FindLaw Opinion Summaries - Family Law
Daily family law case summaries, brought to you by FindLaw.com.
Daily family law case summaries, brought to you by FindLaw.com.
What GAO Found The extent of elder abuse by guardians nationally is unknown due to limited data on key factors related to elder abuse by a guardian, such as the numbers of guardians serving older adults, older adults in guardianships, and cases of elder abuse by a guardian. Court officials from six selected states GAO spoke to noted various data limitations that prevent them from being able to provide reliable figures about elder abuse by guardians, including incomplete information about the ages of individuals with guardians. Officials from selected courts and representatives from organizations GAO spoke to described their observations about elder abuse by a guardian, including that one of the most common types appeared to be financial exploitation. Some efforts are under way to try to collect better data on elder abuse and guardianship at the federal, state, and local levels to support decision making and help prevent and address elder abuse by guardians. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to launch the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System—a national reporting system based on data from state Adult Protective Services (APS) agency information systems by early 2017. According to HHS and its contractor, this system has the capability to collect information that could specifically help identify cases of elder abuse where a guardian was involved. GAO also identified state and local initiatives to capture key data points and complaint data as well as identify “red flags” such as unusually high guardian fees or excessive vehicle or dining expenses. The federal government does not regulate or directly support guardianship, but federal agencies may provide indirect support to state guardianship programs by providing funding for efforts to share best practices and facilitate improved coordination, as well as by sharing information that state and local entities can use related to guardianship. State and local courts have primary responsibility over the guardianship process and, as such, have a role in protecting older adults with guardians from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Measures taken by selected states to help protect older adults with guardians vary but generally include screening, education, monitoring, and enforcement. Measures Used to Help Protect Older Adults with Guardians from Abuse Why GAO Did This Study This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO’s November 2016 report, entitled Elder Abuse: The Extent of Abuse by Guardians Is Unknown, but Some Measures Exist to Help Protect Older Adults GAO-17-33. For more information, contact Kathryn A. Larin at (202) 512-6722 or email@example.com.
Worker and Family Assistance
What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) and the military departments have established roles and responsibilities for senior business transformation positions, such as Chief Management Officers (CMOs) and Deputy CMOs (DCMOs), who are responsible for business transformation efforts—actions to increase the efficiency of or to decrease the costs associated with DOD’s business functions, such as acquisitions and logistics. However, DOD has had challenges retaining individuals in some positions, as shown in the figure. Turnover in Chief Management Officer (CMO) and Deputy CMO (DCMO) Positions since 2010 DOD and the military departments have issued strategic or business transformation plans, but DOD has not coordinated with the military departments to align their strategic planning efforts for business transformation with those of the department. For example, the military department CMOs or DCMOs do not have a defined role in DOD’s strategic planning process to develop department-wide business transformation goals and objectives. Further, DOD has not aligned the military departments’ goals and objectives to those of the department in DOD’s Agency Strategic Plan. Leading practices for results-oriented management state that goals should align throughout an organization. In doing so, DOD would be better positioned to ensure that the military departments’ strategic planning—as well as goals and objectives—directly contribute to those of the department. The DOD DCMO has used DOD’s principal business governance forum—the Defense Business Council—to monitor some department-wide business transformation efforts, but has not effectively monitored the military departments’ performance on business transformation efforts. For example, defense business systems certification and approval initiatives were the most frequently discussed forum items since October 2015, while military department performance on business transformation efforts were not discussed. The DOD DCMO instead relied on the military departments to conduct their own performance monitoring. GAO found that the Council’s charter does not specifically outline its responsibility for monitoring the military departments’ performance. Without improved department-wide monitoring, DOD may not be well-positioned to assess the overall impact of its efforts to achieve business transformation. Why GAO Did This Study While DOD maintains military forces with unparalleled capabilities, it continues to confront management weaknesses related to its business functions that support these forces. GAO designated DOD’s approach to business transformation as high risk in 2005 because DOD had not taken steps to achieve business reform on a strategic, department-wide basis. This report (1) describes the roles and responsibilities established by DOD and the military departments for overseeing business transformation and the continuity of leadership in senior business