HEALTH CARE FRAUD

Medical 2014BLOG - FRAUD - MEDICAL
by – Sheri de Grom

 

Compiling satisfactory evidence for prosecution of individual(s) committing health care fraud requires thousands of man hours and sheer determination that this time, this one isn’t going to get away. Often it takes years of full-time investigation on one case.

I thought you might be interested in how serious health care fraud must be before it will be considered for prosecution. The following actions occurred in June, 2014 and they represent a small fraction of current cases being worked.

The owners of Elizabethtown Hematology, PLC of Louisville, KY agreed to pay $3,739 to settle false billing to Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and the Federal Employes Health Benefit Program.

Leonard Kibert, MD and four others of Houston, TX were charged in a 47-count indictment alleging a conspiracy to defraud Medicare of $2.9 million. A trial date is pending.

A Los Angeles physician was indicted for a $33 million scheme to defraud Medicare and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. A trial date is pending.

Husband and wife owners of Ohio Ambulance Company were sentenced to prison and ordered to repay $800,000 to Medicaid for transportation services they didn’t actually provide.

Indictment of two Florida scientists for obtaining government research contracting by fraud. Additional charges included wire fraud, identity theft and falsification of records in a federal investigation. If convicted on all counts, each faces a maximum penalty of twenty years in federal prison. The United States is also seeking a money judgment in the amount of $10,000,000 which reflects the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct.

A Miami Beach osteopathic physician was sentenced to 70 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release as a result of a Medicare fraud scheme. In addition, the judge entered a $1.6 million forfeiture money judgment against the physician and ordered the forfeiture of his Miami Beach residence and a 2002 Mercedes Benz. The doctor is also to pay restitution to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The U.S. Department of Justice has ordered Omnicare, Inc., the nation’s largest nursing home pharmacy company to pay $124 million to settle allegations involving false billing to federal health care programs. Omnicare, Inc., has agreed to pay $124 million for allegedly offering improper financial incentives to skilled nursing facilities in return for their continued selection of Omnicare to supply drugs to elderly Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

I could list page after page of medical fraud abuse convictions and indictments for June 2014. However, the purpose of this blog is to give you an idea of the size and frequency of fraudulent claims against Medicare and other health care insurance plans before prosecution will be considered.

I’ve seen thousands of cases wherein individual(s) are committing health care fraud on a daily basis, yet the dollars aren’t deemed high enough to qualify assigning a team of agents to investigate the activities in order to press federal charges.

Due diligence is required of every citizen to insure their insurance company is not being gouged by a medical provider and they are using your name in the process. Insurance fraud is the fastest growing criminal activity of white collar crime in the United States.

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GUNS, MENTAL HEALTH, VIOLENCE AND SUICIDE

 

I didn’t know the title of the theme song for the long-running television show MASH, but Tom did. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Tom could name the song, Suicide Is Painless, and sang along with it whenever it played on the radio.

I hadn’t given much thought to suicide before bipolar became a third party in our marriage. Tom and I’d agreed before we married that we didn’t want guns in our home.

I’d grown up with gun racks and loaded rifles in pick-up trucks in rural Kansas. Tom was taught to hunt as an adolescent and obtained sniper status for the military. Thankfully he was never asked to serve in that capacity.

The military was more interested in Tom’s intellect than his shooting ability and that afforded him comfortable working conditions. His military uniform was most often a suit and tie. He served as a key component of the Army’s Organizational Effectiveness Team. Instead of going to the field, his travel consisted of hotels where turn-down service was provided and a chocolate waited on his pillow.

There’s no disputing that mass shooting episodes are horrific. For the purposes of this blog, I’m addressing the 88 gun-related deaths that occur each day in the United States and not the mass shootings.

Of the 88 people that die each day from a gun: 90 percent of those deaths are suicide, a high portion of which are committed by seniors and individuals living in rural areas.

In cities, gun-related deaths are typically homicides. If we want to reduce this number, it comes to reducing gun-related violence on the streets.

Guns and gun legislation are topics we hear about daily. I couldn’t delay updating my research findings any longer. As recently as May 8, 2014 a team of investigative researchers at the American College of Physicians (APC) based all of their policy decision on scientific evidence.

Family doctors and internists have been identified as the first line of defense against both gun violence and suicide. The APC stated, “When it comes to reducing gun-related violence, physicians must play a vital role in making firearm safety a public health issue so that policy and law are based on scientific evidence.”

I’m in agreement with the APC. The United States will never have appropriate gun legislation while it’s tangled in second amendment rights.

The media has played into the mental health status of each mass shooting. We’ve watched them unfold in the news.

