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VA Wrongly Suspects Caregiver.
On The Journey
Posted: Saturday, September 26, 2020 4:01 PM
Joined: 9/4/2020
Posts: 6

Hi everyone.  Your questions, concerns, answers and wisdom are very helpful and thank you for your candor and time.


My long-time SO and I are not married.  SO long ago made me their Healthcare DPOA and estate Executor (but not Financial DPOA), then began showing cognitive problems; SO’s a military veteran, so I pleaded with the VA (Veterans Administration) to test.  Finally they diagnosed early dementia.  I communicated and coordinated well with the VA PCP and Geri Psychs about ADL’s, medications, etc.


After we met with the VA Social Worker, the Social Worker privately told me I’m (inappropriately) “inserting” myself into SO’s healthcare, and the Social Worker apparently began thinking I’m trying or will try to steal my SO’s assets (which my SO solely controls). (As far as I know, SO has not made any such claim, though SO routinely distorts and has made false claims about and undermined me with other people).  The Social Worker turned the doctors against me; now they won’t talk with me without my SO also present (either remotely or in person) and only very briefly, limiting my ability to give them accurate information my SO can’t, hasn’t or won’t give them.  (SO denied having dementia and tells the VA “everything’s fine” and there’re “no problems.”)  I’m concerned that the VA will try to criminalize me and take over my SO’s affairs.  People have advised me to deal with the VA as little as possible.


I believe I need: to keep being a great partner and caregiver; to get a CELA ASAP; to try to get along anyway with the VA; and to not worry and just stay aware of my legitimate concerns.  What do you think?

Posted: Saturday, September 26, 2020 5:15 PM
Joined: 2/6/2018
Posts: 413

Keep in mind that a healthcare POA is usually only active if a physician has determined the patient to be unable to make his/her own healthcare decisions. The bar for this is pretty high. Early stage dementia often does not meet those requirements. If the staff says you are inserting yourself inappropriately, maybe they are referring to this. You also need HIPAA authority (separate document). Not having this could be a reason why the staff will only talk to you with your SO present. Maybe they needed the reminder from the Social Worker. This is the law. If there's something you feel his doctor needs to know, you can notify him/her in writing or verbally. Then leave it up to them to address it as they see fit. At some point they will determine that they need more of your assistance or feedback and will pull you in.  I know it's hard to back off when you have so much concern for your SO, but in the early stages this is sometimes what we painfully need to do in order to get  other people to recognize the extent of our LOs deficits. 

No one can "criminalize" you if you haven't done any criminal activity. The VA has no interest in taking over your SO's affairs. I don't see any benefit in you dealing with the VA as little as possible unless this advice refers to you not overstepping your bounds at this point. In my experience with the VA, they have a strong interest in protecting the veteran and assessing the big picture of the veteran's life, not just the health complaint of the day as typical medical facilities do. This can be a huge benefit when one needs backing and support for a veteran that can no longer care for himself. The VA helped me get legal authority to take over my LO's affairs (when his regular PCP would not) and they provided a surprising amount of help and support for his day to day living, including tending to my caregiver needs. The VA may be a potential valuable asset to you in the future so I like your idea of getting along with them now as best you can. 

I hope your SO named someone as financial DPOA, even in a "springing DPOA" (only effective if incapacitated), or there are going to be issues down the road. If you live together and he's paying the bills, this is something for you to be thinking about now or you may find yourself sitting in the dark one day with a foreclosure notice taped to the front door. Does your SO have adult children?  






Posted: Saturday, September 26, 2020 5:45 PM
Joined: 2/29/2020
Posts: 263

I agree that no one will be able to criminalize you for taking an interest in your SO's health care. But I think it is true that he is still capable of making his own medical decisions (yes, the bar is low), so you have no official standing until a doctor certifies that he can no longer manage this. Also, he may be telling them that he doesn't want you involved at this point, which usually happens because a PWD thinks he is just fine and doesn't need anyone "butting in". When the VA gets concerned about his ability to take care of himself, they will involve you at that point. And if he is making mistakes, that will make his deterioration clearer to them.

I'd be more concerned about the financial issues here. Who is handling his finances, and who will be doing it as he declines? What repercussions could this have for your future? Does he support you or at least pay his share of the bills? Whose name is your housing under? And is he making any allegations that you are stealing his money (this is a common theme with PWDs).? Are you on very good terms with whoever his financial POA is? Personally, I would see a lawyer on your own to make sure your interests are protected. 


David J
Posted: Sunday, September 27, 2020 9:20 AM
Joined: 2/15/2020
Posts: 125

You didn’t say how long you and your SO have been together.  If your state has a common law marriage statute, maybe you are considered married under the law.  That would change the situation at the VA. 

I agree with hat seeing a lawyer is a good idea, as is putting your concerns down in a letter to the doctor.  Helpful cooperation is the key, I think. 

King Boo
Posted: Sunday, September 27, 2020 10:55 AM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 3353

DPOA are usually active when they are executed.  It is only Transitional or 'springing' power of attorney documents that require the MD documentation.  Of course, individual poa's may have had different details. will yield a list of CELA's.