transformation positions, (2) assesses the extent to which DOD has coordinated with the military departments to align strategic planning efforts for business transformation, and (3) evaluates the extent to which the DOD DCMO has used the Defense Business Council to effectively monitor department-wide performance. GAO reviewed documentation, including summaries from Defense Business Council meetings, and interviewed cognizant officials. What GAO Recommends GAO recommends that DOD define a role for the military department CMOs or DCMOs in DOD’s strategic planning process, and align DOD’s and the military departments’ goals and objectives for business transformation in its Agency Strategic Plan. GAO also recommends that DOD take action to improve its monitoring of the military departments’ performance. DOD concurs with GAO’s recommendations. For more information, contact Zina D. Merritt at (202) 512-5257, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Goodrum, a 40-year-old single mom of three boys, had worked a variety of jobs over the years to make ends meet, including as an account executive and in home health care. One day while searching for “something different to do” with greater earning potential, she stumbled on an ad for a machinist apprentice at […]
U.S. Department of Labor Blog
What GAO Found The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and federal agencies have taken steps to improve federal information technology (IT) through a series of initiatives and, as of October 2016, had fully implemented about 46 percent of the approximately 800 related recommendations made by GAO (a 23 percent increase compared to the percentage reported in 2015). However, additional actions are needed. Consolidating data centers. In an effort to reduce the growing number of data centers, OMB launched a consolidation initiative in 2010. GAO reported in March 2016 that agencies had closed 3,125 of the 10,584 total data centers and achieved $ 2.8 billion in cost savings and avoidances through fiscal year 2015. Agencies are planning a total of about $ 8.2 billion in savings and avoidances through fiscal year 2019. GAO recommended that the agencies take actions to meet their cost savings targets and improve optimization progress related to their data center consolidation and optimization efforts. Most agencies agreed with the recommendations or had no comment. Enhancing transparency. OMB’s IT Dashboard provides detailed information on major investments at federal agencies, including ratings from Chief Information Officers (CIO) that should reflect the level of risk facing an investment. GAO reported in June 2016 that agencies had not fully considered risks when rating their major investments on the IT Dashboard. In particular, of the 95 investments reviewed, GAO’s assessments of risks matched the CIO ratings 22 times, showed more risk 60 times, and showed less risk 13 times. Several issues contributed to these differences, such as CIO ratings not being updated frequently. GAO recommended that agencies improve the quality and frequency of their ratings. Most agencies generally agreed with or did not comment on the recommendations. Implementing incremental development. A key reform initiated by OMB has emphasized the need for federal agencies to deliver investments in smaller parts, or increments, in order to reduce risk and deliver capabilities more quickly. Since 2012, OMB has required investments to deliver functionality every 6 months. In August 2016, GAO reported that 22 agencies had reported that 64 percent of 469 active software development projects planned to deliver usable functionality every 6 months for fiscal year 2016. Further, for 7 selected agencies, GAO identified significant differences in the percentages of software projects reported to GAO as delivering functionality every 6 months, compared to what was reported on the IT Dashboard. This was due to, among other things, inconsistencies in agencies’ reporting on non-software development projects, and the timing of reporting data. GAO made 12 recommendations to 7 agencies and OMB to improve the reporting of incremental data on the IT Dashboard and the policies for CIO certification of adequate incremental development. Most agencies agreed or did not comment on our recommendations, and OMB did not agree or disagree. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government is likely to invest more than $ 89 billion on IT in fiscal year 2017. Historically, these investments have frequently failed, incurred cost overruns and schedule slippages, or contributed little to mission-related outcomes. Accordingly, in December 2014, IT reform legislation was enacted, aimed at improving agencies’ acquisitions of IT. Further, in February 2015, GAO added improving the management of IT acquisitions and operations to its high-risk list. Between fiscal years 2010 and 2015, GAO made about 800 recommendations related to this high-risk area to OMB and agencies. This statement summarizes agencies’ progress in improving the management of IT acquisitions and operations. To do so, we reviewed and summarized GAO’s prior and recently published work on (1) data center consolidation, (2) risk levels of major investments as reported on OMB’s IT Dashboard, and (3) implementation of incremental development practices. What GAO Recommends GAO has previously made numerous recommendations to OMB and federal agencies to improve the oversight and execution of the data center consolidation initiative, the accuracy and reliability of the IT Dashboard, and incremental development policies. Most agencies agreed with GAO’s recommendations or had no comments. GAO will continue to monitor agencies’ implementation of these recommendations. For more information, contact David A. Powner at (202) 512-9286 or email@example.com.
