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Q&A on the False Claims Act at 25 Years and $30 Billion in Recoveries PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 03 February 2012 13:46

Q:        What is the False Claims Act?

A:        The False Claims Act is an important tool for combating fraud against the U.S. government or, in effect, the taxpayers.  It’s sometimes called Lincoln’s Law because it was first passed in 1863, in response to unscrupulous contractors who sold the Union Army things like faulty rifles, decrepit horses, and ammunition boxes filled with nothing but sawdust.  When enacted, the law offered a reward that let private citizens sue on behalf of the government and receive a percentage of the recovery.  This provision is known as qui tam, an abbreviation of a Latin phrase that basically means “on behalf of the King as well as for himself.”  In 1943, the qui tam provisions were curtailed by Congress based on the argument that they rewarded the unworthy and got in the way of other law enforcement efforts.  Forty years later, in the mid-1980s, there was growing concern about extensive fraud by defense contractors.  I was involved in exposing wasteful spending by the Defense Department at that time, and part of my response was working with Representative Howard Berman, of California, and others to reinvigorate the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.  In 1986, we won passage of a major update to the law, restoring and updating qui tam.  Our goal was to empower private citizens who had information about fraudulent activity by government contractors to bring wrongdoing forward and sue in the name of the government.  We knew these kinds of courageous whistleblowers were in positions to identify fraud that would otherwise go completely undetected by federal law enforcement.

 

Q:        Does qui tam work?

A:        This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Grassley-Berman update of the False Claims Act.  All together, since 1986, the qui tam provisions have recovered more than $30 billion that otherwise would be lost to fraud.  Experts believe the deterrent effect of the law has saved taxpayers many additional billions of dollars.  While qui tam actions during the late 1980s and early 1990s involved mostly defense contracts, in recent years, most qui tam actions have fought fraudulent Medicare billing and fraud against other federal health care programs.  In fact, the law has become the government’s most effective tool for fighting health care fraud.  In 2011, the False Claims Act recovered $3 billion to the U.S. Treasury, and $2.8 billion of that total resulted from qui tam.  Most of the $2.8 billion in recoveries were in Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, and the Veterans Administration health care programs.

Q:        Is there current legislation impacting this law?

A:        There are constant threats to the strength of the False Claims Act and its qui tam provisions.  These threats have arisen in Congress and the courts.  I’ve led efforts to defend the law and keep it from being weakened legislatively, but over time federal courts have diminished the strength of the law.  In 2009, I sought and won passage of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act to restore the scope and applicability of the law where it had been limited by court decisions.  I will stay vigilant in working to protect this proven anti-fraud law from efforts to weaken or even gut it.  In addition, I regularly give strong support to individual whistleblowers outside and inside government.  Our system is better off when government and all those who spend taxpayer dollars are held accountable, and whistleblowers play a major role in making certain that happens.  They do so at great personal sacrifice, often losing their jobs and livelihoods and living in a state of limbo for as many as 10 years, sometimes more, while fraud cases work their way through the legal system.  Qui tam is structured to compensate, based on the fact that without the whistleblower information, it’s likely that the fraud would have continued undetected and no taxpayer money at all would be recovered.  Separately, I’ve worked to encourage states to adopt state-level versions of the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act with legislation establishing incentives for states to fight Medicaid fraud, as Medicaid is a program funding by both state and federal funds.  Looking ahead, the broad scope of government programs where the False Claims Act has helped recover taxpayer dollars is a testament to its flexibility and value.

 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

 
DAVENPORT MAN WINS $30,000 LOTTERY PRIZE PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Amy Garringer   
Monday, 30 January 2012 15:53

Michael Whitney Wins Top Prize of $30,000 Playing “Crossword” Scratch Game

DES MOINES, Iowa – A Davenport man won a top prize of $30,000 playing the lottery’s “Crossword” instant-scratch game.

Michael Whitney claimed his prize Jan. 20 at the Iowa Lottery’s regional office in Cedar Rapids. He purchased his winning ticket at Kwik Shop, 1670 W. Kimberly Road in Davenport.

