APPEARING TO SHAKE THE CAREER DIVE THAT SILVER SPOONS SET HIM ON, COMEDY PRODUCER NORMAN LEAR HAS JUST PUBLISHED A COMIC ESSAY THAT HAS PEOPLE ONCE AGAIN COMMENTING ON HIS WIT AND WAY WITH WORDS.
"HE'S POSITIVELY THE NEW NORA EPHRON!" DECLARED ONE WAG.
WHILE ANOTHER FELT THAT THE PIECE READ "LIKE ERMA BOMBECK ON ACID! VERY POST-POST MODERN."
IN THE PIECE, LEAR TOYS WITH COMEDIC ELEMENTS FROM MARK TWAIN TO JANE WAGNER IN ORDER TO SEND UP A DELUSIONAL BARRY O SUPPORTER.
THE BASIC PREMISE IS THAT THE CULT OF ST. BARACK MEMBERS BELIEVES BARRY O IS ONE OF THE LITTLE PEOPLE AND THAT BY REJECTING BIG DONATIONS, HE WILL BE EMBRACED BY THEM BECAUSE BARRY O IS THE 99%.
IT'S HILARIOUS BECAUSE THE 99% DID NOT GO TO PREP SCHOOLS OR HAVE A MOTHER WHO WORKED FOR THE C.I.A. OR GO TO HARVARD OR WORK FOR THE CIA THEMSELVES. IT'S HILARIOUS BECAUSE WALL STREET BOUGHT BARRY O IN 2008.
REACHED FOR COMMENT ON HIS MIRACULOUS COMEDY COMEBACK, NORMAN LEAR ATTEMPTED TO KEEP THE HUMOR GOING BY INSISTING TO THESE REPORTERS, "I MEANT EVERY WORD."
WELL PLAYED, MR. LEAR, WELL PLAYED.
"What my clients want to know is why -- when they're living at home or under supervised care -- their veteran suddenly has to have a VA fiduciary at all?" attorney Douglas J. Rosinski asked Congress yesterday. "My veterans have had decades of family members giving them care and handling their benefits without VA interruption. Suddenly, VA appoints a perfect stranger -- perfectly unknown to the veteran -- who has never contacted a veteran, who will not contact a veteran and is paid money from that veterans account to withhold the money from the veteran, to place it in bank accounts that they will not disclose to the veteran and they will not even disclose under FOIA [Freedom Of Information Act]. They will redact the veterans own information about his own money from the files they give out. My clients want to know why, that if there is a need, for a VA-appointed fiduciary, it has to be this stranger. They want to know why this veteran is told to take all of the veterans finances, all of his bank accounts and ask questions about his CDs [Certificate of Deposit] and whether he owns a boat and what his wife's salary is and where is that salary put and then go into the banks and take all of it and not tell them where it is. They want to know why VA not only will not correct that when I've had personal discussions with members sitting -- or people sitting -- in this hearing today and then they will not fix that problem? They want to know why VA defends those practices at every turn, in every court, in every discussion? This is not about numbers and procedures and policies. My clients don't care about policies and procedures. They want to know why they have $100,000 in the bank and they cannot afford the medicine that the VA doctors prescribed last month? They want to know why the power company's in the front yard when they have $50,000 in the bank? And it takes an emergency motion to the Veterans Court before these people will call the power company and tell them they'll pay $178."
Rosinkski was appearing before the House Veterans Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations yesterday as they held a hearing on the VA's fiduciary system -- where someone's appointed by the veteran or by the VA to manage/oversee/control the veterans benefits. Rosinski appeared on the second panel and noted, "That's what my clients would like to hear today. And I did not hear any of that from the prior panel."
The hearing had two panels (and many breaks due to votes on the House floor). The first panel was the VA's Dave McLenachen (with the VA's Diana Rubin), the second panel was composed of Katrina Eagle with the Veterans Law Office of Michael Wildhaber, Veteran Fiduciary Pam Estes, attorney Rosinski with the Law Office of Douglas J. Rosinski, and Vietnam Veterans of America's Rick Weidman. We covered the first panel in yesterday's snapshot. US House Rep Bill Johnson is the Chair of the Subcommittee. We'll note this exchange.
Chair Bill Johnson: Ms. Eagle, if VA is paying a fiduciary a percentage of a veterans' compensation, only to allow VA to have the final say , then why pay a fiduciary in the first place?
Katrina Eagle: I have many veterans and clients who ask that same question. I don't understand it myself. I find it ironic that I have several cases where the veteran is paid also [clears throat], excuse me, his Social Security benefits and he has no fiduciary managing his Social Security benefits but the VA finds that he must be appointed a fidcuiary for his VA benefits which also then get sucked into including his Social Security benefits. Moreover, as Mr. Weidman was saying, with respect to veterans who try to get out of the program, I've seen many instances of retribution, so to speak, in that when the veteran applies to get out of the fiduciary program, he is then found perfectly fine with his medical condition, the underlying medical condtion be it physical or often a psychiatric condition, and therefore he [his benefits] is reduced. And that is encouraging the veteran to say nothing, go along and not question or cause problems.
