Tuesday, December 20, 2011


United States Government Accountability Office (GAO)  Investigates Guardianship AbuseThe following are excerpts from the report. This report is a start. Please help us get Federal oversite to the Corrupt Probate Courts in Illinois by reporting your case Senator Leahy (see our blog "How to Report Violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act").
You may request this entire report from the GAO--see instructions at bottom of this article.

There is also contact information for reporting abuse of Federal Programs, such as Social Security and VA benefits.

Report to the Chairman, Special Committee on Aging, U.S. Senate 

United States Government Accountability Office

September 2010 

Cases of Financial Exploitation, Neglect, and Abuse of Seniors GAO-10-1046 

Why GAO Did This Study 

As individuals age, some become incapable of managing their personal and financial affairs.
 To protect these individuals, state laws provide for court appointment of guardians, who may be professionals or family members, to protect the incapacitated person’s personal and/or financial welfare. State and local courts are responsible for overseeing guardians. In addition, federal agencies may appoint a representative payee, in some cases, the guardian, to manage federal benefits on behalf of incapacitated adults. Previous GAO reports have found that poor communication between state courts and federal agencies may allow guardians to continue abusing their victims. 

GAO was asked to (1) verify whether allegations of abuse by guardians are widespread; (2) examine the facts in selected closed cases; and (3) proactively test state guardian certification processes. To verify whether allegations are widespread, GAO interviewed advocates for seniors and reviewed court documents. To examine closed criminal, civil or administrative cases with a finding of guilt or liability in the past 15 years, GAO reviewed court records, interviewed court officials, attorneys and victims, and reviewed records from federal agencies. To test state guardian certification, GAO used fictitious identities to apply for certification in four states. GAO’s results cannot be projected to the overall population of guardians or state certification programs. 

What GAO Found 
GAO could not determine whether allegations of abuse by guardians are widespread; however, GAO identified hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2010. In 20 selected closed cases, GAO found that guardians stole or otherwise improperly obtained $5.4 million in assets from 158 incapacitated victims, many of whom were seniors. In some instances, guardians also physically neglected and abused their victims. The guardians in these cases came from diverse professional backgrounds and were overseen by local courts in 15 states and the District of Columbia. GAO found several common themes. In 6 of 20 cases, the courts failed to adequately screen potential guardians, appointing individuals with criminal convictions or significant financial problems to manage high-dollar estates. In 12 of 20 cases, the courts failed to oversee guardians once they were appointed, allowing the abuse of vulnerable seniors and their assets to continue. Lastly, in 11 of 20 cases, courts and federal agencies did not communicate effectively or at all with each other about abusive guardians, allowing the guardian to continue the abuse of the victim and/or others 

What GAO Found in Illinois
Illinois and Nevada. Illinois and Nevada require certain guardians to obtain certification through the Center for Guardianship Certification (CGC), a private nonprofit that offers national guardian certification. We submitted applications to the organization using two fictitious identities with driver’s licenses from Virginia. We also listed fake educational and professional backgrounds for our applicants, which the certifying organization did not verify. For example, one applicant claimed to have a law degree and almost 3 years experience as a guardian, while the other claimed 3 years of experience as a guardian at a nonexistent guardianship firm. Both applicants studied for and passed the National Certified Guardian Examination, which covers guardianship ethical principles and best practices. After the exam, a proctor asked to see the photo identifications of our fictitious applicants, but failed to recognize them as bogus driver’s licenses. Once we passed the test, the names of our fictitious applicants were listed on the organization’s website as nationally certified guardians. Passing the national exam is the sole requirement to be a certified guardian in Illinois and Nevada. Officials in both states told us that local courts do not conduct background or credit checks, indicating that each of the two fictitious guardians could have been appointed by a court in those states with no further screening. 

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