Crossword is a $3 scratch game. Players win a prize by uncovering at least three complete words in the ticket’s puzzle. If a player uncovers 10 words, he/she wins $30,000. The overall odds of winning in the game are 1 in 3.82.

Fifty-three prizes of $30,000 are still up for grabs in Crossword, as well as 86 prizes of $3,000, more than 1,100 prizes of $300 and more than 5,700 prizes of $100.

Players can enter eligible non-winning scratch tickets online to earn “Points For Prizes™” points. The point value will be revealed to the player on the website upon successful submission of each eligible valid ticket. There is a limit of 30 ticket entries per day. To participate in Points For Prizes™, a player must register for a free account at ialottery.com. Registration is a one-time process. Merchandise that can be ordered by using points will be listed on the website in the Points For Prizes™ online store. Players can choose from items in categories such as apparel, automotive, jewelry, sporting, tools and more.

Since the lottery’s start in 1985, its players have won more than $2.8 billion in prizes while the lottery has raised more than $1.3 billion for the state programs that benefit all Iowans.

Today, lottery proceeds in Iowa have three main purposes: They provide support for veterans, help for a variety of significant projects through the state General Fund, and backing for the Vision Iowa program, which was implemented to create tourism destinations and community attractions in the state and build and repair schools.

 

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Governor Quinn Announces Key Appointment PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Andrew Mason   
Monday, 30 January 2012 15:33

Andrew Boron to Lead Department of Insurance

CHICAGO – January 27, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced a top appointment to his executive cabinet by naming Andrew Boron as director of the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI). Today’s action is the latest in a series of appointments Governor Quinn will make as he continues to fulfill his commitment to creating jobs, economic development and increasing efficiency and accountability in all areas of state government.

“Andrew Boron brings a wide range of experience to the Department of Insurance, and I am confident his strong leadership will enhance the essential regulatory and consumer protections DOI provides,” Governor Quinn said. “I want to thank the acting directors for their excellent work while we conducted this nationwide search.”

In addition to its regulatory obligations, DOI was instrumental in last year’s workers’ compensation overhaul, expected to save businesses $500 million a year, while protecting essential protections for injured workers. The agency is also instrumental in implementing the Affordable Care Act, and will manage the state’s health insurance exchange.

Mr. Boron brings a career of insurance, governmental and private sector experience to DOI. He returns to state government after working as vice president and counsel at the ACE Group, where he served as primary liaison to the Departments of Insurance in nine states, including Illinois. He also served as Deputy Chief of Staff at the Illinois Toll Highway Authority between 2009 and 2010. Boron began his career at CNA Financial, serving as counsel and then director of state government relations.

Mr. Boron holds a bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin and a juris doctorate from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. He was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1998. Boron is married and has two children.

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Lekar Named Chief Judge of First Judicial District PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Iowa Judicial Branch   
Monday, 30 January 2012 15:32
Des Moines, January 27, 2012 —The Iowa Supreme Court has appointed District Judge Kellyann M. Lekar, Waterloo, as Chief Judge of the First Judicial District. Judge Lekar succeeds Judge Thomas N. Bower who was appointed by Governor Branstad to the Iowa Court of Appeals.

"Judge Lekar has proven leadership abilities," Chief Justice Cady said. "She has a strong work ethic, involvement in several innovative court projects and an excellent working relationship with judges and staff. I'm confident she will make an effective chief judge. "

Judge Lekar was born in Waterloo. She earned her undergraduate degree from Iowa State University in 1990 and her law degree from the University of Iowa in 1993. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Judge Lekar was in private practice in Waterloo until her appointment to the bench in 2005. She is co-chair of the First Judicial District Family Law Mediation Committee and a member of the district's public outreach committee. She is also a state delegate to the American Bar Association's National Council of State Trial Judges a member of the American Bar Association, Courts and Community Committee of the Iowa Judges Association, the Iowa State Bar Association Jury Instructions Committee, and the Black Hawk County and Iowa State Bar Associations.

"I am pleased to have an opportunity to serve the First Judicial District as Chief Judge," she said. "As a native of Waterloo, I am proud to serve and represent northeast Iowa in this position. The judges and staff of the First Judicial District are hardworking, innovative and dedicated and I am privileged to work with them on a daily basis. Together we will strive to provide excellent judicial branch services to the citizens of the First Judicial District."

