Homeless man hassled by CAPSLO, Family Ties

February 23, 2013
Cliff Anderson

Cliff Anderson

Keeping them homeless


(Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series about San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services and the nonprofits managing the program. See Social Security’s letter stopping Cliff Anderson’s disability payments and a reported accounting of his funds held by Family Ties at the bottom of this story.)

A San Luis Obispo nonprofit reported that it has hoarded $5,000 of a formerly homeless client’s Social Security benefits, despite previously claiming the account was nearly empty.

Family Ties then reported the violation to the Social Security Administration after Cliff Anderson, who transferred more than $40,000 to the nonprofit, told the organization he would no longer use its services, and requested his money back. After receiving news of the amount Family Ties had saved, Social Security stopped Anderson’s disability benefits.

Lisa Niesen, president of Family Ties, said earlier this month that she had virtually nothing in Anderson’s account even though he had signed over $41,420 in Social Security payments to the nonprofit since 2009.

Niesen, who also holds the title of San Luis Obispo County’s chief deputy public guardian, first said that most of the hundreds of accounts managed by her Family Ties operation contained only $20 to $30. After Anderson provided copies of his Social Security records showing he was owed nearly $20,000 by Family Ties, Niesen said there was less than $2,000 in his account.

This week, Neisen adjusted that amount again, telling Social Security that Anderson’s account contained exactly $5,000 — meaning he would lose his Social Security benefits. Federal laws require that a person on Social Security Disability Insurance not save more than $2,000 in order to insure that the money is used for the recipient’s needs. If more than $2,000 is saved, SSI benefits are suspended until the money is spent down.

Niesen reported the new figures after Anderson said he wanted to withdraw from Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) case management, and recover the thousands of dollars from his Social Security income held in trust by Family Ties, the nonprofit that is tied to CAPSLO.

On Feb. 18, Anderson’s attorney, Stew Jenkins, sent a demand for the return of Anderson’s money. On Thursday, after several harassing comments from the Prado Day Center staff attempting to learn Anderson’s new address, Anderson was given a check from Family Ties for $100 of the $5,000 Family Ties claims to hold.

Shortly before he picked up his check, Niesen called Anderson and informed him that she had sent an accounting to the Social Security Administration, which would cause a change in his benefits.

Social Security officials then informed Anderson that his $5,000 held by Family Ties exceeds the allowable level, and that his SSI benefits were being suspended.

When he read the letter from Social Security, Anderson wept and expressed fear of becoming homeless again.

He currently is in privately-arranged housing, but is unable to pay his rent and other bills because Niesen controls his funds. Niesen called Anderson Thursday at about 9 p.m. telling him he could lose his housing if he did not tell her where he lived “so she could write a check for his rent.”

Anderson’s attorney responded by calling Niesen and ordering her to not to have any further contact with Anderson.

Instead, Neisen arrived at Anderson’s rental residence Friday morning, demanding his signature on documents, ostensibly to return his own money to him and cancel their business relationship. She then said she would return later with more papers for him to sign.

Attorney Jenkins is considering a restraining order to keep Niesen from harassing his client, he said.

Anderson agreed to make Family Ties his representative payee in 2009 after becoming homeless in the aftermath of a fire at his apartment. CAPSLO case managers told Anderson his money would be used to help place the now 69-year-old into housing.

However, the system intended to help San Luis Obispo’s homeless instead often keeps them indigent, preventing them from having sufficient resources for even basic needs like clothing, food, medical care, and personal comforts.

Almost four years later and after collecting $41,420 in Anderson’s payments while he remained in CAPSLO’s case management program, the agency continued to keep the bulk of Anderson’s money — usually providing him with only $400 of the $970 in Social Security benefits he receives monthly.

CAPSLO officials require homeless individuals to provide 50 to 70 percent of their income to CAPSLO or a designated payee in order to have a guaranteed bed at the shelter or an overnight parking space. Homeless people who receive Social Security payments are required to make Family Ties their representative payee, with an agreement that if they quit case management, their funds will be returned to them within 24 hours.