We’ve seen serious mental health issues connected to the shootings that should have been addressed years before these tragedies occurred. These incidents should have been no surprise to the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the shooter firing the weapon(s). The behaviors developed in the mind of a psychotic individual do not divulge over night.

Overall the mental health issues surrounding gun violence are in a complex area that requires a nuanced approach.

People with mental illness are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. Individuals with mental illness who receive appropriate treatment are less likely to commit acts of violence.

Scientific Data Revealed: 32,000 deaths per year are caused by guns (roughly 11,000 to homicides and 19,000 to suicides).

Non-fatal gun-related injuries are more than double that of deaths.

My husband, Tom and I have often talked of the distorted truth regarding bipolar disorder and especially how the disease is misrepresented in the media.

The following facts about mental illness and violence were compiled by the American Psychiatric Association (1994). Fact Sheet: Violence and Mental Illness. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. The Fact Sheet has numerous citations and I’m happy to pass the individual sites on to anyone who’s interested.

FACTS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS AND VIOLENCE

Fact 1 – The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent.

Fact 2 – The public is misinformed about the link between mental illness and violence.

Fact 3 – Inaccurate beliefs about mental illness and violence lead to widespread stigma    and discrimination.

Fact 4 – The link between mental illness and violence is promoted by the entertainment and news media.

FACTS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS AND VIOLENCE BY LEADING RESEARCH FACILITIES

“Characters in prime-time television portrayed as having mental illnesses are depicted as the most dangerous of all demographic groups: 60 percent were shown to be involved in crime or violence.” (Mental Health America, 1999)

“The vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.” (American Psychiatric Association, 1994)

“The absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is small . . . only a small proportion of the violence in our society can be attributed to persons who are mentally ill.” (Mulvey, 1994)

“People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Appleby, et. al., 2001). People with severe mental illness: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are two and one-half times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population.” (Hiday, et. al., 1999)

This blog is the first of a series about Tom’s and my many struggles to keep our home free

Official Logo for 2014 Participants

Official Logo for 2014 Participants

of guns. It should be simple but it’s not. I’ve spoken numerous times in multiple congressional committee meetings about the necessity of protecting the individual who wants to harm him or herself. A data base would not be difficult to set up nation wide and with volunteers such as myself, the data entry would be a free public service. I’ll discuss attempted suicides and how we’ve coped with the situation when it appeared in our lives.

Suicide and attempted suicide are difficult subjects to write about. I understand that sometimes the pain is relentless and there seems no place to turn. I fully understand how suicide can seem the only solution.

Suicide is anything but painless.

 

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“Now? Have you lost your mind?!”

sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.:

This blog written by Huntie at http://chasingrabbitholes.com is one of the best written essays of how we are losing our country one day at a time. Huntie places the issues front and center of what’s happening, how it’s happening and please, can we wake up and do something before it’s too late. I’d planned to post a blog of my own today, but Huntie’s post demanded prompt attention. Might I also suggest you follow this blog. You will not be disappointed. Not only does Huntie have a marvelous intellect but she’s as funny as all get out. Sheri

Originally posted on Chasing Rabbit Holes:

Perhaps you have heard something about illegal children crossing our southern border? More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors and 39,000 women with children have been apprehended on the southern border this year. How to handle this surge? Especially since a law passed in 2008 forbids returning children from non-contiguous countries, i.e., El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, which happen to be the three countries most of these children are coming from. This law requires that each case be reviewed to prevent abuse of the children from human trafficking. Imagine the chaos ongoing. Something like 70% our our border patrol are taking care of this constant influx of children. It is not as if the children are sneaking through. No, not all. They walk up and present themselves to the border patrol. President Obama has requested $3.7 Billion to deal with this humanitarian crisis. How much of that proposed $3.7 Billion is to…

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MEDICARE PART D HAS ME WORRIED

Medical 2014
by – Sheri de Grom

The Obama Administration (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) set forth a proposed rule, January 2014. The proposal [Federal Register Vol.79, No 7, Pg1-157] would have brought about broad changes for about 39 million Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

MEDICARE PART D PILLS BOTTLE

The proposed rule would have ended the practice of covering “all or substantially all” drugs within six classes: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, antineoplastics and immunosuppressants. This policy, known as the “six protected class” policy, has been in effect since the inception of Part D, and has strong congressional support.

Medicare tried to sell the proposal as a way to save taxpayers money and simplify the Part D program for seniors.

The ‘administration’ has indicated they will revisit their proposed plan and will submit a new proposed rule in the future. When the proposed rule is set forth, EVERY CITIZEN has the right to comment.

