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How Whistleblower Laws Can Prevent Bad Stewardship of Taxpayer Dollars

Put whistleblower laws to work for the common man.

whistleblower lawsWhistleblower laws make it easy for people to come forward when they know trouble is afoot. They also encourage people to bust corruption wide open by offering them protection from retaliation — and the chance to receive a small fortune.

How the False Claims Act Encourages People to Do the Right Thing

Telling the truth isn’t always easy, especially when lies seem to have good intentions behind them. Many instances of fraud look like someone has done something to help out the little guy, but the bigger picture shows a different story.

Take Medicaid insurance fraud, for example. Policies in states like Iowa are changing to drastically limit the amount of dental work state insurance will cover in a year. Why?  Because so many dental offices have figured out ways to bilk the system tens of thousands of dollars per patient. They’ve performed unnecessary work, lied about services and even put people in danger to make an extra few dollars. Now, children will suffer without the dental care they need because of greed. These kinds of crimes count!

It takes a brave soul to say something, but if you face the risks you may reap the benefits. Consider the hospital employee who turned the company in for falsifying grant applications. The facility didn’t house nearly many as beds as they’d claimed. The result was a $12.9 million settlement, of which $3.3 million went to the whistleblower.

Filing Suit ‘For the People’

The False Claims Act makes it possible for individuals to sue corporations, groups, and individuals for defrauding the government. Individuals wage these “qui tam” lawsuits on behalf of the nation.

The law sweetens the deal by allowing the filer to take home a portion of the winnings. While this isn’t the only reason whistleblowers come forward, it fuels motivation in many cases.

As the law is currently written, whistleblowers can share in up to 30 percent of a settlement, based on triple the damages involved in a case. See the wrong thing at the right time, and your conscience could make you a lot of money.

Unfortunately, whistleblowing doesn’t come without risk. Laws and industry policies offer various forms of protection, but they do not apply to everyone in every situation. State laws might also limit the reach of federal practices, so it’s important to seek legal counsel before coming forward with damaging information.

Whistleblower policy often protects against the following:

  • Termination and demotion
  • Hostility and threats
  • Severe schedule changes or expectations

Changes to the False Claims Act Through the Years

While perfectly suited to deal with the problems of the modern day, the False Claims Act arose out of the corruption of the Civil War. The greed of the day horrified leaders. Contractors promised to provide troops with quality food, clothing, and supplies only to fail to deliver. These bad business deals, fueled with government funds, sometimes left Union Army troops starving and stranded.

President Abraham Lincoln, initially signed the False Claims Act in 1863, making it clear early on that the United States would not let corruption take hold. It cleaned up the country’s track record … for a while.

Unfortunately, the country forgot those lessons as the years rolled on. During the 1940s, Congress gutted the False Claims Act, removing all incentive for people to report fraud affecting government funds. It wasn’t until the Reagan Administration that people began to take this duty seriously. Today, there are significant protections for those looking to help the little guy.

The False Claims Act is just one way to fight corruption at the government level and secure tax dollars for those with good intentions. However, the country has 22 federal laws giving protection to whistleblowers of various kinds. States have their own standards. Associations and licensing boards offer their own incentives as well.

Using Whistleblower Laws to Your Advantage

Throughout the last 100 years, whistleblowers have uncovered serious risks to government funding and to the people. Karen Silkwood gave her life to the cause when a mysterious auto accident prevented her from testifying against her employer. Critics of his decision to speak out on police corruption shot Frank Serpico. He narrowly survived. Edward Snowden is currently living abroad pending extradition to the U.S. on espionage charges for sharing classified documents with the press.

Protection laws do not offer ultimate protection or keep you safe from all legal repercussions. It’s important to discuss your situation with a legal representative before you speak out.

Contact skilled whistleblower laws attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Am a Stark Law Whistleblower?

stark law whistleblower

stark law whistleblowerIf you have evidence that a physician is violating the self-referral law of the False Claims Act, you could become a Stark Law whistleblower. The Physician Self-Referral law, also known as the Stark Law, restricts physicians from making referrals for designated health services that will be paid for by Medicaid or Medicare if the physician has a financial relationship with the entity to which he is referring the patient.

The circumstances under which a physician would violate this law are very specific. Therefore, let’s break it down further to clarify exactly when a physician is breaking the Stark Law:

The Referral Is for a Designated Health Service.

The Stark Law only applies to very specific diagnostic tests and certain procedures, classified as designated health services, or DHS. As a result, DHS includes any of the following tests or procedures:

  • Laboratory services
  • Physical, occupational, and outpatient speech-language therapy
  • Certain imaging services, including radiology
  • Services and supplies pertaining to radiation
  • DME and associated supplies
  • Parenteral and enteral nutrients and associated equipment and supplies
  • Prosthetics, orthotics, and any associated devices or supplies
  • Home health services
  • Prescription drug obtained on an outpatient status
  • Finally, inpatient and outpatient hospital services

Medicaid or Medicare Pay for the Designated Health Service.

This law aims to prevent the occurrence of Medicaid or Medicare fraud. Therefore, the law only applies to services that Medicaid or Medicare reimburse.

The Physician Has a Financial Relationship with the Entity.

This is the self-referral portion of the law. If the physician making the referral, or a family member, invests in, owns, or will be compensated for the referral in some way, this is considered a financial relationship. Furthermore, the Stark Law prohibits physicians from referring the services listed above to an entity with which they have a financial relationship.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I am a Stark Law Whistleblower?

The answer to this question is, it depends. If you wish to use a hotline to file a complaint, you are free to do so. However, it is important to understand you cannot receive a reward as a Stark Law whistleblower when you use a hotline. The False Claims Act indicates that Stark Law whistleblower may be able to receive a portion of the recovered funds. Hence, you must file your claim with an attorney if you wish to receive the reward.

The team at Bothwell Law Group has extensive experience navigating the Stark Law and assisting Stark Law whistleblowers in obtaining the compensation they deserve for reporting fraud. Therefore, you can  learn more about becoming a Stark Law whistleblower, call 770.643.1606 to speak with one of the experienced attorneys at Bothwell Law Group.