The Veterans Voice
"Fighting for Our Veterans-Supporting Our Troops"
  Proudly Serving All Branches & All Eras Since 1999
Bookmark and Share
Got Questions? Get Answers....
Veterans' Advocate and "all 'round good guy," Jim is available to answer questions for Veterans and their families on a wide variety of issues. He has dealt extensively with the VA and has a background in the medical field.
He offers a wealth of knowledge and it's all free of charge.
For more about Jim, click on his picture. Follow Jim on TWITTER here ...
Write Jim directly by clicking on his e-mail address below.
jim912@gmail.com
Jim Strickland Disability Benefits Guide
Be sure to use Jim's:  "A to Z GUIDE OF VETERANS DISABILITY COMPENSATION BENEFITS" click here...  

And, for answers to questions and great advice, go to Jim's discussion board, "STRAIGHT TALK FOR MILITARY VETERANS" click here...

Follow Jim on TWITTER here ...


Add this page to your favorites.
Jim Strickland
Jim StricklandJim StricklandJim Strickland
Jim Strickland
Search Veterans' Voice Site Below
Entire web
Steps To Take When A VA Fiduciary Assignment Is Determined To Be Inappropriate

by Jim Strickland



Introduction

The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a program to assign individuals to safeguard the interests of the financial affairs of veterans deemed incompetent to do so for themselves. This program is often referred to as the fiduciary program.

A fiduciary is, “the highest standard of care at either equity or law. A fiduciary (abbreviation fid) is expected to be extremely loyal to the person to whom he owes the duty (the "principal"): he must not put his personal interests before the duty, and must not profit from his position as a fiduciary, unless the principal consents.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiduciary

The GAO explains the VA fiduciary program like this; “Many individuals receiving monthly compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have mental impairments that prevent them from managing their finances. VA’s Fiduciary Program selects and oversees third parties, called fiduciaries, to help manage and protect beneficiaries’ funds.”

In many instances, the assignment of a fiduciary is entirely necessary and appropriate to protect the veteran. It is incumbent upon VA to investigate the action thoroughly and fairly and to make a responsible appointment with the safety and well being of the veteran always in clear focus.

§13.64 Fiduciary commissions.
“Generally, a VA appointed fiduciary is to be encouraged to serve without fee.”
http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/bookf.html

It is unfortunate that this isn’t always what happens. Recently, VA has been criticized as falling far short of their mandate.

GAO has reported the VA fiduciary program is in “disarray” and that “staff said that they did not always comply with VA policies”. VAOIG has reported similar findings. VA appointed fiduciaries have been found stealing from the veterans they were supposed to be guarding. See below:

   GAO: VA'S FIDUCIARY PROGRAM IN DISARRAY, BENEFITS NOT SAFEGUARDED -- Fiduciary Program managers and staff said that they did not always comply with VA policies due, in part, to a lack of time, resources, and staff.
  

  VAOIG AUDIT FINDS VA'S FIDUCIARY PROGRAM PUTS VETS' FUNDS AT RISK -- Inspector General found that VBA's Fiduciary Program is not effectively protecting the VA-derived income and estates of incompetent beneficiaries.
  

  VA FIDUCIARY AND WIFE STEAL $2 MILLION FROM INCOMPETENT VETERANS -- A 26-count indictment charged the couple with conspiracy, misappropriation by a fiduciary, making materially false statements to a federal agency and tax fraud.
  


Horror Story:  
-- VA'S FIDUCIARY PROGRAM: A GOOD IDEA GONE VERY, VERY BAD
  
The veteran is often ill equipped to resist these appointments. Attorneys often find VA to be non-responsive to any inquiry regarding the appointment and the fiduciaries are often equally non-responsive.

For these reasons a team of advocates volunteered to work together to develop a plan of what we consider best practices for advocates to follow as they work to assist the veteran who suffers from the wrongful assignment of a VA appointed fiduciary.

This document is the result of the teamwork by those advocates.

Following the points below is not a guarantee of success. However, we believe that the advocate who patiently works to apply the principles of this methodical approach will find that there will eventually be a response that will prove positive for the veteran.



Methods

If a fiduciary already has been assigned:

1.  Write a formal letter (everything sent certified return receipt and copies maintained) to the fiduciary, identifying yourself, your relationship to the veteran (relative, POA, etc.) and requesting a response to your concern or concerns in 14-21 days. (See sample letter at the end of the article.)