Since 1984, wildland fires have burned an average of more than 850 homes each year in the United States and, because more people are moving into fire-prone areas bordering wildlands, the number of homes at risk is likely to grow. The primary responsibility for ensuring that preventive steps are taken to protect homes lies with homeowners and state and local governments, not the federal government. Although losses from wildland fires made up only 2 percent of all insured catastrophic losses from 1983 through 2002, fires can result in billions of dollars in damages. Once a wildland fire starts, various parties can be mobilized to fight it, including federal, state, local, and tribal firefighting agencies and, in some cases, the military. The ability to communicate among all parties–known as interoperability–is essential but, as GAO has reported previously, is hampered because different public safety agencies operate on different radio frequencies or use incompatible communications equipment. GAO was asked to assess, among other issues, (1) measures that can help protect structures from wildland fires, (2) factors affecting use of protective measures, and (3) the role technology plays in improving firefighting agencies’ ability to communicate during wildland fires.The two most effective measures for protecting structures from wildland fires are: (1) creating and maintaining a buffer, called defensible space, from 30 to 100 feet wide around a structure, where vegetation and other flammable objects are reduced or eliminated; and (2) using fire-resistant roofs and vents. In addition to roofs and vents, other technologies–such as fire-resistant windows and building materials, chemical agents, sprinklers, and geographic information systems mapping–can help in protecting structures and communities, but they play a secondary role. A lthough protective measures are available, many property owners have not adopted them because of the time or expense involved, competing concerns such as aesthetics or privacy, misperceptions about wildland fire risks, and lack of awareness of their shared responsibility for fire protection. Federal, state, and local governments, as well as other organizations, are attempting to increase property owners’ use of protective measures through education, direct monetary assistance, and laws requiring such measures. In addition, some insurance companies have begun to direct property owners in high-risk areas to take protective steps. Existing technologies, such as audio switches, can help link incompatible communication systems, and new technologies, such as software-defined radios, are being developed following common standards or with enhanced capabilities to overcome incompatibility barriers. Technology alone, however, cannot solve communications problems for those responding to wildland fires. Rather, planning and coordination among federal, state, and local public safety agencies is needed to resolve issues such as which technologies to adopt, cost sharing, operating procedures, training, and maintenance. The Department of Homeland Security is leading federal efforts to improve communications interoperability across all levels of government. In addition to federal efforts, several states and local jurisdictions are pursuing initiatives to improve communications interoperability.
Who: U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration
What: The Mine Safety and Health Administration announced federal inspectors issued 130 citations and one safeguard during special impact inspections conducted at 10 coal mines and five metal and nonmetal mines in October 2016.
Where: MSHA conducted special impact inspections at mines in Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.
Background: Monthly impact inspections began in force in April 2010 at mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. Since then, MSHA inspectors have conducted 1,238 impact inspections and issued 16,971 citations, 1,324 orders and 62 safeguards.
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Editor’s Note: MSHA’s Monthly Impact Inspection List for October 2016 is available here.