“The client’s funds should be returned to them within a 24-hour-period, unless it is a weekend or a holiday,” said Jim Famalette, CAPSLO’s chief operating officer, in a recent email to CalCoastNews.

Several homeless people have related the difficulty of getting their SSI money back after quitting case management. Family Ties, according to its nonprofit organizational rules, is only permitted to work with clients deemed mentally incapacitated or developmentally disabled.

As part of the process of making Family Ties their payees, clients are deemed mentally incapacitated through the Social Security Administration. To break away from Family Ties, clients must see a doctor and undergo a competency exam. Then after about 30 days, the recipient can apply for control over his benefits.

After discovering that he had been deemed “mentally incapacitated,” Anderson visited a physician.

“Memory skills long and short term intact, adequate math skills, oriented, and appropriate,” his doctor informed Social Security officials.


Keeping Them Homeless, the series.

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Dear Mr. Ashbaugh:

The comments in your e-mail indicate a complete separation between CAPSLO and Family Ties, yet;

(1) CAPSLO’s case management for re-housing requires that a client attempt to set aside money.

(2) There are sources that say CAPSLO staff direct CAPSLO clients to Family Ties for assistance accomplishing this CAPSLO program participation requirement to save the money.

(3) In order to be a Social Security Representative Payee, the Representative Payee has clear legal requirements to make sure the money is spent on the SSI/SS funds recipient. It is clear that management of SSI/SS funds cannot be legally accomplished without a case management component.

(4) Not all contracts have to be in writing. Contracts can be implied in law.

(5) Case managers have a legal duty to report financial elder abuse violations and misuse of SSI/SS funds. That cannot be done unless the case manager knows how the clients funds are being used.

(6) Being in the homeless services business, it would appear CAPSLO should know about the rules pertaining to handling SSI/SSA funds and elder abuse laws irregardless of whether or not those funds are directly handled by CAPSLO employees or indirectly by having CAPSLO refer clients to another services agency (with staff who have not met California fiduciary agent licensing requirements.)

(7) What other qualified, professional, licensed funds handling Representative Payee services are on CAPSLO’s referral list other than Family Ties, Inc.?

(8) What policy is in place for case managers to have access to information regarding client funds being saved for re-housing to ensure compliance with that requirement of the program and their case management duties under SSI/SS? Are there no such policies?

In conclusion, CAPSLO and its case managers cannot accomplish its re-homing program because it has key components that CAPSLO case managers must accomplish if there is a SSI/SS Representative Payee involved or for those not on SSI/SS funding, if the California Elder Abuse Laws are followed.

It is not possible to separate the client funds oversight problem from the re-homing program requirements from the CAPSLO case managers unless the client is handling their own money.

Therefore, CAPSLO leadership needs to re-think their business model and take immediate steps to correct the lack of a written contract with Representative Payees who are qualified and licensed under California and federal laws.

CAPSLO leadership needs to make sure CAPSLO has the right to and does in fact frequently audit client funds when a client is participating in the re-homing program. In fact, for the immediate future, CAPSLO should make sure you have fiduciary services that are California licensed and to take over those services for your clients in the re-homing program.

Your best move at this point would be to take the financial aspects of the program in-house immediately. Of course there is some legal risk. It can be insured. The employees handling finance will be bonded and licensed. There will be top level oversight. The accounts can be frequently checked and audited. Ms. Biz Steinberg has a strong hand and would ensure all of this is done properly and legally. Sometimes it is better to take on the legal risk than to try to avoid it by splitting the function and having referrals. Show the leadership that CAPSLO is capable of performing, please!

If there is no contract between CAPSLO and Family ties what does mr plastic fantastic mean by ”

“CAPSLO does not require homeless clients to save their meager earnings with Family Ties unless they are also voluntarily working with us to get rehoused through our case management program”

At least John admits that he and the others are stealing the meager earnings….wouldnt want him stealing from his rich friends…Way to go after the helpless John

Lets not forget that there are city council minutes where CAPSLO administrators stated that anyone wishing to sleep in their cars without being harassed and ticketed MUST ENTER INTO CASE MANAGEMENT. Case Management = Family Ties. As it turned out, harassment and ticketing was illegal and it already has cost the tax payers a bundle for this bungle.

