Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Photo: Natalie Suleman on the way into the Kaiser Bellflower Hospital where her eight premature babies are gaining weight at taxpayer's expense. Photo from zimbio.com.
We’ve had plenty of time to digest the misdeeds of Nadya Suleman. I think I am correct in saying there are more people who are outraged by her actions than think what she did was the legally or morally right thing to do.
I am not an attorney or law enforcement person by any means. But I got to thinking, what exactly are the possible crimes that Nadya Suleman has committed?
1. Lied on a FAFSA form. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is required of any student who is requesting financial aid. Questions are asked regarding past tax returns and also if you have untaxed income, such as worker’s compensation benefits. There is also a section that asks about where you plan to live while attending college. The options are on campus, off campus, or with parents. Wanna bet Suleman checked “off campus” which allowed her to borrow as much money as she was able to? Remember, fees at a California State University run about $1600 per semester for 6.1 or more units. Do the math. Unless you have requested funds to assist in housing, there is no way a resident of the state of California should be borrowing $50K for a 124-unit bachelor’s degree from a CSU.
2. She has three kids on supplemental security income for varying degrees of disability. The truth is the social security system rewards persistence. She has also probably done an excellent job of doctor and clinician shopping and probably has some very compelling reports on just how badly disabled her kids are. What are in those reports, and were all three children examined by a physician retained by the government to honestly assess the degree of disability?
3. She has a “nanny” that she pays $500 a week. It’s my guess this nanny is actually a home health aide hired to help take care of the disabled kids. Who pays? Well duh, taxpayers. I believe that is a social security benefit. (Remember those three kids are also no doubt eligible for Medicare and Medi-Cal due to their disabilities. The remaining three older kids are also eligible for Medi-Cal because of a medically indigent mother. Getting kids on Medi-Cal is easy.)
4. She has a kid in a private school. This no doubt is also paid for by taxpayers under something called an “Individualized Education Plan” (IEP). This frequently happens with disabled children who cannot receive services in their neighborhood school. The money comes from the school district that the kid is supposed to be attending school, but with a good education attorney and a well-written IEP, it’s amazing what you can get a school district to pay for to avoid a discrimination lawsuit. The kid can have a physical, mental or emotional disability.
5. Filing/signing a false document: the babies’ birth certificates. Who is “David Solomon” and does he exist at all? That crime is punishable by three years in prison—a birth certificate is a legal document. We’ve all read the speculation about David Soloman being an Anglicized version of Doud and Suleman (Nadya Suleman was born Natalie Doud). Who is the sperm donor? Don’t those children have a right to know anything about their biological father?
6. She stayed on worker’s compensation temporary total disability (TTD) for entirely too long. Thus far, she didn’t break any laws but she may have broken procedure. When a person is on TTD, if the comp carrier asks the injured worker to show up for appointments for whatever reason, you had better show up.
Cleverly, Suleman managed to stay pregnant so she could never be assessed on just how bad or good her back really was. Any woman who has carried a baby can attest how badly your back hurts, and no doubt that pain is subjective in that you can’t do an x-ray or any clinical exam that tells you just how much that back should hurt. One criterion that will be used in determining the percentage of her disability will be how long she was disabled, even if it’s doubtful she’s been that disabled for some time. Remember, she was 22 years of age when she was reportedly hit with a chair by a mental hospital patient. A one-off blow like that (unless it caused a fracture) cannot disable a young person as badly as she claims. A hit to the back does not cause a herniated disc. Cumulative traumas (including pregnancy) can be enough of a cumulative trauma to herniated a disc. Even though people who do have herniated discs report doing one thing to push their back over the edge, there have been plenty of microtraumas to start messing up the back and disc spaces long before symptoms pop up. And remember, the size of the herniated disc does not necessarily equal the amount of pain a person has.
Thing is, we do not know exactly what her back injury was. My guess is she had a soft tissue injury and she did an excellent job of remaining “symptomatic.” In my job as a worker’s comp case manager, I had two such “back patients,” both of whom “fell” on the job as deli workers, and both of whom had utterly perfect x-rays/MRIs/CAT scans. One was surveilled and found to be faking; in the second case the employer chose to give the woman vocational rehab just to be rid of her.
Nadya Suleman managed to keep her job position open until last fall. That tells me a lot—that her injury (on paper) was not a career-ending injury but because she kept herself pregnant, her health (and a return to work date) could not be assessed or determined. Employers hate paying TTD, and will do nearly anything to avoid paying it. It’s possible that in her case she could not return to the mental hospital because she could not defend herself (which was my case), but it’s my guess she didn’t have enough education to be assigned to a desk job with minimal to no patient exposure.
Obviously most of what Suleman did is not criminal, but it sure looks like a gross manipulation of the system in place for truly down and out people who find themselves in dire straits through no fault of their own. Think of all of the people who were truly in need who were turned down due to lack of funds or because of their inability to manipulate the system as well as Suleman? At best she is guilty of lying on a FAFSA form, lying on the children's birth certificates, and some sort of manipulation of the worker's compensation system.
Another question I have: I read that Nadya’s parents, Angela and Ed, are divorced, but they do live together. That’s not a crime, but what exactly are the benefits? Is Nadya’s mother also receiving public assistance for whatever reason? Did the apple not fall far from the tree? Where did Nadya get the idea—and assistance—to carry out her insane quest for children to give her what she felt was missing in her life? I know I was raised better.
If you were a prosecutor, what would you like to add to the list? If you were a politician what new laws would you work to pass in response to this whole debacle?