What GAO Found During fiscal years 2005 through 2014, the federal government obligated at least $ 277.6 billion across 17 federal departments and agencies for disaster assistance programs and activities. This estimate constitutes total obligations identifiable to disaster activities across three categories: the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), disaster-specific programs and activities identified across the 17 departments and agencies, and disaster-applicable programs and activities across the 17 departments and agencies (see figure). Federal Disaster Assistance Obligations during Fiscal Years 2005 through 2014 Note: An obligation is a definite commitment that creates a legal liability of the government for the payment of goods and services ordered or received. Obligations reported for some disaster-specific and disaster-applicable programs and activities contain estimates. GAO’s inclusion of estimated data in aggregated totals contributes to an approximation of a government-wide total. The estimate of $ 277.6 billion represents a minimum and not the total amount of disaster assistance spending by the federal government during fiscal years 2005 through 2014 because relevant obligations for some programs and activities are not separately tracked or are not available. Specifically, GAO found that more than half of the 17 departments and agencies in the scope of this review reported that obligations for certain disaster assistance programs or activities during this time frame are not separately tracked or are not available, for various reasons. For example, 5 departments and agencies reported that some disaster assistance programs or activities are not separately tracked because spending related to these activities is generally subsumed by a department’s general operating budget or mission-related costs. Another 4 departments and agencies reported that obligations and expenditures specific to disaster assistance activities are not tracked or cannot be reliably estimated because there is no requirement for state or other recipients of the financial support to indicate whether or how much of the funding or assistance is used for disasters. Why GAO Did This Study Each year, the federal government obligates billions of dollars through programs and activities that provide assistance to state and local governments, tribes, and certain nonprofit organizations and individuals that have suffered injury or damages from major disaster or emergency incidents, such as hurricanes, tornados, or fires. While FEMA tracks DRF spending related to major disasters and emergencies declared under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, there has not been a systematic effort to account for federal obligations for disaster assistance outside of the DRF. The Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, includes a provision for GAO to report on disaster assistance expenditures by the federal government. This report identifies federal disaster assistance programs and activities across 17 federal departments and agencies and the obligations for these programs and activities, where available, during fiscal years 2005 through 2014. To conduct this work, GAO selected 17 federal departments and agencies identified in the National Planning Frameworks as having responsibility for leading or coordinating federal efforts to mitigate, respond to, and recover from domestic disaster incidents. GAO analyzed documents identifying and describing disaster assistance programs and activities, interviewed federal officials, and distributed a data collection instrument to obtain, among other things, obligation amounts associated with each program or activity identified. For more information, contact Chris P. Currie at (404) 679-1875 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Based on an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, the Secretary of Labor filed a complaint alleging the following: BAT Masonry Co. Inc. was the sponsor and administrator of the BAT Masonry Co. Inc. Employee Stock Ownership Plan, established on May 1, 2009. The trustees of the plan were Wayne B. Booth, Gregory Booth and Melvin Hinton. In July 2010, the ESOP purchased all the stock of the company from the Wayne Booth Revocable Trust, an entity controlled by Wayne Booth, for $ 1.6 million in cash and two promissory notes in the amount of $ 11.9 million, a total purchase price of $ 13.5 million. The purchase price was based on a valuation of the company conducted by SMK, which the company had hired for that purpose. The transaction was approved by Joyner, whom the company’s board appointed as a Special Independent Trustee to review the fairness of the transaction. In December 2010, the company hired another valuation firm, which valued the company at $ 163,590, over $ 13 million less than what the ESOP had paid only months before. SMK’s valuation of the company was flawed in several respects, resulting in the ESOP overpaying the Wayne Booth Revocable Trust for the company stock. SMK failed to account for the deteriorating fundamentals of the company’s business and improperly treated $ 5.8 million that Wayne Booth had previously withdrawn from the company’s account, and which he never intended to repay, as an account receivable, among other errors. The trustees of the plan relied on SMK’s valuation, despite knowing the financial condition of the company was deteriorating. Wayne Booth continued drawing cash out of the company after the ESOP transaction, even though he no longer held any ownership interest. These withdrawals totaled at least $ 1.25 million. The company treated these withdrawals as payments from the ESOP to Wayne Booth, even though Booth’s withdrawals bore no relationship to the terms of the ESOP note, and the ESOP never received company shares in return for Booth’s withdrawals. BAT Masonry Co. went out of business in mid-2012, rendering the shares held by the ESOP valueless. At this time Gregory Booth and Hinton started their own company, M.H. Masonry. M.H. Masonry employs many of the same employees as the now-defunct BAT Masonry, purchased equipment owned by BAT at a significant discount, and is located at the same address as BAT. The complaint alleges that the fiduciary defendants breached their duties of prudence and loyalty to the ESOP and engaged in prohibited transactions in connection with the ESOP’s purchase of the company stock and Wayne Booth’s withdrawals of cash thereafter, in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The complaint further alleges that Hinton and Gregory Booth effectively abandoned the plan and breached their fiduciary duties.