2.  If no response/poor response; send another letter attaching a copy of the first and informing the fiduciary that you are copying VA regional office and VA Regional Counsel (see listing at bottom of page) because he/she did not respond to first letter and request response in 14 days.

3.  If no response; send third letter copying VARO and VA General Counsel and VAOIG.  Also file a complaint with state bar (if lawyer) or other professional licensing organization (for CPAs, bankers).  If all else fails, send a copy to the State Attorney General or Secretary of State's office.

4.  If more than 4% of the monthly deposit is being removed or health and safety is being jeopardized, contact local law enforcement and register a complaint. When filing such a complaint, stress that you believe this is a case of theft, conversion, or fraud. A report of this sort is evidence of concern that may be useful in later civil action.

5.  File a Petition with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims seeking protection. An attorney familiar with the petition process is optimal for such action but the Court has often accepted simple letters as “petitions” and has even arranged for representation in meritorious cases.

6. Ultimately, make the fiduciary as an individual or corporation the target of legal action. Bypassing the VA places the fiduciary in a position of proving their compliance with any applicable local laws that may govern their practice. The fiduciary is ultimately responsible to their ward, not to the VA.



If a fiduciary is proposed or newly assigned:

1.  Immediately file a Notice of Disagreement with fiduciary assignment. This should be written as a standard sort of NOD and requesting a personal hearing and so on.

2.  Send letter to fiduciary requesting professional qualifications for being appointed fiduciary and challenging assignment.

3.  Upon first questionable action - immediately write all the letters described above.

4.  If no response in 30 days -file a petition with Veterans Court seeking protection.

5.  Letters directed only to the fiduciary from an advocate are most likely to get a response. An attorney who is not certified to practice before VA is acceptable to write such letters.

Fiduciaries are often governed by state law--typically trust as a part of trust or agency law.  The particular hammer with a fiduciary is they can be personally liable if they have misused funds, so they will be very, very sensitive in that regard.

A strong letter--”this is to put you on notice”, and cc the appropriate governing agency, bank trust department is likely to bring that fiduciary to call the VARO very quickly. 

Copy notices to VA Regional Counsel in the case of whatever documents are sent to the VARO. Regional Counsel is who the local VARO will first turn to.



Overall

Consider how the determination of incompetence was made. Consider due process violations.

Title 38 - Chapter I Part 3 - 3.353

Determinations of incompetency and competency.

http://cfr.vlex.com/vid/3-353-determinations-incom
petency-competency-19775480
(3)(e) Due process. Whenever it is proposed to make an incompetency determination, the beneficiary will be notified of the proposed action and of the right to a hearing as provided in 3.103. Such notice is not necessary if the beneficiary has been declared incompetent by a court of competent jurisdiction or if a guardian has been appointed for the beneficiary based upon a court finding of incompetency. If a hearing is requested it must be held prior to a rating decision of incompetency.



Conclusion

By following this simple plan, we believe that the veterans advocate will achieve a productive dialogue with the VA and the fiduciary.



-----------------------------------------------------------

Update



My articles addressing the issue of the VA fiduciary appointment (see inset above) brought a blizzard of email to my desk. From highly sophisticated law offices to spirit-broken veterans, I’ve received a lot of comments.

One surprise I had was that some states allow (encourage?) the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a fiduciary department. The federal DVA will then assign the fiduciary appointment to the state who assigns an employee to act as fiduciary.

I’m currently investigating what appears to be a particularly abusive case in Florida and the evidence against the state’s appointed fiduciary is mounting. There is very little published about the relationship of the federal VA to the state VA and any exchange of money that may occur as in the traditional VA fiduciary appointment.

These are the sorts of things your VA (state and federal) likes to keep off your radar whenever possible.

I’ll report that to you as I learn more. Make a note that working with an incompetent state employee acting as a VA fiduciary may prove to be more complex than dealing with a civilian appointee.

As of the weekend after the two part series ran, our veteran's wife and heroine of Part 2, Vicki Olson, notified me that she received a call on Sunday from VA that her veteran's competency was suddenly restored. Mike Olson was ecstatic that VA had made it clear that he was rated competent and that no further fiduciary action was planned.

Jim

-------------------------------------

EDITED by Larry Scott

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Addenda

Sample letter to fiduciary

Listing of VA regional counsel

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Sample Letter

May 9, 2010
Ms Joan O. Arc, Trust Officer
The Anybody Bank Bank
5555 N. North Street
Anywhere, Anytime 12345-6789

Re: Veteran John Q Sixpak

Dear Ms. Arc;

I represent veteran Sixpak.