You do not need to be enrolled in Medicare to comment on any proposed rule set forth. As an American citizen, you’re entitled to express your opinion on every proposed legislative change. A proposal will become law if not enough citizens can support keeping the law as stated in its current format.

The House and Senate advised Medicare to back off and in a letter drafted by Orrin Hatch (R. Utah), clearly placed on record to Medicare that congressional members (both parties) had strong objections to the Medicare Part D proposals and were concerned the changes would disrupt care and unnecessarily interfere with an already successful program.

It’s important to remember the patients qualifying for coverage by Medicare and Part D are not just those over 65 but also those that are disabled and unable to work. This proposed rule would take away the coverage of numerous drugs necessary for mental health treatment.

I’m confident we’ll see further erosion of Medicare Part D. It’s the only plan within Medicare that helps pay for pharmaceuticals and the patient pays the premium and additional co-pays.

Thankfully, Tom and I have my Federal BC/BS and his Tri-Care for Life for our pharmacy coverage. I don’t believe I’d have the sanity to cope with Part D.

David L. Shern, Ph.D, president and CEO of Mental Health America, said, “These policies fail to acknowledge that physicians and consumers should make individualized treatment decisions, recognizing the unique and non-interchangeable nature of human beings and psychotropic medications, and acknowledging that lack of access to medications has both human and fiscal consequences.”

Medicare’s prescription drug program is widely considered to be a Washington success story. However, the Obama administration is proposing a series of significant changes to fix what critics say isn’t broken.

In my opinion, the continued attempts of Medicare administrators to destroy a program that works efficiently (Medicare Part D), is further evidence that our current administration has no one appointed to a cabinet position with ‘real world’ work experience. Their job security has never been threatened by real world performance standards and customer satisfaction.

The nomination of Robert McDonald, to Secretary of Veterans Affairs, former CEO of Proctor and Gamble, is the first executive with actual public leadership ability who understands what it means to be accountable to stockholders. Taxpayers have not had accountability with other cabinet positions.

I expect to see a newly formulated proposed Medicare Part D Rule submitted within the next six months. If you see the proposal before I do, please let me know. I wish to add my comment to the Federal Register plus express my views to elected officials.

What are your thoughts? Have you had success or problems with Medicare, Plan D? There were a significant number of changes with most insurance plans in 2014. Has your insurance changed their pharmacy coverage?

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How Much Is Your Medical IDENTITY Worth?

Medical 2014
by – Sheri de Grom

Few of us think about having our medical identity stolen. The crime of medical identity theft has been happening for years and is rampant today. Most of us are unaware that it’s occurred until something significant happens in our own world of health or our credit rating has crashed.

Medical identity theft is the fraudulent use of another person’s medical identity in order to obtain medical services and medications or to bill a third-party payer such as an insurance company or Medicare and then keep the payment for personal use.

The theft of your medical identity also reveals your social security number, health system ID, driver’s license number, health insurance and other personal information plus critical details a thief can use in multiple ways.

The crime can have long-lasting and dangerous effects, both on your health and your finances. The thief may obtain health services in your name or bill fraudulently for services that, although you never received them, could max out your annual or lifetime insurance limits.

Whether the thief is actually receiving medical treatment or just billing for fictitious treatments in your name, incorrect information—about blood type, diagnoses, or drug allergies, for instance—may infiltrate your medical records as a result.

Collection letters for overdue accounts for an unfamiliar doctor visit or procedure is the most common clue to victims of this crime.

Be vigilant about handling your medical information. Don’t let explanation-of-benefit statements from your insurer sit in a pile of unopened mail. Review them like you would a bank statement or auto repair bill. If you see an unfamiliar procedure, doctor’s name, or service date, call to inquire.

The media tells us when a large number of social security numbers are stolen or when our credit and debit cards are in jeopardy.

Your medical identity will be with you for a lifetime. It is one of your most important assets. Don’t allow someone to steal it from you.

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MEDICAL DEBT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Medical 2014
by – Sheri de Grom

Medical debt has no distinction apart from other accounts once they are outsourced to a collection agency.

It's a foreign language to many.

It’s a foreign language to many.

The face of medical debt has changed drastically within the past five years. Before the U.S. economy fell apart, most doctors, hospitals and other health institutions carried their own debt.

Combine our weakened economy, high unemployment with the reality of Obamacare and fewer individuals have health insurance than before the recession and Obamacare.

Health care providers can no longer afford to carry their patients’ debt. The providers need ready revenue streams to remain operational. To obtain that money they’re forced to sell their debt to a third-party.

