VA Healthcare System: My Thoughts

In recent months, tragic intentional deaths of VA hospital patients was revealed at the VA hospital in Clarksburg, WV. Three hospitalized vets were killed. No one has yet been charged criminally. Clearly these are criminal actions as non-insulin dependent patients were injected with insulin, killing them.

The VA healthcare system, the above situation aside, has been assailed for poor care for years. I can only comment on a tiny portion of the VA healthcare system interaction with my family.

My dad Joe, who is 95 and a World War II Navy vet, obtains most of his care through one of two VA healthcare facilities in Pittsburgh. Beginning in September of 2018, dad has sustained some circulatory problems requiring four surgical procedures and three overnight stays in the hospital as well as wound treatments.

Dad’s care has been excellent. The physicians are top notch. Perhaps that is as the primary VA hospital in Pittsburgh is adjacent to the University of Pittsburgh campus and in walking distance to the University of Pittsburgh medical school. The same vascular surgeons that render care to my dad at Pittsburgh VA also provide service for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals. We are fortunate in this regard.

However, the permanent, non-rotating VA staff; nurses, technicians, administrative and support personnel, have been wonderful to my dad to our family. These folks care. They spend time with my dad at his appointments and when he has been an inpatient. They inquire as to his military service, his current life, and whether or not he needs anything. They provide answers to the questions raised by my sister and me, resulting in a feeling of quality care, with no stone left unturned and leaving my dad in the best possible position. Currently, his circulatory issues are resolved.

There are no open wounds. I know at his age this can change in a moment.

The Pittsburgh VA hospitals are a tiny cog in the VA health system wheel. But based on our experience, I salute those that are treating my dad with expertise and respect.

– Allan Opsitnick

I Was Just Scammed

As I was the only one in office this morning, I answered the phone. A professional female voice said, “This is Grace from hearing administration, can you hear me?” Of course, but stupidly, I answered “yes” and then the call ended. I then realized that I was scammed with a spam phone call so that there is a recording of my voice saying only “yes.”

In the last few years, such scams have been used to then authorize purchases and services, without any authorization.

It took me only seconds to realize what had happened. By then it was too late. My string of curses (so glad that no one else was around at this time) did nothing to rectify. We are contacting our telephone provider to report this but it is unlikely that anything will happen to cure this.

Ignoring the advice of many agencies to never, ever, say yes on a telephone call, unless you know the caller. I was scammed.

Our advertisement, on the Carnival of Randomness podcast, where we are a sponsor, stresses that we are under attack and that nameless and faceless entities are taking from you and stealing from you. The truth of this is reinforced continuously.

Don’t make the same mistake that I just did.

– Allan Opsitnick

Goodbye to Friend and Family

This past summer took a personal toll, with the loss of a dear friend and my sister-in-law. Each person’s life contained legal ramifications.

In July, Mark Wolosik, a decades long friend and colleague, died suddenly. Mark was 65 and spent his entire work career in the Allegheny County Elections Department, the last 27 as Director. Mark retired in September, 2018 and was enjoying his all too brief retirement. Mark started his elections career doing tasks such as pushing the heavy mechanical voting machines that were used in the 1970s and went on to experience over 100 elections. In retirement, he was a consultant with Allegheny County at the time of his death, as part of a committee selecting new voting systems, stressing cyber-security.

While the elections process has been undermined in recent years, and fears of foreign intervention and hacking exist, Mark did everything in his power to ensure full and fair elections. I was Mark’s solicitor for his entire tenure as Director and state, without question, that Mark dedicated every working and waking hour to “getting it right.” Our elector system succeeds because of people like Mark who are dedicated to accurate, nonpartisan elections administration.

Mark was an example of the best in government.

In August, my sister-in-law, Karen Kmetz succumbed at age 55, after an 11 year struggle with Stage IV (metastatic) breast cancer, beating tremendously long odds to survive. Karen’s longevity and largely good quality of life were due to dedicated and selfless support from family, friends and co-workers, but was also aided by comprehensive medical insurance coverage, which enabled Karen to seek top notch medical care, with treatment, including surgeries and chemotherapy. At a time when many people do not have comprehensive medical insurance coverage, Karen was fortunate in that regard.

Additionally, Karen was involved and benefited from organizations and programs that are funded by tax exempt contributions. These programs, such as Camp Raising Spirits, a Pittsburgh based annual retreat for adults with cancer, sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society, exist because of contributions, without government funding. Similar programs improve the quality of life for individuals of varying needs.

Consider those tax exempt charities and fund them for their good work, so that people like Karen can flourish despite illness or disability. Karen’s joy of life will be forever missed.

– Allan Opsitnick

Independence Day Thoughts

The United States of America is 243 years old. Recall that our Declaration of Independence mentions unalienable Rights, including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Our Constitution, enacted in 1787 begins with the words “We the People of the United States………….”

No mention is made in the beginning of these documents regarding governments, corporations, media, and social media. To me, the above language is striking as it both defines our nation as a collection of People and provides certain rights. Implicit is that We the People have an obligation to be educated and informed, to acquaint ourselves with our neighbors, coworkers and others as we are all identified as “We the People.” A social obligation exists to assert and protect our rights and to do the same for others. Consideration of issues that impact us all require time and effort to be true Americans so that our country and our society not be taken from us.