Actually, case management does not equal Family Ties. There is a component of case management in being a Social Security representative payee. The representative payee has to make up a budget that will meet the SSI/SS recipient’s needs and ensure the money is spend solely for the benefit of the recipient and not spent on other recipients. Now the representative payee may use the services of someone else to do that, but must still have strong oversight over the other case manager.

This is part of an email SLO City Councilmember John Ashbaugh sent in response to a constitute who had expressed concerns about CAPSLO/Family Ties:

“Thanks for your feedback on the issues facing CAPSLO at this time. I have been on the Board of Directors for CAPSLO for over four years, and I am quite familiar with their staff, their program, their budget, their audit requirements, and their very high standards for professional integrity in all that they undertake.

“CAPSLO is now considering additional steps to invite even greater scrutiny of the Homeless Services program through yet another another independent audit focused on the Homeless Services program. I can assure you that all practical steps will be undertaken in order to dispel the rumors, innuendo, and misunderstandings that have appeared in the media recently. The most common misunderstanding is that CAPSLO is somehow fundamentally related to a separate, much smaller non-profit called “Family Ties.” I can’t provide any more information to you about Family Ties; they are a completely separate organization from CAPSLO, and I have never met their principal staff member, Lisa Neisen.

“CAPSLO has no contract with Family Ties, nor does CAPSLO monitor the arrangements that Family Ties makes with the clients of our homeless services facilities. CAPSLO does not require homeless clients to save their meager earnings with Family Ties unless they are also voluntarily working with us to get rehoused through our case management program. Last year, 172 individuals and families were re-housed through CAPSLO case management. It is a proven model, but it does require that a client attempt to set aside money to make the first & last months’ rent and the security deposit on a rental unit that they can afford.

“The finances of CAPSLO are regularly audited and in my four years’ experience on their board, the audits have always found the financial statements of the organization to be completely in order. I am confident that we conduct our homeless services program in a manner that is consistent with the “best practices” in use by similar organizations throughout the nation. If any deficiencies are identified, CAPSLO leadership will also take steps to correct them – and they will have my complete support in doing so. As with any organization, there are always some features which may could be improved, but on the whole, my experience on their board indicates that our staff are operating this program effectively and with integrity.

“We must all be very careful in distinguishing the misleading perceptions that are now in widely circulation versus the reality that we know from nearly 40 years of excellent service by CAPSLO to this community. Please write again, or call, should you have more questions.”


The message here could not be more clear: John and his colleagues are throwing Family Ties under the bus and making it perfectly clear that CAPSLO has nothing NOTHING to do with Family Ties. I find this to be a rather revealing document.

I am astounded that John Ashbaugh doesn’t realize that a contract does in fact exist between Family Ties and CAPSLO regardless of whether it’s in writing, it is clearly implied. For a contract not to exist, CAPSLO would have to be recommending/ offering a list of several if not all the local licensed fiduciaries and allowing the client to pick whom ever they choose. However this is not the case, to the extent that Family Ties is the only fiduciary that CAPSLO sends the clients to and without the use of Family Ties there is no guarantee of a bed at the shelter or consideration for housing, then there is a CLEAR LONGSTANDING business relationship between Family Ties and CAPSLO. The fact that Family Ties was established to act as a fiduciary to CAPSLO clients is highly telling. There clearly is a contract Mr Ashbaugh. Play with the semantics behind the relationship all you like, it won’t fly with a jury.

The clients are being coerced (blackmailed) into using Family Ties and FT is functioning illegally. Make no mistake about it, CAPSLO is culpable and somebody in CAPSLO is way too cozy with Niesen.

Um. I’m not so sure I would agree with all of these statements that purport to be affirmative fact.

Mr. Ashbaugh is not a lawyer. He can still be a competent political or organizational leader and not be aware of the fine points of implied contracts, quasi-contracts or contracts by estoppel. I indicated that a contract doesn’t have to be in writing, there are contracts implied in law. Such implied contracts depend on a variety of factors of behavior. A single source referral is only one factor and not necessarily determinative. If having close financial control of client funds was necessary for a program then having a choice of client handled funds with frequent reporting or a list of several financial accounting services that were qualified would be a factor to be considered in showing there wasn’t a contract. However, on the other hand, there could be implied contracts with all of the financial service providers on the referral list. In other words, it would take more factors to determine if there was a contract.