As chief judge, Judge Lekar will supervise all judicial officers and court employees in the district, supervise the performance of administrative and judicial business in the district, set the times and places of holding court, designate presiding judges, and serve on the judicial council, which advises the supreme court on administrative matters affecting the trial courts. In addition, she will continue to preside over cases.

The First Judicial District is located in northeast Iowa and comprises 11 counties: Allamakee, Black Hawk, Buchanan, Chickasaw, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Grundy, Howard, and Winneshiek. The district has 14 district judges, six district associate judges, three associate juvenile judges, four senior judges, 20 part-time magistrates, and 204 employees, with an operating budget for the current fiscal year of approximately $16,501,993. A total of 99,309 cases were filed in the First Judicial District last year.

 

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Use Tax Season to Organize for the Future PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 30 January 2012 15:26
Financial Planner Shares Tips for a 21st-Century Filing System

Jane was not looking forward to going through her parents’ belongings to get their house ready to sell. Their health had been failing for some time and they finally agreed to move to a retirement community. Now that they were both comfortably moved into their new apartment, it was up to Jane to get rid of the things they no longer needed.

Her parents had lived in the same house for more than 50 years, so Jane expected to find things that should have been tossed out years ago.  But she was amazed to discover 50 years of tax returns and bank statements carefully stored in boxes in the attic. Her parents had saved all their financial records!

Many people are confused about what records they need to keep and for how long. They hold onto tax returns, bank records, brokerage statements and other financial information simply because they don’t know if they’ll need it again. Like Jane’s parents, the documents get packed in boxes that eventually take over valuable living or storage space.

Financial planner Rick Rodgers, author of The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning (www.TheNewThreeLeggedStool.com), says tax time is a great time to get organized.

“Most people are going through their records to get ready to file their return,” he says. “This is the time to get smart about what you need to keep and then set up a system to store it efficiently going forward.”

Rodgers suggests these five steps to help you effectively organize your finances for 2012 and beyond:

1. Out with the old – Discard the records you no longer need: Tax returns older than seven years; bank records and credit card statements that are not related to the tax returns you’re keeping; brokerage statements that aren’t related to purchases of current holdings. Be sure to shred all your old documents before throwing them out.

2. Go digital – Convert the documents you plan to save into digital images that are stored on your hard drive. Invest in a good scanner and scan as you go through your paperwork, shredding and tossing the hard copies as you go. On your computer, file by tax year, so your 2011 folder will contain your tax return for 2011 and all pertinent bank records and receipts. Organize the previous six years the same way. Next year you can delete the oldest folder when you add the 2012 folder.

3. Save a forest – All of the financial institutions you deal with would prefer to send your statements electronically. Stop receiving paper statements. Instead, download your statements electronically and store them in your new filing system.  Most banks and credit card companies keep at least a year’s worth of statements available.  You need to download these files only once a year to complete the year’s file.

4. Save backups in case of emergency – Make backup copies of your files on a CD. Choose a CD-R (recordable) as opposed to a CD-RW (rewriteable), because CD-R cannot accidentally be overwritten. Depending on your computer operating system, you may be able to continue adding data to a CD-R each year, until the CD is full. However, some operating systems won’t allow that, so you’ll need a new CD for each year.

5. Go paperless – Your new electronic filing system can be expanded to include all your financial records, from car maintenance receipts to pay stubs.  Wills and insurance policies can also be scanned and stored but, of course, keep the originals of those in a safe deposit box or fireproof safe.

Gone are the days of saving your financial documents in box and shoving it into the attic.  Technology advances have made organizing your personal finances easier with minimal cost.  Make 2012 the year you get organized by moving your finances into a 21st century filing system.

About Rick Rodgers

Certified Financial Planner Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa. He’s a Certified Retirement Counselor and member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers. Rodgers has been featured on national radio and TV shows, including “FOX Business News” and “The 700 Club,” and is available to speak at conferences and corporate events (www.rodgersspeaks.com).

 
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