employees found him covered in his own feces and severely dehydrated.  
Veterans are stuck pursuing claims within an administrative system.  Maybe if they had the right to file a civil suit, they could settle for fair and large dollar amounts.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Joint Electronic Health Record Program Off

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

We have written about this before, the need for VA and DOD to be able to communicate on the medical records front.  It seemed that DOD and VA recognized the importance of this issue and were working on a joint solution.  Now we learn the joint project is off.  Both departments, including an interagency program office created to oversee joint electronic health records initiatives, spent more than $1 billion on their most recent efforts to build a joint system.  The project costs have reportedly ballooned from an estimated $4 billion to $12 billion. 
DOD is going to look to a commercial solution to Electronic Health Records (HER).  The need to coordinate with VA still exists.  Will the commercial solution be able to communicate seamlessly with VA's system. We are told it will but the DOD system may cost $16 billion. We are not left with a great deal of confidence in the new direction.  The problem of lack of coordinated EHR may continue for years.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

VA Forms Challenge

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Lawyer
If you are a veteran navigating the VA disability process, you are amazed at the numerous forms that must be completed.  If you are like many vets, the DOD experience with forms did not train you for the VA collection of forms, some of which seem designed to confuse.  A recent article discussed the federal government’s desire to create a form for every event. "The American Action Forum found that paperwork needed for health benefits claims — in part the result of 31.2 million Veterans Affairs claims each year — takes federal employees roughly 43.3 million hours to process."

" Other findings in the study:

   A disabled veteran seeking health and educational benefits could encounter up to 49 different forms, more than four hours of paperwork, and an aggregate cost of $125, assuming $31 per hour of compliance time.
   One collection, “Income-Net Worth and Employment Statement,” contains 40 questions, takes one hour to complete, and VA receives more than 104,000 responses every year."

What do you think is the worst form in the VA universe of forms?