According to the correspondence to you from Mr. Lord O. Rings, Veteran Service Center Manager, VA Regional Office, you were appointed as fiduciary over veteran Sixpak’s Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.

Although there has been no court determination of the veterans incompetence, you entered into an agreement with VA to accept a fee for your services.

Unfortunately, in your date e-mail correspondence to Mr. Sixpak, you indicate that you are a fiduciary for the Veterans Administration, not Mr. Sixpak.

Once the funds reach your bank, you become the fiduciary for Mr. Sixpak, not the Department of Veterans Affairs .

Mr. Sixpak has forwarded bills to you, but you have been delinquent in paying those bills. For instance, the Sixpaks have sent you their utility bill immediately upon receipt. You will note that City Utilities sent them a Final Notice Prior To Disconnection as a result of your failure to make timely payments. The Sixpaks sent you a copy of the invoice for their motor vehicle insurance. You failed to pay that invoice on time, which resulted in the enclosed Notice of Cancellation.

In addition, on June 19,2010 Mr. Sixpak requested you to pay for his daughter's insurance co-pay. Without citing any applicable law, you refused to pay the dependent's co-pay insurance.

Prior to your appointment, these bills, as well as all other bills, were being paid on time by the Sixpaks.

Your failure to make timely payments of veteran Sixpak’s necessary and ordinary living expenses have created undue hardship, and may adversely affect their current credit rating. Mr. Sixpak has a copy of his credit report if you care to see it. I am not certain you have legal authority to access it on your own.

I request that you contact me if I have inaccurately stated any fact in this letter, and specifically indicate which facts I have misrepresented. If I do not hear from you in 14 days or less, I will proceed  under the basis that you failed in your lawful assigned duties to timely pay Mr. Sixpak’s legitimate living expenses and advise him accordingly.

Very truly yours,

Veterans Advocate, Attorney



----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

              Regional Council


     OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

REGIONAL COUNSEL OFFICES & AREA OFFICES

_______________

REGION 1     Edward J. Lukey, Regional Counsel

   BOSTON    VA Medical Center (518/02)    Phone:    (781) 687-3600
       Regional Counsel        Fax:    (781) 687-3626
       200 Springs Road, Building 61
       Bedford, MA  01730
     
   Hartford    555 Willard Avenue      
       Newington, CT  06111      

   Manchester    275 Chestnut Street      
       Manchester, NH  03101-2487

   Providence    Westminster Mall      
       Providence, RI  02903      

   Togus    Building 205, Room 336      
       Togus, ME  04330


_______________
REGION 2     Max D. Shemtob, Regional Counsel

   BROOKLYN    VA Medical Center (630/02)    Phone: (718) 630-2901
       Regional Counsel        
Fax:    (718) 630-2917
       800 Poly Place, Bldg. 14      
       Brooklyn, NY  11209
   

   Newark    20 Washington Place      
       Newark, NJ 07202      

REGION 3     Frank Giorno, Regional Counsel

   WASHINGTON    VA Regional Office (372/02)    Phone:    (202) 530-9420
       1722 I Street, NW,  3rd floor        Washington, DC  20421
Fax:    (202) 530-9431     

   Baltimore    3900 Loch Raven 
Building 4      
Baltimore, MD  21218

    

_______________
REGION 4     José H. Lopez, Regional Counsel

   PHILADELPHIA    VA Medical Center. (642/02)    Phone:    (215) 823-7811
       3900 Woodland Avenue      
       Philadelphia, PA  19104
Fax:    (215) 823-7821
     
             
   Pittsburgh    7180 Highland Drive
       Pittsburgh, PA  15206-1297  

     

_______________
REGION 5     William M. Thigpen, III, Regional Counsel

   ATLANTA    Regional Counsel (316/02)    Phone:    (404) 929-5851
       1700 Clairmont Road      
       Decatur, GA  30033-4032
Fax:    (404) 929-5870

   Columbia    6439 Garners Ferry Road      


   Columbia, SC  29209-1639

     

_______________
REGION 6     K. Sue Meyer, Regional Counsel

   BAY PINES    Regional Counsel (516/02)    Phone:    (727) 398-9390
       P.O. Box 5005       
       Building 22, Room 333
       Bay Pines, FL  33744-5005
Fax:    (727) 398-9384
     