Declining Dollar

Declining Dollar

Medical debt is different from any other debt the American consumer accumulates. Unlike credit cards, auto loans or home mortgages, Americans don’t fill out credit applications for medical services. (Most hospitals and free-standing out-patient procedure clinics require the patient pay their part before care is provided).

In the recent past, most health-care providers never turned patients over to collections so long as they were making regular payments on their debt.

Today, making payments on a medical bill doesn’t necessarily keep it out of collections. If you’re making small payments, or if you make your payment a few days late when you are under a payment arrangement, you may discover your provider has turned the bill over for collections.

Unfortunately, you may not know there is an unpaid medical bill until you get a call or letter from a collection agency. At this point, it may be too late to avoid damages to your credit. Bills fall through the cracks, are sent to the wrong address, or are sometimes not sent to the patient before they are turned over to collections. This should be illegal, yet it’s not.

The above scenario occurred when my husband received a collection letter from a medical laboratory in Memphis, Tennessee. We’d no idea how the debt had occurred and I called    the billing office immediately. My questions: Where was the initial care provided? My husband had never received medical care in Tennessee. I wanted facts. What was the procedure and who’d ordered it? On what date had the procedure been performed? Who had received the results of the procedure and who had authorized the procedure?

I also asked why we hadn’t received notice of the amount before the collection letter—and why hadn’t our insurance companies been billed as we had 100% coverage for the procedure?

Federal law mandates all insurance must be billed and an EoB (Explanation of Benefits) received before an account is turned to a collection agency. Additionally, the patient has thirty days to pay the existing balance after the final EoB has been received by the billing office.

I discovered neither of our insurance companies had been billed for Tom’s lab procedure which had been ordered from his internist office in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was furious! Had the billing office filed with our insurance companies, they would have received payment in full! Instead we were turned to a collection agency and thus the $14.00 amount appeared on our credit report.

I won’t go through the agony or steps I took to remove the account from our credit report. I will say it wasn’t pretty and I used every ounce of my career experience to correct the problem.

Unfortunately, a similar situation occurred two weeks ago when we received a statement that we owed $300.00 for a procedure Tom had at a medical center. Again, I knew the procedure was covered 100% by our insurance but, before I could call the medical center, I needed to pull up Tom’s Medicare Claims Log and research his Blue Cross payments and EoBs. Upon doing so, I discovered both insurance companies paid the appropriate amount and zeroed out the account. The actual problem was that the medical center had billed for the same procedure twice under two different provider names.

I made notes for myself before I called the medical center. Aggravation was certain to appear in my voice. I remembered the individuals who don’t have an intimate knowledge of medical bills and reminded myself if I could help just one person that was my responsibility.

I called the medical center and gave the requisite account number. Before I could say why I was calling, the voice on the other end of the line said, “Oh, yes. We realized the account was submitted twice and we’ve fixed the problem.” There was no mention of, we’re so sorry we caused you anxiety or we’re sorry we didn’t call and let you know we billed you in error or any other warm fuzzy comment. How easy it would have been for them to give me a one sentence thank you?

There’s a myth about medical collection accounts. Consumers believe once the account is paid-in-full, the account will be removed from their credit report. In reality, the truth is you can go ahead and pay those medical collection accounts if you owe them, but there won’t be much change, if any, to your credit score. The medical debt will remain on your report for seven years and then you’ll more than likely have to prove it’s been paid before it’s removed. It’s not automatically removed.

I removed the faulty information from our credit report but, if I hadn’t had my own resources it would have been an up-hill battle and legal resources in the thousands with no guarantee of a positive out-come.

Medical identity theft (future blog pending) is increasing at an alarming rate. If your medical identity has been stolen, you won’t know you have medical debt until the bills arrive. Normally what happens is the thief doesn’t use your address or any of your care providers. The thief ignores the co-payment amounts and finally the account is turned to collection and you’re left responsible for the amount due.

One of your most valuable assets is your health benefits.

Before you pay for any medical service, other than your co-payment at a physician’s office or for ancillary service, ask for an itemized bill. Medical bills have a high percentage of error. Ask questions about anything you don’t understand.

If you believe you’ve been over-charged for a procedure and that there’s a significant difference between what your insurance paid and what is still due from you under the co-payment portion of your medical bill, go to http://FairHealthConsumer.org. This database provides cost estimates for medical services. Of course, you can always fight a steep bill by hiring a medical advocate who will contest the charges (http://billadvodates.com), but bear in mind you’ll pay between $50 to $150 an hour or a percentage of your savings.

Fifty-nine percent or nearly 2/3rd’s of the people who experienced medical debt were assured that they received the care for which they were billed. It may take months before all claims are filed and paid by the insurance company.