Chair Bill Johnson: I want to read this paragraph for everyone's attention out of that form we're discussing. It says, "Approval for use of VA funds" -- and this is the 21-4703 that we're discussing -- "VA must approve any use of a veterans VA funds. You" -- and I'm presuming that's the fiduciary -- "agree to use these funds only as specifically authorized by VA. You agree to request VA approval for all spending of these funds unless VA has previously authorized the expenditures. Any questions regarding authorized expenditures should be addressed to the fiduciary activity at the address and phone number on the front side of this form." Ms. Eagle, in your opinion, should VA remove this paragraph in question of form 21-4703?
Katrina Eagle: Yes.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay, thank you. Ms. Estes, you mentioned that you submitted the anual report to VA but have heard nothing since. When is your last date to be informed of the status of this issue? You said today, correct?
Pam Estes: They told me I had 30 days so I'm assuming -- I took 30 days from the postmark, that would be today.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay. What results good or bad have you experienced in the fiduciary program. Now that's -- that's a big question but . . .
Pam Estes: When there is contact, it's fine. They come out and I talk to them and we go over the expenditures and stuff. I don't have a problem there. It's like a black hole. I don't get any return calls when I leave a message. I was afraid to send the accounting because they require originals of everything -- original bank statement and stuff like -- and you're not handing it, you're mailing it so I suspected something like that might happen so we sent it certified and everything. And I followed up with a phone call saying I did this. I know I'm supposed to have an audit but nobody came out so I'm submitting it. And so then we got the letter that said I hadn't submitted it at all.
Chair Bill Johnson: So basically, it's miscommunication, lack of communication?
Pam Estes: They were being -- No communication.
Chair Bill Johnson: No communication.
Pam Estes: It's no communication.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay. Ms. Eagle, on the first panel, we discussed VA waivers for fiduciaries. And if I recall the testimony, they were not aware of waivers being granted for certification or fiduciary qualifications. Do you have any experience with VA fiduciary requirements being waived?
Katrina Eagle: I do. And what I find and what Mr. McLenachen was talking about is a fiduciary for the first time will be reviewed, background checks perhaps performed. What I see happen in all of the cases I have reviewed in assisting the veteran is that if that fiduciary has been at all ever in the VA system as a fiduciary previously, the background check is waived, criminal background checks are waived, etc., etc. So once he's in, it's good to go.
Chair Bill Johnson: Mr. Rosinski, is the issue of a person with a criminal background being allowed to serve as a VA fiduciary an isolated incident in your view?
Doug Rosinski: Mr. Chairman, there's no way to tell. As Ms. Eagle just said, they waive all the background checks I've ever seen. And my experience is all they ask is they're asking, 'Check a box, have you ever been convicted and served more than one year for a felony, yes or no?' So I'll leave it to you whether a convicted felon is going to answer that yes or no. That is, as far as I know, the background check. And that is what is waived on top of it.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay. Mr. Rosinski, in your experience and clients you've represented, what is your background of some of the VA fidcuiaries? Have you -- have you seen incidents where fiduciaries have been removed?
Doug Rosinski: The only fiduciary that I know that was removed was the daughter who was taking care of her 81-year-old father and was a registered nurse and had been taking care of her father full time for two decades, had retired from being a nurse to do that. She took her father to an Alzheimers clinic because he has advancing Alzheimers and VA turned around and fired her as fiduciary and registered a complaint for misuse of those funds because they were not pre-authorized. I've also -- that's my example of firing. The issue of qualifications, I had the privilege of deposing two actual fiduciaries in the state of Texas. One was a cabinet salesman who in 2009 got his first fiduciary appointment. In 2011, November 2011, when I deposed him, [he] had 53. He had never heard of a fiduciary until someone suggested that this would be a good job to have since he had had a heart attack. The other fiduciary there is the full-time, single working mother who said her father had been a VA fiduciary and that's how she found out about the program.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay. Ms. Eagle, given the 3 to 5% paid to a fiduciary for administering a veterans account, what purpose would a fiduciary have for hoarding a veteran's money?
Katrina Eagle: I think that the issue of hoarding has nothing to do with how much they're being authorized from the veteran's money on a monthly basis. The reason they would be hoarding -- and there's two kinds of fiduciaries that I've dealt with. The hoarding is encouraged by the VA program leadership because they are to save as much money as possible in case of certain emergencies. Keep in mind that these are monthly recurring benefits. So needing to save $100,000 when the veterans going to get paid $3,000 every month until and unless he passes, there's no need to save that much money. Second of all, lots of these fiduciaries are banks. It is in their best interest to keep as much money in their accounts as possible.
RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Black Eyed Pea William is a little blonde girl"
"Most embarrassing job on the face of the earth"
"Most embarrassing job on the face of the earth"