2015 EBSA News Releases
What GAO Found The Department of State’s (State) Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (Trafficking Office) compiles information on countries’ actions to combat human trafficking and recommends tier rankings for the Trafficking in Persons Report but did not post information on waivers within mandated timeframes. The figure below shows the percentage of countries by tier in the 2015 and 2016 reports. Disagreements about tier rankings between the Trafficking Office and other parts of State, which have different priorities, are usually resolved at the working level, according to officials, with only a few elevated to the Secretary of State for resolution. The Secretary of State determines all final tier rankings. The Trafficking Office recommends whether to grant waivers for countries that otherwise would be automatically downgraded to the lowest tier. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) requires State to post a detailed description of the credible evidence used to support these waivers on its website annually, but State did not do so for the 2014 through 2016 reports until September 2016. Figure: Percentage of Countries by Tier in 2015 and 2016 Trafficking in Persons Reports State has made improvements to the Trafficking in Persons Report since 2006 but does not explicitly explain the basis for certain countries’ tier rankings or, where relevant, why countries’ tier rankings changed. GAO’s analysis of the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report found that, compared with GAO’s previous report in 2006, there were fewer instances in which minimum standards and criteria were not mentioned in the narratives. However, most narratives for the highest-ranked, or Tier 1, countries in the 2015 and 2016 reports did not explicitly explain the basis for the tier rankings. The narratives sometimes included language that seemed contradictory to certain standards and criteria. In addition, GAO found that, for countries that changed tier from one year to the next, most narratives did not provide an explicit explanation as to why the rankings changed. Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government states that information should be communicated in a way that is useful to internal and external users. Lacking such clarity could diminish the report’s usefulness as a tool to advance efforts to combat trafficking. State and other officials indicate that the Trafficking in Persons Report can be a useful tool to engage other countries about trafficking, but State has not systematically assessed the report’s effectiveness. As a result, the effect of the report in encouraging governments to make progress in combating trafficking is not well understood. However, State officials stated that they are working on efforts to assess the report’s effectiveness at achieving the goal of addressing trafficking worldwide. Why GAO Did This Study Human traffickers exploit men, women, and children for financial gain. Congress enacted the TVPA in 2000, which requires the Secretary of State to report annually on governments’ efforts according to the act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Each year since 2001, State has published the Trafficking in Persons Report , ranking countries into one of four tiers. GAO found in 2006 that the report did not fully describe State’s assessment of compliance with standards or provide complete explanations for ranking decisions. The explanatory statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, included a provision for GAO to review the report’s preparation and effectiveness. This report addresses (1) the process to develop the report, (2) the extent to which country narratives discuss minimum standards, and (3) the extent to which State assesses the report’s effectiveness as a tool to address trafficking. GAO compared 220 country narratives in the 2015 and 2016 reports with the minimum standards and analyzed 82 narratives for countries that changed tier. GAO also interviewed State and other officials. What GAO Recommends GAO is making four recommendations to the Secretary of State to improve the clarity and usefulness of the Trafficking in Persons Report by posting evidence to support downgrade waivers on State’s website, improving explanations for tier rankings and changes, and assessing the effectiveness of the report as a tool to address trafficking. State agreed with GAO’s recommendations. For more information, contact Thomas Melito, (202) 512-9601, email@example.com.
Justice and Law Enforcement
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