It is imperative that you or another responsible individual examine each EOB received for every date of service. I keep a ledger for Tom and myself. I know our insurance covers us 100% but that doesn’t stop every provider from billing us. Medical billing offices are notorious for errors.

Currently Fair Reporting Action allows the consumer reporting agencies to include medical debt on a credit report for up to seven years after the date on which it was reported to be delinquent.

While many attempts have been made to address this legislatively there’s zero relief in sight.

Sadly, Mark Rukavina, executive director of The Access Project asks, “What do you get when you combine a dysfunctional insurance billing system with the flawed scoring algorithms? The answer (could be) $5,000 to $6,000 in additional fees for a home mortgage!”

UNFAIR & SHOCKING NUMBERS

  • In 2010, 44 million Americans, nearly one-quarter (24%) of American adults under the age of 65, had medical debt being paid off over time.
  • Nearly three-quarters (69%) of those with medical debt were paying off bills totaling less than $4,000.
  • Nearly a third (31%) were paying off bills totaling over $4,000 and were insured at the time the care was provided.

We’re in need of a Medical Debt Responsibility Act which would prohibit consumer credit agencies from using paid-off or settled medical debt collections in assessing a consumer’s credit worthiness.

Don’t expect change to come soon. It’s nice to dream but as long as members of Congress can acquire whatever medical care they wish and have all prescriptions along with over the counter medications for free at a military facility, why should members of Congress worry about a Medical Debt Responsibility Act?

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FarrrTHUR 2 – Women in Agriculture Roles

sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.:

Less than 2% of the US population now takes part in farming. If men and women such as Emily Grace and her husband decide not to farm, our food supply will become more and more endangered.

Originally posted on Beef and Sweet Tea:

The roles of women in agriculture are changing.  We’ve always been important.  What stands to be acknowledged today is how we are evolving with the modern challenges in agriculture.

 

- we are taking over our fathers’ farms

- we are widows owning farms across the nation as we outlive our good farming men

- we are nurturers who have a 6th sense for land and business, family and farm

- we’re the new farmers on the block, and we’re finding that even if we grew up in the city, we’re really good at this farming thing

“From a global perspective, women-run farms dedicated to growing food are far from unusual. Women grow 60% to 80% of developing countries’ food supply and are responsible for half of the world’s food production, according to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates.”                      ~Katie Micik

Katie Micik writes for The Progressive Farmer magazine/website and…

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IN THE GARDEN WITH SHERI

Slice of Life
by – Sheri de Grom

Heritage Antique White Climbing Rose Sheri's Garden

Heritage Antique White Climbing Rose
Sheri’s Garden

Last week I talked about a nasty fall I’d taken and I was out of sorts with myself. I knew I needed to look inward but that wasn’t what I wanted to examine. I didn’t want my neurologist notifying me that I’d lost count on the number of serious concussions I’d sustained. I’m now at eight. A helmet will no longer help me.

Two of my blogging friends hit a nerve that made me sit further back in my chair and take notice of what they had to say. The first: Bill at http://dealingwithcopd.wordpress.com. Bill picks a word each week when he tells us how he’s feeling and writes a brilliant essay centered on that one word. I’m behind, maybe not behind; I’ve read this week’s blog. I’m still hung up on the previous word he discussed: ‘Expectations.’

I’ve had a field trip with ‘expectations’ and am still mulling it around in my head. It’s made

12 Matching Roses Lived in 4 States

12 Matching Roses Lived in 4 States

me nauseous. I either had the choice of reaching for medication or being sick. A number of times I sat with my journal and wrote about the expectations I believe others have of me or place on me. Those expectations are easy compared to the ones I impose upon myself.

I have a number of medical reasons why I fall but when I set aside all of those, it’s my own expectations that make my load far too heavy to carry. I don’t and won’t stop and my body simply does it for me by falling.

Antique Midnight Samba Sheri's Garden

Antique Midnight Samba Sheri’s Garden

One of my stress relievers is working in the garden. I love to dig in the dirt and create pallets of color with roses, wildflowers, multiple blooming vines, a hummingbird haven and another one for the bees. I’ve had two new victories this year that I’ve not experienced before.

One is that I finally have Clematis that’s happy to bloom. It’s the ‘Nelly Moser.’ I’ve had the three gallon plant for three years and it’s done nothing. I’d given up and allowed weeds to grow over it during the fall and this winter it stood in freezing water until a block of ice formed for months. We’ve also had a lot of water this spring and we still have lots of water. Nelly is not supposed to be happy. Do you think she’ll die or will she flourish now that she has a bag of new miracle grow soil and nice mulch to protect her roots? I’ve even provided her a nice wrought iron trellis.