I do not agree with the comment about coercion. Sometimes, people in vulnerable situations hear discussions of social service programs as commands instead of as options. CAPSLO can set program requirements for their programs. The clients are free to walk away and not participate. I haven’t heard anything that would constitute blackmail. I don’t necessarily agree that CAPSLO is liable or culpable of anything yet. Far more facts (and reliable facts) would have to be known.

Even if CAPSLO staff and Ms. Lisa Niesen have worked together for a long time and have frequent contacts, that does not mean they have stepped outside the bounds of their professional duties. We don’t know that yet. More information would have to come from Ms. Niesen. However, Ms. Niesen has no obligation to make any public statements to CCN or any other media. Lack of a public statement or not returning phone calls is not an admission of anything. She also has to comply with confidentiality rules even if the public would like to know. So, there are things she cannot say in public even to defend herself against public accusations. She does have obligations to provide information directly to her clients or their representatives within a reasonable business time frame. It is also possisble that Ms. Niesen made some mistakes and she will have to correct them. She did have obligations to keep individual accountings of her client’s funds and to report to Social Security Administration if there was an amount over $2,000 collected. She did that even if the $5,000 amount may or may not be the specific, accurate amount that was held that day. It had the same effect, to suspend the means tested SSI payments. She could correct for a specific amount later, but the $5,000 amount reported should have been flagged as an estimate subject to later determination. As to licensing, Ms. Niesen didn’t need a license to do the same functions in her county employment. The County Auditor had obligations to audit financial activiites so the state agency didn’t have to do it. The fidiciary licensing requirement is fairly new for non-governmental fiduciaries.

It is unlikely this matter will end up before a jury. Even if Ms. Niesen quit being Mr. Anderson’s representative payee, she would be required to turn all of the balance back to Social Security. Even if Social Security pursues any case, it would be an administrative hearing and not before a jury. Even if the District Attorney found preliminary evidence to support a case and filed charges, it would likely result in a plea deal.

“I do not agree with the comment about coercion. Sometimes, people in vulnerable situations hear discussions of social service programs as commands instead of as options.”

LOL, If they want the guarantee of a bed, it’s not an option. I repeat, this is coercion.

“there could be implied contracts with all of the financial service providers on the referral list”

You’re right, I should have said that there is an “EXCLUSIVE” implied contract with FT.

Thank You for your input and by the way, Niesen has refused to comply with a demand from Mr Anderson to provide a full accounting of his funds. Try as you might, there can be no excuse for this.

Well, I understand your point that having a bed and shelter is a powerful, basic need, but it still is not necessarily coercion of the type you refer to. However, let’s flip that around and examine it carefully.

HYPOTHETICAL Case Manager to Homeless Client: “CAPSLO has a mandatory requirement that in order to be in the re-housing program you have to save money for the first month and security deposit. It is standard practice for landlords to require first month and a security deposit so that’s a lot of money to save. We know you can’t afford to save it out of your $970 a month and still buy housing while you are saving it. So, to enable you to save the housing money, CAPSLO will guarantee you a bed in the homeless shelter. You don’thave to wait in line for a bed. It will be guaranteed, but only so long as you saving your housing funds. Studies show that people at the $970 a month in income spend between 50% and 70% of their income on housing.

However, to give you that advantage of a guaranteed bed, we have to have absolute proof that you are saving the money. We can’t take your word on that alone. So, we will not guarantee the bed unless we know for certain the housing money you would otherwise have spent on current housing is saved. You have a guaranteed bed in the shelter so you don’t have to spend money on housing; but you do have to save it.

If you have SSI/SS funds, you can use Family Ties as an alternate payee/representative payee. If you have other sources of income, you can bring us money orders with a blank payee because we don’t know the name of the landlord yet to fill in the payee.”