Competency of course, is in question for your partner.   A geriatric psychiatrist MD along with a neuropsychologist (PhD, does executive tests of function) can provide evaluation and documentation.

You are correct to be concerned, particularly if your state does not give your long term relationship legal status.

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Sunday, September 27, 2020 11:02 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3493

I recently ran into someone else recently who was in the same boat and not married. Very thought position to be in and sadly the laws are not in your favor. In that case the daughter was cutting all ties to the relationship to the person with dementia and there partner after 35 years or more. 

On The Journey
Posted: Saturday, October 10, 2020 1:13 AM
Joined: 9/4/2020
Posts: 6

 Hi everyone.  Earlier and future repliers, thanks for your replies.


Please see my below original post from Sep. 26th.


I’m not too concerned about the VA Social Worker saying that “I’m (inappropriately) “inserting” myself into SO’s healthcare.”  I’m mainly concerned that the VA, based upon the Social Worker’s unfounded suspicion, may try to take over my SO’s affairs by falsely claiming (with no evidence) that I’m committing financial elder abuse of my SO, thus `criminalizing’ me.  What do you think?  How have other non-married (see below) SO’s protected yourselves from such false accusations, whether by an organization (such as the VA) or an individual(s) (such as an SO’s family member)?

Posted: Saturday, October 10, 2020 5:55 AM
Joined: 2/2/2014
Posts: 5982

On The Journey wrote:

I believe I need: to keep being a great partner and caregiver; to get a CELA ASAP; to try to get along anyway with the VA; and to not worry and just stay aware of my legitimate concerns.  What do you think?

You may need to file to become legal guardian "of the person".  The VA may file before you

You need legal advice

Posted: Saturday, October 10, 2020 6:37 PM
Joined: 2/16/2017
Posts: 948


I am sorry you felt that Crushed was talking down to you. Crushed is a very knowledgeable person and he has helped a lot of people on these boards. Crushed was not talking down to you he was giving you a answer to a question you asked on a support forum. We may not always agree with the answers we get but hopefully some of these answers will help you.  

Stuck in the middle
Posted: Saturday, October 10, 2020 8:44 PM
Joined: 6/4/2017
Posts: 874

I guess they thought you were asking for advice when you said "What do you think?" at the end of your first post.  Go ahead and vent, this is a safe place to do it in my experience.
On The Journey
Posted: Monday, October 19, 2020 9:51 PM
Joined: 9/4/2020
Posts: 6

Thank you to those who responded to my, that is, the original and re-posted thread.

Would anyone who was NOT responding to my original or re-posted thread kindly refrain from responding anymore to them?  Thank you for adhering to the guidelines and for understanding.

I welcome responses to my, that is, the original and re-posted thread.

Posted: Tuesday, October 20, 2020 1:33 PM
Joined: 2/2/2014
Posts: 5982

Purely as an abstract legal problem I have told people MANY times that a power of attorney does not give them the control they often think they have.   A person may be completely competent to VOID a financial power of attorney or a Health care power of attorney even if they are not competent to do other things. 

That is why guardianship exists, to sort out who is in control.   I express no opinion on the facts of this case

You need legal advice

On The Journey
Posted: Friday, October 23, 2020 10:17 PM
Joined: 9/4/2020
Posts: 6

Thank you, Crushed, and everyone else for your valuable feedback.  I will ask my attorney, but first I'm asking all of you: can't Guardianship only be established if the Guardee is declared incompetent to manage their own affairs?  Since my SO has not so been declared (and is not yet near that condition), if no one can yet be the Guardian, how best can I legally protect myself until then?
Jo C.
Posted: Friday, October 23, 2020 11:44 PM
Joined: 12/9/2011
Posts: 11345

Each state is different in how they approach Guardianships and Conservatorships.

Each state has its own laws regarding "common law marriage."  Some states do not recognize this.

A person can obtain Guardianship over all matters for a person, or the judge may limit it to Guardianship of the person (without finance) or can decide to make Guardianship of Finance without Guardianship of the person.  It is complex and in many if not all states your SO will have an attorney appointed for him by the court to look out for his best interests if he does not obtain one for himself.   This happens even if the Loved One is totally incompetent or even comatose; we found this out when husband had to apply for Guardianship of his mother.

If your finances have been co-mingled, that too makes other dynamics to be dealt with..

Here is a link re basics re Guardianship, and there is a lot online and Mr. Google can help if you enter the name of your state in addition to asking for information re Guardianship process and criteria.

 None of us here are attorneys in this type of law and there have been no responses from anyone having a similar experience.

I am sorry we cannot be of further help; seeing an Elder Law Attorney is by far your best approach for accurate information and to proceed in whatever way is best under the circumstances.

Let us know how you are and how all is going, best wishes are being sent your way.


On The Journey
Posted: Monday, October 26, 2020 11:45 PM
Joined: 9/4/2020
Posts: 6

Thank you, Jo C. and everyone else who replied with valuable feedback.  If anyone has any more or new thoughts or information about this, feel free to post.  Be safe.