     
     San Juan    10 Calle Casia
       San Juan, PR  00921-3201

   West Palm Beach    7305 N. Military Trail      
       West Palm Beach, FL  33410-6400  

   Gainesville    1601 SW Archer Road      
       Gainesville, FL  32608

   Miami    1201 NW 16th Street      
       Miami, FL  33125

_______________
REGION 7     Donald A. Adams, Regional Counsel

   CLEVELAND    Regional Counsel (541/02)    Phone:    (440) 717-2883
       10000 Brecksville Road        Fax:    (440) 717-2884
       Bldg. 1, Fifth Floor
       Brecksville, OH  44141

     
   Huntington    1540 Spring Valley Drive      
       Huntington, WV  25704

   Huntington    640 Fourth Avenue      
       Huntington, WV  25701

   Cincinnati    3200 Vine Street      
       Cincinnati, OH  45220

   Dayton    4100 W. 3rd Street      
       Dayton, OH  45428


_______________
REGION 8     Ronald H. Dooley, Regional Counsel

   NASHVILLE    Regional Counsel (320/02)    Phone:    (615) 695-4633
       3322 West End Avenue   
       Suite 509
       Nashville, TN  37203
   Fax:    (615) 695-4634

   N. Little Rock    2200 Fort Roots Drive, Bldg. 5  
       North Little Rock, AR  72114


_______________
REGION 9     Mary E. “Betty” Barrett, Regional Counsel

   JACKSON    Regional Counsel (586/02)    Phone:    (601) 364-1261
       1500 E. Woodrow Wilson Dr.  
       Jackson, MS  39216-5199
Fax:    (601) 364-1263

   Montgomery        345 Perry Hill Road          
               Montgomery, AL  36109-4551  

             


_______________
REGION 10         Earl E. Parsons  - Regional Counsel

   CHICAGO/HINES    Regional Counsel (57----8/02)    Phone:    (708) 202-2216
             Bldg. 1-G131                
               PO Box 1427  
               Hines, IL  60141
Fax:    (708) 202-2239
         
   Des Moines  
210 Walnut Street, Rm. 989      
               Des Moines, IA  50309
     
_______________
REGION 11         Roland L. Bessette, Regional Counsel

   DETROIT        Regional Counsel (329/02) Phone:    (313) 471-3644
          Patrick V. McNamara Federal Bldg.      477 Michigan Ave., Suite 1460
    Detroit, MI  48226-2591
Fax:    (313) 226-4994
     
             
   Milwaukee       
5400 West National Avenue      
Milwaukee, WI  53214

        

_______________
REGION 12         Patrick J. Wiese, Regional Counsel

   ST. LOUIS        VA Medical Center (657/02)        Phone:    (314) 845-5050
               Regional Counsel          
Fax:    (314) 845-5057
               1 Jefferson Barracks Drive
               Building 25, Room 308
               St. Louis, MO  63125-4185      


   Lincoln    5631 S. 48th Street, Room 262  
               Lincoln, NE  68516-4198
                         
   Wichita    5500 E. Kellogg, Room B8B      
               Wichita, KS  67218-1698          

   Omaha     4101 Woolworth Avenue      
               Omaha, NE  68105

   Kansas City    1201 Walnut Street

Suite 800

Kansas City, MO  64106



_______________
REGION 13         Nancy Canonico, Regional Counsel

   WACO        Regional Counsel (674A4/02)    Phone:    (254) 297-5300
               Department of Veterans Affairs    Fax:    (254) 297-5310
               4800 Memorial Drive, Building 12  Waco, TX  76711
Fax2:    (254) 297-5344
             
   Muskogee  1012 Honor Heights, Bldg.12
               Muskogee, OK  74401

   Dallas         4500 South Lancaster Road      
               Dallas, TX  75216

   Temple     1902 Veterans Memorial Drive  
               Temple, TX  76704

   Oklahoma City    921 N.E. 13th Street          
               Oklahoma City, OK  73104

   Austin            1625 Woodward Street      
Austin, TX 78772-0001



_______________
REGION 14         Logan A. Slaughter, Regional Counsel

   HOUSTON        Regional Counsel (362/02)        Phone:    (713) 794-3656
               6900 Almeda Road        
               Houston, TX  77030-4200
  Fax:    (713) 794-3753
     