Case Manager: “If you want to have a guaranteed bed at the shelter you have to be in the re-housing program. If you have SSI/SSA income, you sign up with Family Ties. If you have other sources of income you give us 70% of your income in money orders with a blank payee.”

See what I mean now? The best intentions of the organization leadership and professional advisors can be garbled to the point that it is unrecognizable as the same program requirement. Client, hearing the second case manager may feel threatened and backed against the wall. So when client tells the media, it comes out as a major scandal, when something else entirely was intended. Then, due to very real confidentiality requirements, the organization cannot defend with all the complete details and must wait for the story to run its news cycle.

The only key thing going here so far is that the accounting from Ms. Niesen hasn’t shown up yet and while it should be given soon, there is no fixed, firm deadline for it.

I am not connected to or defending any of the cast of characters in this story or the media covering it. This thing has so much negative energy with people throwing out allegations of criminal conduct, that Ms. Niesen may just elect to turn over all of the funds to Social Security and exercise her right to remain silent. I don’t know that anyone has done anything improper or criminal. I don’t have enough reliable facts yet from reading the media and listening to radio.

I do see your point about the intentions of CAPSLO and their reasons for encouraging the clients to save money and even offering an incentive to do so. This in of itself is not unreasonable.

However, why do they only allow Niesen to act as the trustee of these accounts? Why not allow the clients choice of a fiduciary or even allow the client to produce a bank statement each month proving that they are saving their own money? The very fact that CAPSLO exclusive uses an unlicensed fiduciary with a bogus board of directors is disturbing. Who came up with this lame brained idea of making Family Ties i.e. Lisa Niesen the exclusive fiduciary? Something here stinks and smacks of a crony style back room deal at best.

Why did CAPSLO not react when the complaints started over two years ago? Why did CAPSLO not figure out that $570 a month over a 3 1/2 year period is far beyond the $2K threshold? Rather they harassed Mr Anderson and were observed doing so. Yes, people are angry and rightfully so.

It appears CAPSLO wasn’t making any effort to audit Family Ties. They probably thought they didn’t have any responsibility to do so since Family Ties was supposed to be operating as an organizational Representative Payee under Social Security regulations. Family Ties should have been a validly incorporated 501(c) organization but they probably didn’t do it right. Family Ties should have applied for and proved that they met all requirements of the Social Security Administration to become a Representative Payee. Social Security is the government organization with oversight responsibility for their Representative Payees.

As to allowing clients a choice of a financial fiduciary, that is one of the weak spots of the Social Security Representative Payee system. It allows so little compensation that there is rarely a choice. It is usually a situation that no resource exists. These are people who may not qualify for the County’s Public Guardian services, may not yet need a full legal conservatorship that the courts oversee, but fall between the cracks of these programs. They need help with managing their finances, but that help is often unavailable through any resource.

Name one other organization who would be a Representative Payee for clients who are not institutionalized, do not have a conservatorship and are not eligible for the County Public Guardian program. There are some who are licensed as fiduciaries with the State and will do financial management services, but they charge fees that those on SSI funding cannot afford. There is a huge gap in the resources available to SSI and other clients at that income level who need financial management.

If you think this case is bad, wait until all the Boomers who have 401k and other private retirement plans start getting dementia and then watch the tsunami of financial elder abuse and fraud that is going to hit this nation. This kind of catastrophy has just begun, my friends. SLO County, that is a gathering place for retirees, is going to be a hotbed of problems.

Oh, as to the bank statement. Put yourself in the shoes of a case manager. You have to give guaranteed beds in a homeless shelter for that first month before the bank statement is even ready. They want the proof of financial restraint up front. Further, some people who need services are not capable of doing that. They may have the disease of alcoholism or drug addiction. They may be mentally frail or developmentally disabled. They may not have “financial literacy” and the ability to do it alone. These people are vulnerable in more ways than just being homeless — as if that isn’t enough.