More specifically, we have an obligation to maximize our pursuit of happiness and our liberty. Rather than empty words, effort is required to call out those entities that do not function for the common good. The vast majority of us want to exercise our inalienable rights properly and fully. A small minority encourage evil. At times it seems as we disregard our education and intellect and fall prey to a lack of due diligence to seek the truth on issues that affect We the People. Has technology improved our intellects or has it numbed us?

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought on these days in 1863. Take a moment to locate and read letters from soldiers, that demonstrate an ability to communicate in writing, better than today’s norm. While some of these letters are from well educated people most are written by young, less educated persons but all such letters demonstrate passion, intellect and an ability to communicate.

We the People are imperfect beings. Our history consists of many negative events as well as positive ones. Negatives cannot be ignored, nor erased from our history. To the contrary, we must be aware of the human failings of our predecessors and strive to be better citizens and persons. We the People owe it to Americans past, present and future to fulfill the rights and responsibilities of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

– Allan Opsitnick

Driving Into the Future… Maybe

As technology has progressed, even in the past two decades, there have been some stunning advancements in virtually every field. One that is on the verge of breaking free is the self-driving motor vehicle.

Honestly, who hasn’t thought about the idea of a car that could drive itself? Simply plug in a destination and the car gets you there without you having to do anything. You could relax, read a book, watch a movie or even take a nap and make it to your destination.

However, there are potential downfalls and legal issues that come with the idea of the self-driving car. In a “normal” car, the driver is held responsible for actions that happen behind the wheel and that is why we’re required to purchase insurance. However, with self driving vehicles, who is held responsible in the event of an accident? If the driver is not physically in control of the car, then who is to blame? And who would hold the insurance? The buyer? The manufacturer? Some government created body?

Another potential issue is a computer failure in the car. While mechanical and electronic failures can occur with operator driven cars, self driving technology is far more advanced and comples. If the self driving system gets a bug, this could lead to catastrophic consequences. In essence, the driver is at the mercy of the computer that is running their car, which has been programmed by someone to make decisions based on a series of data that it processes during the drive. Also concerning is what happens if an owner of a self driving vehicle attempts to repair or alter the vehicle himself or doesn’t bring it back to the dealership for a required update? Who would be liable in that case?

Just looking at a few of these possibilities, the idea of a self-driving car is no doubt an exciting thing. And on paper, it could definitely make life a lot easier for people. However, I don’t believe that technology has quite gotten to the point to make it feasible right now. Human drivers are not perfect, however, the human factor is a known risk. Self driving technology is not.

– Zach Opsitnick

Wait! YOU are suing ME?

In October, 2017, a mass killing occurred in Las Vegas, as a maniacal guest, Stephan Paddock, at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino opened fire from a 32nd floor suite, raining bullets on a nearby crowd of concert goers. 58 were killed and about 500 were wounded.

Lawsuits were filed in some cases, with many other suits planned in others. The possible financial exposure to MGM Resorts International, owners of Mandalay Bay is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Unexpectedly, in mid 2018, MGM brought suit in Federal Court in Las Vegas against over 1000 persons who have either filed suit or are potential plaintiffs. This suit, called a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, does not seek monetary damages, against the class of plaintiffs and potential plaintiffs, but seeks a court ruling in MGM’s favor declaring that MGM has no liability in this tragic, bloody event.

MGM’s strategy is to invoke a federal law, enacted in 2002, entitled the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies or Safety Act, which purportedly limits liabilities and therefore claims for death, injuries and damages against MGM. As the MGM Complaint in Declaratory Judgment states:

In the case of Paddock’s mass attack, certified technologies or services were deployed by a professional security company, Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC), which was employed as the Security Vendor for the Route 91 concert. As alleged in more detail below, Paddock’s mass attack meets the requirements of the SAFETY Act as set forth in the statute and the Regulations promulgated by the Department of Homeland Security. MGM contends that this attack was a “mass attack” under the law, which law was designed to apply to terrorism.

As CSC was in fact certified as a security agency, for the concert where concertgoers were killed and wounded, MGM requests that all suits be transferred to or initiated in Federal Court and not in any state court. Also, MGM contends that the law limits liability claims only to the security agency and not the company that hires the security agency.

MGM is asking the Federal Court, then, that all claims against MGM be filed in Federal Court and then dismissed as barred by the Anti-Terrorism Act, which if granted, would free MGM from any legal responsibility for the slaughter.
The litigation is continuing and mediation sessions have been scheduled. Mediation is court supervised settlement discussions. You will be kept abreast of developments.

The impact of the family of a deceased loved one, or a person who has been injured as a result of this shooting cannot be comprehended, as these people are now defendants in a suit by the huge, faceless, wealthy corporation that may well have been a cause of this carnage.

Allan Opsitnick

Forty Years An Attorney

I’ve been practicing law for 40 years. Difficult to believe. When I began my practice, I was childless. Now I have two adult kids and a grandchild. When I began my practice, both of my parents were alive, now, I’m blessed to have my father still with me. Both of my parents saw me argue before the US Supreme Court, though.

When I began my practice, there was no internet, cell phones, e-mails or the rest of the technological torrent that has immersed us. I could not file and search for documents and other information online. Legal research could only be conducted in a law library using books.

So much has changed. So much remains the same. While innovations have changed the trappings of legal practice, my mission for 40 years remains the same; to solve problems for clients. To fight for clients. To place clients in the best possible position, making the future better.

This milestone in my practice has energized me, realizing that I am beyond the midpoint of my profession career. I pledge my full efforts and respect to my clients and am grateful for you continued trust.

Allan Opsitnick