The second victory is a peony that I’ve moved three times to get it to a place where it

Sheri's Garden Bidwell Vine

Sheri’s Garden Bidwell Vine

would have dry feet as instructed and nothing would bother it. I finally gave the peony away but my friend never dug it up to take home. It looked worse than a dead plant should have.

The same sequence of events happened to the peony as the clematis. Then this spring the blooms were some of the most majestic I’ve ever seen. Tom told me it reminded him of a bunch of writers sitting around talking about writing rules and what you can and cannot do or you will or will not get published.

The peony bloomed as if it were a New York Times Best Seller.  It should have acted as a manuscript; it wouldn’t have made it to the slush pile.

Lady of Guadalupe Sheri's Garden

Lady of Guadalupe Sheri’s Garden

Huntie at http://chasingrabbitholes.com is the second blogger who caused me to take another look at how I’m living this life of mine and always rushing from one task to another. She reminded me to always be aware of my surroundings. Of course that makes perfect sense. I was forever telling my staff they had to be aware of every component of their surroundings. In our business we couldn’t afford one slip-up. It could cost a life.

I’ve been moving through my days in a fog. There’s been too much on my plate and I know I need help. I must juggle the budget one more time. I cannot keep up this pace.

Veteran’s Affairs would allow someone to come to our home two hours two times a week. (I’ll talk another time about how it took us nine months to get the evaluation appointment about caregiving and Tom was already rated at 100% disabled). However, we have no in-put into who that individual is. The attendants are not licensed or bonded. And, they would simply be here, as in do nothing except monitor Tom. I’m here! What would we gain?

PROVERBS 24:14

Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it,

          there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

I look back on the past week, month, year even, and sense that I have not been aware of

Jacob's Coat Sheri's Garden

Jacob’s Coat Sheri’s Garden

You Lord and the lessons You would have me learn. I don’t want to be someone who mentally checks out of life. Even when the burden is too hard, I will glean wisdom that feeds my soul.

Shelter me, Lord. Take me in Your embrace and keep me safe from my past and my future worries. If left on my own, I would not make it through the night without a stream of tears. But with You I can relax. I think more clearly from this place of refuge.

PSALM 16:1

Keep me safe, O God,  for in you I take refuge.    

Lace Cap Hydrangea Sheri's Garden

Lace Cap Hydrangea Sheri’s Garden

 

 

 

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I STUBBED MY TOE ON THE WAY TO LIVING LIFE

Slice of Life/Travel Blog
by – Sheri de Grom

I lay on the cold concrete and wondered how I’d managed to get there. No pushing or shoving had been involved but I’d fallen hard. Did I dare move? The entire right side of my body, the side that had been injured far too many times, took the total impact of my full body slam.

It wasn’t good. I knew that immediately. For once, I didn’t care who saw me on the unforgiving cement. I had to be still and check in with all my body parts.

My neurologist wasn’t happy with my latest fall, especially since I’d had the same experience almost one month before and I’d lost consciousness with that fall.

It’s been a week since that last fall and I’m still in recovery. This fall cost me a cracked collar and shoulder bone (right side of course) and my right hand and arm refuse to be civil. They already have nerve damage. The swollen areas on my head are slowly reducing in size and my neurologist snubbed me today as we passed in the halls of the medical center. (We have an interesting relationship. Often we sit side by side in his office doing research on any number of topics from how to mix the soil for his garden, how to raise the necessary money to bring our soldiers’ dogs home from Afghanistan or the latest in home design. Sometimes we research the latest findings in Traumatic Brain Injuries but he knows I already do that on my own).

If you’re interested in reading about my thoughts and relationships with former Traumatic Brain Injuries, I’ll place the index at the close of this blog.

I’m on first and I must take care of us (Tom and myself) but not by moving at neck-breaking speed on my way to living life.

I also thought about the thousands of veterans diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and how their lives have changed forever. It angers me that the commanders of our warriors returned them immediately to battle without down time for rest and recovery. It’s impossible to recover completely but with the appropriate amount of rest and quiet it lessens the amount of permanent damage the head trauma causes. Unfortunately, the injuries caused by each TBI are cumulative and once you’ve had one you are more susceptible for additional TBIs.

With love and appreciation I move on to the purpose of today’s blog.

I’m now a proud member of the ‘traveling blog’ and one of my all time favorite activities is to share the terrific talents of fellow bloggers. The traveling blog is not an award, it’s the opportunity for each blogger to write about their writing process and to pass the torch onto other bloggers they’d like the blogging community to meet.