If someone out there with the accounting skills can set up an organization that meets the requirements of the California Secretary of State, is willing to apply to Social Security Administration and meet their requirements to be a Representative Payee and is willing to handle these funds every month — working face to face with the homeless making up budgets and handing out funds for them to use for all other expenses so they don’t lose, waste or inappropriately spend it, then please, do so and give Family Ties some competition. Oh, and meet the State of California licensing requirements for fiduciaries. You would have to be bonded as well and that too costs money. Then, you probably need errors and omissions insurance. Then, when you are ready to conduct your business for a tiny fee that doesn’t begin to pay for operating expenses, much less compensate for your time and skill with financial matter, get yourself on a referral list at CAPSLO. I’m sure they would love to have you.

Considering all the implied actions of the relationship between CAPSLO’s and Family Ties I am upset that CAPSLO was not prudent in covering their business relationship with a written contract with Family Ties to protect themselves from the actions of an outside vendor. I would ask Mr. Ashbaugh if this is standard practice for the City of San Luis Obispo and would he think it should be standard practice for all business relationships on a recurring basis with CAPSLO to have a written contract, especially considering the nature of these business transactions? What agency, especially when referring their clients to an outside vendor dealing with financial transactions would not have a defined written contract outlining and including insurance provisions, defined responsibilities, required permits and licenses, etc. Was Family Ties ever vested by CAPSLO? If Mr. Ashbaugh is claiming innocence through stupidity, he has shown it well. He also has not explained the money orders that CAPSLO requires be submitted to the CAPSLO’s case managers with a ” blank payee” and are then supposedly held by CAPSLO’s. Either CAPSLO’s is a poorly ran organization regarding standard business practices which is sad for the money spent on the high salaries of CEO (Biz Steinberg), Financial Manager (Jim Falmette – sp?), Homeless Services Director (Dee Torres), etc.

As for the audits all the players (employees, directors, politicians, supporters, etc.) for CAPSLO keep talking about, let’s be clear: the audits conducted are SOLELY for the grants and donations received and expenditures and business operations for receiving said grants and donations. These AUDITS have NOTHING to do with the questions at hand regarding the money CAPSLO or Family Ties receives from the clients. Dee Torres is on record stating that the clients must participate in case management to receive homeless services. At least be honest about this, Mr. Ashbaugh, the public is no longer uninformed and will not turn a blind eye to this corrupt organization.

Dave, why don’t you put up Bill Morum’s e-mail (the one you read on the radio on Monday). I’m sure we could all have a good laugh at the mentality of the ” professionals ” who write for the Tribune. The literal 2nd grade name calling had me laughing out loud periodically for the next 30 minutes. It’s no wonder this county has all the problems it has and is so misinformed with the likes of the Tribune as one of the major news sources cheering on their favorite politicians. And to think that I thought Bob Cuddy was nuts, Morum takes the cake.

Sorry for the longs posts but there was a lot of good information there.

Okay. I’m done with long posts.

More from the Social Security Representative Payee guide.

Curious that there is a mention of an amount of $5,000.

This is what happens when a Representative Payee violates SSA rules.

Payee Misuse of Benefits

We fully investigate every allegation of payee malfeasance and make a formal determination of whether misuse has occurred.

Payee misuse occurs when:

•You use any portion of a beneficiary’s funds for something other than the use and benefit of the beneficiary;

•An agent of your organization, such as an employee or volunteer, steals beneficiary funds;

•You charge unauthorized fees and deduct the amount from the beneficiary’s monthly payment;

If you learn that an employee of your organization has misused funds, you must immediately report it to us. Your organization has a legal obligation to repay all misused funds.

If your organization is an approved fee for service payee, your organization must forfeit the fees charged for all months in which misuse occurred. If your organization does not repay the misused funds, including the fees, immediately, the law allows us to collect the misused amount from you.

If we determine your organization misused funds, we will re-evalulate your suitability to remain payee and may appoint a new payee or make direct payment to the beneficiary.

If misuse occurred, you must make full restitution of the misused funds. When you make restitution, or agree to a plan to do so, we may allow you to continue serving as payee if there is good reason to believe that you will use benefits properly in the future.

We refer all determinations of misuse for possible criminal prosecution. The penalty upon conviction may be a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment up to 10 years, or both. We may also impose a civil monetary penalty up to $5,000 for each violation and an assessment of not more than twice the amount of the misused benefits.