   New Orleans        701 Loyola Avenue           
               New Orleans, LA  70113

   Shreveport        510 E. Stoner Avenue          
               Shreveport, LA 71101          

   San Antonio        7400 Merton Minter Blvd.      
               San Antonio, TX  78284      


_______________
REGION 15         Susan K. Savela, Regional Counsel

   MINNEAPOLIS    Regional Counsel (618/02)        Phone:    (612) 467-5900
               VA Medical Center          
               One Veterans Drive, Bldg. 73
               Minneapolis, MN  55417
Fax:    (612) 467-5928

   Fargo            2101 Elm Street          
               Fargo, ND  58102          

   Sioux Falls        2501 W. 22nd St.          
               Sioux Falls, SD  57105


_______________
REGION 16         Michael E. Bornhouser, Regional Counsel

   DENVER        Regional Counsel (339/02)         Phone:    (303) 914-5810
               PO Box 25126             
            155 Van Gordon Street, Suite 551
               Lakewood, CO  80228
  Fax:    (303) 914-5849
 


Cheyenne        2360 E. Pershing Blvd.      

               Cheyenne, WY  82001      

   Fort Harrison        Fort Harrison, MT  59636

   Salt Lake City    550 Foothill Boulevard      
               Salt Lake City, UT  84158
_______________
REGION 18         Suzanne Will, Regional Counsel

   SAN FRANCISCO    VA Medical Center             Phone:    (415) 750-2288
Fax:    (415) 750-2255

Regional Counsel (662/02)        

                4150 Clement Street, Bldg. 210  
               San Francisco, CA  94121-1563

   Honolulu        459 Patterson Road
               Honolulu, HI  96819-1522



Los Angeles        11000 Wilshire Blvd.          

Los Angeles, CA  90024      


   San Diego        8810 Rio San Diego Drive      
               San Diego, CA  92108-01622


_______________
REGION 19         Gregory Ferris, Regional Counsel

   PHOENIX        Regional Counsel (644/02)        Phone:    (602) 212-2091/92
               3225 N. Central Ave., Rm. 305    Fax:    (602) 640-4744
               PO Box 34327                    (602) 212-2144
               Phoenix, AZ  85067-4237


   Reno            1000 Locust Street          

               Reno, NV  89520

   Albuquerque        2100 Ridgecrest Drive, SE      
               Albuquerque, NM  87108


_______________
REGION 20         Michael P. McCarthy, Regional Counsel

   PORTLAND        VA Regional Office (348/02)        Phone:    (503) 326-2441
Fax:    (503) 326-3550   

1220 SW Third Avenue, #1224   

               Portland, OR  97204


             

   Boise            805 W. Franklin Street      
               Boise, Idaho 83702-5560      

   Seattle            915 Second Avenue          
               1386 Federal Building      
               Seattle, Washington 98174

   Anchorage        2925 DeBarr Road          
               Anchorage, AK  99508
             

_______________
REGION 21         Joseph Moreno, Regional Counsel

   BUFFALO        Regional Counsel (528/02)        Phone:    (716) 862-8854
               120 LeBrun             
               Buffalo, NY  14215
  Fax:    (700) 432-6545

         

   Albany        113 Holland Avenue
               Albany, NY  12208

   Syracuse        800 Irving Avenue
               Syracuse, NY  13210

   White River Junction  
               215 North Main Street      
               White River Jct, VT 05009-0001  


_______________
REGION 22         John A. Houff, Regional Counsel

   INDIANAPOLIS    VA Regional Office (326/02)        Phone:    (317) 226-7876
  Fax:    (317) 226-6297

Regional Counsel         

               575 N. Pennsylvania St., Rm. 309
               Indianapolis, IN  46204

   Louisville        545 S. 3rd Street, Room 303      
               Louisville, KY  40202

               800 Zorn Avenue          
               Room A181
               Louisville, KY  40206-1499

   Lexington        110 W. Vine Street, Suite 400      
               Lexington, KY  40511
_______________
REGION 23         D. Edison Sessoms, Regional Counsel

   WINSTON-SALEM    Regional Counsel (318/02)        Phone:    (336) 631-5014
Fax:    (336) 631-5041
               Department of Veterans Affairs   
               Hiram H. Ward Federal Building
               251 N. Main Street


Winston-Salem, NC  27101


   Roanoke      210 Franklin Road, SW      
               Roanoke, Virginia 24011