I received two such nominations back to back and received permission to accept both and away I went. I know we all think this blogging world of ours is crazy wonderful or we wouldn’t spend so much time reading, liking, commenting, following, thinking about what we might want to write, consider how much honest research might be involved and then send our creation out to the world.

When I read a blogger’s ‘travel blog post’ I know I’m in for a real treat. I know I’m automatically going to receive the cream of the crop with the bloggers’ recommendations.

I was first nominated by Hunt Mode of http://chasingrabbitholes.com. I started following Huntie immediately upon reading my friend Tess’ blog at http://letscutthecrap.wordpress.com. Don’t let the title of the blog throw you. I’ve never missed one of her blogs since I started following her. Give Tess a limit of 50 words and she’ll give you back a complete story. It never fails. You’ll also encounter the stories of her recent trip to China.

Huntie talks about her need to write with freedom and not to what she calls writing to ‘order.’ The government officially retired her this past April and I have an idea we’ll be seeing some amazing writing on http://chasingrabbitholes.com. A special thank you from me, Huntie. Thanks for having faith in my blog and especially for being willing to get to know each other.

Marie at http://writingwingsforyou.com also nominated me to the traveling blog. Marie believes healing takes place each time we set a pen to paper. It’s the creative process that allows us to set ourselves free of demons that remain within. Marie covers a wide range of topics as she continues to work with young students and by assisting her father with Alzheimer’s disease at the same time. Through our creations, Marie believes, we will arrive at our destination of contentment.

My second requirement is to nominate a minimum of six blogs I find especially gratifying and that I enjoy each time I visit. They are blogs wherein I have thoughts to take away plus enjoy their beauty and willingness to be honest.

Gallivanta at http://silkannthreades.wordsmith.com  was the inspiration for my blog this past week. Her blogs are among the most beautiful I’ve read and her food photos are among the best I’ve seen. There’s a refinement in the placement of her blogs and a literary quality. Her city has been destroyed by four large earthquakes and 12,500 aftershocks since 2010. Gallivanta writes of the truth and once I was introduced, I couldn’t possibly turn away.

Reagan at http://bluestockinghack.wordpress.com is to my delight more of a blue stocking and I haven’t found anything on her blog that qualifies the ‘hack.’ Reagan is pursuing her graduate studies and checking her summer reading list is enough to make some quiver. She states her goals upfront and with conviction. Not only does she want to contribute to great literary scholarship and research, she also wants to write teen fiction. Reagan’s is a name to watch.

I started following Inese at http://inesemjphotography.com after seeing a series of photos she’d taken wherein fog was a major contributor. I was hooked at once. I visited her fog photos on a regular basis telling myself nothing else would compare. Once I started checking her other work, I knew I was seeing real art in photography made complete with her love of language. Inese’s postings go far beyond being a photo blog. I follow several photo blogs but Inese has the most varied of any I’ve seen.

I found Barbara of http://thedeparturelounge.co as a result of following Huntie who nominated me. Barbara’s lyrical writing should be set to music, it’s that good. Her subject matter of COPD is dire but the words she wraps around it never cease to amaze me. I’ve always given myself credit for having a good grasp of most diseases, although from the legal-defense end of medical malpractice while at JAG. Barbara’s blogs are not only informative but entertaining. She inspires me to become an advocate for all individuals with COPD. How can you not read the blog of someone who proclaims gongozle a lost word and one of her favorites?

My heart is still, I have the opportunity to travel down memory lane when I read and communicate with Emily of http://beefandsweettea.com. Emily’s photos first caught my eye and when I started reading her blog, I knew I was coming home to visit. Emily is the real deal. I’m forever pointing out “drugstore cowboys” to my husband and there was no place in my blogging world for anything less than real.

Most of you know that I grew up in the Flint Hills of Kansas and had I gone home after college, I would have become an 8th generation Kansas farm/rancher’s housewife.

I scanned Emily’s about page and there it was – a 5th generation beef cattle farm in the Southern United States. Emily knows the industry but more importantly for a woman on a working ranch/farm is to know the culture and embrace it. It’s these stories that Emily tells so well that always return me to my roots.

Last and certainly not least is Andrea at http://harvestinghecate.wordpress.com. Andrea’s blog is all about creating. Her blog has wonderful insight into creative writing that’s fresh and new while she’s actually on a walk with her dog. She writes with both knowledge and grace about the wonders of nature and brings each blog to life with her own photographs. Andrea’s writing invites the reader to look closely and take nothing for granted, especially if they are a writer.

Thanks for reading with me and I do hope you’ll check out the two individuals that nominated me and the six individuals I’ve nominated. They all are deserving of your attention.