There is more about what a Social Security representative payee cannot do.

Limits to What a Payee May Do

There are limits to what a Social Security payee is authorized to do. We appoint a payee to manage social security and SSI benefits only.

Being a payee does not give you authority to:

•Manage the beneficiary’s non-social security income;

•Use the beneficiary’s social security or SSI benefits for anything other than the beneficiary’s needs;

•Spend the beneficiary’s social security or SSI funds in a way that would leave him or her without necessary items or services (housing, food, clothing, medical care);

•Deposit the beneficiary’s Social Security or SSI benefits in your, or another person’s, account or in your organization’s operating account;

•Lend the beneficiary’s social security or SSI funds to anyone else, including other beneficiaries you serve (this includes using funds held in a collective account to make up a shortfall when another beneficiary’s expenses exceed his/her ownership interest in the account);

•Use the beneficiary’s “dedicated account” funds for purposes not related to the child’s impairment (see Using Dedicated Account Funds, Misapplication of Dedicated Funds, and Reporting on Monthly Benefits and Dedicated Account Funds);

•Keep the beneficiary’s conserved funds when you are no longer the payee;

•Charge the beneficiary for payee services unless your organization has our written authorization to do this (See Fee for Service (FFS) Payees, Getting Approved as a FFS payee, Fee Amounts, and Restrictions on FFS Payees for information on collecting a fee for payee services);

•Make medical decisions for the beneficiary;

•Sign legal documents on behalf of the beneficiary; or

•Manage or control the beneficiary’s wages, pensions, dividends or any income from sources other than Social Security or SSI benefits.

In other words, Mr. Anderson’s SSI funds could not be used for credit checks when his needs for food, clothing and shelter were not met. His funds could not be used for Ms. Niesen’s travel expenses because that would be a Family Ties Inc operating account expense.

His funds could be in a bank account consolidated with other SSI recipients, but individual accounts would be required because Mr. Anderson’s funds could not be used for another SSI recipient’s shortfall.

The bank account holding his funds would have to have a title showing his interst.

Therefore, someone who has authority to see Mr. Anderson’s records should go to Rabobank and ask for information and records on the account that identifies his ownership interest.

When asking Family Ties for an accounting, be sure to ask for all the details that Social Security would be entitled to receive like a detailed accounting of item by item income and expenses for Mr. Anderson.

Here’s what a Social Security “Representative Payee” or “alternate payee” must do. This comes from the Social Security guide for payees.


Duties of a Representative Payee

As a payee, you must:

•Be aware of the beneficiary’s current day-to-day needs (i.e., food, clothing, shelter, medical expenses and personal items);

•Use his or her payments to meet the beneficiary’s needs;

•Conserve any money left over, after meeting the beneficiary’s current needs, in a checking or savings account (preferably interest-bearing), U.S. savings bonds, or other appropriate investment(s) that is titled in a way that clearly establishes the beneficiary’s ownership;

•Plan to spend wisely, or conserve, in the best interests of the beneficiary, any large payment you receive;

•Report any event that may affect the beneficiary’s entitlement to benefits or payment amount such as a return to work. (See Reporting Events to SSA and Additional Reporting Events for SSI Beneficiaries);

•Return any overpayment promptly (i.e., any payment we determine the beneficiary is not due);

•Keep separate records, for each beneficiary for whom you are payee, for at least 2 years. You must keep records of all payments we make to you, all bank statements, and receipts or cancelled checks for rent, utilities, and any major purchases made for the beneficiary. For example, if you withdraw $100 from the beneficiary’s account and buy an $80 item, then there must be a receipt for the $80 and a record reflecting the disposition of the remaining $20;

•Notify us of any changes or circumstances that would affect your performance as a payee;

•Be aware, if you are a payee for an SSI beneficiary, of all the beneficiary’s income and funds, and all items a beneficiary owns that could be converted to cash. Income and resources may impact the beneficiary’s payments and eligibility for SSI;

•Return to us any of the beneficiary’s funds you have conserved after you stop serving as payee;

•Notify us if a beneficiary dies while you are payee, and turn over any conserved funds owned by the beneficiary to the legal representative of the beneficiary’s estate for disposition under State law. If you received payments after the death of a beneficiary and they are not due, you must return them to us. (See Payments Recieved After Death of the Beneficiary for additional information about returning payments after a beneficiary dies.);

•Assist in obtaining prescribed treatment for an SSI child beneficiary when that treatment is expected to improve or restore the child’s functioning. Failure to provide help in obtaining necessary medical treatment for the child may result in your removal as the child’s payee;

•Notify us if a beneficiary’s condition improves to a point where he or she no longer needs a payee;

•Submit the appropriate forms for our periodic reviews, or redeterminations, of SSI eligibility factors. We will ask you to supply information about the beneficiary’s income, resources and living arrangements to help us determine if the SSI beneficiary is still eligible for SSI and is receiving the correct payment amount;

Submit a written or online report, at our request, of how you spent or conserved benefits for each beneficiary you serve (See page 46 for more information on accounting); and

•Promptly report misuse of beneficiary funds to SSA.

Therefore, it appears that once Mr. Anderson terminates Family Ties/Lisa Niesen as his Social Security representative payee, in writing, any money in her hands must be returned to Social Security.

If he has made a demand to his SSA Personal Representative, Family Ties/Lisa Niesen (NOT CAPSLO OR HIS CASE MANAGER AT CAPSLO — but copy them on the letter) for an accounting and for funds to meet his needs and that demand is ignored, refused or denied, document it and forward to Social Security to restart his SSI. Prove that he meets the eligibility requirements for SSI. Submit that documentation to SSA.

Social Security will collect whatever overpayments remain in any account with Family Ties. Unfortunately, Mr. Anderson suffered lifestyle below that which his SSI funds could have provided for him. He can’t get that back.

It appears there may be mandatory reporting if a case manager becomes aware or a reasonable person would suspect that financial elder abuse is occurring.

The key to this may be “financial elder abuse.”

Search for California Elder Abuse Laws.

There are two ways to report financial elder abuse to responsible agencies.

(1) To the County Public Administrator’s Office.

That would be probably not be the way to go in this case since Lisa Niesan is the County Public Administrator.

(2) To the local District Attorney. At the sole discretion of the District Attorney this may result in a criminal investigation.

If financial elder abuse is occurring, it can also form the basis for a civil lawsuit.

The Social Security Administration can investigate fraud against Social Security for falsely claiming benefits to which a recipient is not eligible. It is not exactly true that it is unlawful to collect more than $2,000.00. It appears Ms. Velie is not quite understanding this. Having $2,000 or more in cash assets makes one ineligible for SSI assistance. The alternate payee has a duty to make sure the recipients needs are met each month. She may do this through a case manager. However, it is not the intent to hoard SSI, but to manage the funds and expend them solely for the benefit of the SSI recipient each month. Generally, an alternate payee may not charge fees for services. In order to do so they must meet stringent requirements in the Social Security Regulations and have the approval of Social Security Administration.

Don’t assume any agency is investigating unless that agency has stated so. So far, we have heard assumptions that agencies are investigating.

Someone needs to contact Social Security WITH Mr. Anderson and let them know he does not have the money that Ms. Niesan told them was in an account. Mr. Anderson has made demands for the money and accountings and it has not happened. Make sure his requests to Ms. Niessan are in writing, dated and signed by Mr. Anderson. They need to know that he does not have it and does not have access to it through his alternate payee. Mr. Anderson needs to write to Social Security and cancel the powers of his alternate payee and give them place to mail his SSI checks to him.

For example, if a SSI recipient received a gift of $5,000 from a long lost uncle. He would not be defrauding Social Security as long as he reported it. Then Social Security would suspend the SSI checks until there was a spend down to $2,000 or less and he became eligible for SSI again. SSI assistance is welfare and it is means tested. As long as he does not have possession of or the immediate access to funds in excess of $2,000, and meets all other eligibility requirements, he can get his SSI payments restarted, but he may need help to get this done.

Correction: “Public Administrator” should be “Public Guardian”

Ms. Niesan/Niessan should be “Niesen”