I’m supposed to tell you about my writing process in this blog but I’m leaving that for another day.

TBI SERIES

Traumatic Brain Injuries – The Aftermath of Memory Loss

Traumatic Brain Injuries – Fifty Five Years of Memory Stolen

Traumatic Brain Injuries – No Fault of Their Own

Traumatic Brain Injuries – Do We Need To Bring Back The Draft

Traumatic Brain Injuries – My Story

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WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN

When a Man Loves a Woman
The Fourth House
by – Sheri de Grom

Several weeks ago, Gallivanta at http://silkandthreads.wordpress.com and I were chatting about some of the special moments I’ve shared with Tom. Those times when positive remembrances shine through. Gallivanta suggested I might weave some of those remembrances into my Fourth House series. I’m delighted she made the suggestion.

Once again I turned to my journals and I picked one dated 1994. As I read I became lost in memories and wondered how I had gotten through some of the hardest days of my career. The answer always came back to Tom loving me unconditionally and believing in me.

We’d lived in Washington DC about six months when I’d compiled sufficient evidence to dismiss with cause a federal employee with thirty-two years on the job. To make the process even more difficult, the employee had never had a negative performance review in those thirty-two years. She was also an officer in a powerful federal employee union that had already filed numerous discrimination claims against me. I had to be on point with this discharge, as the employee would lose all retirement benefits. I knew I had to have everything perfect or the union would attempt to force me out using the race card one more time.

The federal union employees labeled me that white woman brought in from the West Coast with a reputation of cleaning house (firing people who weren’t performing their work to established standards) and investigating white-collar crime.

From the beginning, I was told it would be impossible to fire this person. My chain of command wouldn’t back me. I couldn’t believe they hadn’t taken action years before but DC bureaucracy has its own strange way of doing things or—perhaps I should say—of not doing what needs to be done and not taking ownership of its actions.

A difficult challenge stood in my path and although I wouldn’t admit it to anyone, I was afraid.

Two nights before the union hearing, my employee’s husband was released from federal prison. He’d been sentenced to forty-two years in a maximum security facility in Virginia for gun and drug racketeering. He’d served ten of his forty-two year sentence and released due to prison overcrowding.

I’d heard the gossip among the union members and, of course, they made sure I was aware of the threats he was making toward me and my family. I’d received death threats before, but these made my blood run cold. The threats sent me to the firing range more often and I enrolled in a refresher course of self-defense.

The morning of the firing arrived and, as I gathered my things to leave for the office, I felt fear. When faced with this particular emotion in the past, I usually had an adrenalin rush roaring through my veins until every nerve ending was alert. That morning the fear was stone cold and I didn’t like it.

It was time for me to leave for the office. I couldn’t shake my anxiety, but I had a job to do.

Picking up my briefcase, Tom asked me to wait and said, “I have something I made for you. I hope it will help make the day easier for you and to remember good triumphs evil. Sheri, you are the best of the good guys in your profession.” Tom reminded me of the promise I’d made to myself when we’d made the move from the central coast of California to DC that I would make positive change here.

He asked me to turn around and as with all of my gold chains, Tom had made another and slipped it over my head. Having a chain without a clasp ensured I’d never have to worry about losing one of Tom’s magnificent creations.

The gift Tom slipped over my head that morning so long ago is pictured below. Each time I wear it, I remember that day in DC and how afraid I was and how confident Tom had been that I’d be okay.

 

I tried without success to calm my nerves. My commute that day was one of those rides when you don’t remember going from point A to point B. It just happened. I didn’t know Tom had placed a second gift in my brief case. A gift for the inner-child, the one who knew enough to be afraid.

I didn’t dare cry. I could talk with ‘the child’ later.

I extracted my daily calendar from my brief case and along with it came a soft and stoic companion who I’ve since named Ralph. I’ve always had a thing for lop-eared rabbits and Ralph was just the right size to be my warrior for not only the trying day ahead of me but for every day thereafter.

Ralph tagged along to the union hearing with me and we lasted through a long nine hours of testimony and witness statements. Finally, sweet victory. The employee was terminated with cause. Security escorted her to her desk while she retrieved her personal items and then from the premises.

Ralph sits proudly beside me tonight as I type. Normally he lives on my nightstand, but lately I’ve needed him closer.

I openly admit I’ve been extra fragile the last few months and I thank you for standing strong with me.

A special thank you to Gallivanta for suggesting the topic of this blog. Trust me, you’ll be seeing more of them. My journals are filled with hundreds, make that thousands of moments in time of loving and living life with unconditional love.

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