Memphis lawyer investigated for mishandling veterans’ funds

Memphis lawyer investigated for mishandling veterans’ funds

As the VA investigation of a Memphis attorney continues, the financial damage caused by former lawyer Keith Dobbs to the veterans he was supposed to take care of is becoming clearer.

Seal of the U.S. Veterans Administration. (Public domain, U.S. government image)

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2016 — The extent of the financial damage caused by a Memphis lawyer now under investigation by the Veterans Administration (VA) for mishandling veterans’ funds is now becoming more clear.

Matt Hall said that nearly the entire life savings of his sister, Blae Bryce, had  been taken by Memphis attorney Keith Dobbs. Bryce, a Navy veteran, was a ward in guardianship with her finances handled by Dobbs, the individual chosen to be her conservator.

Guardianship is a legal relationship that gives one or more individuals or agencies responsibility for the personal affairs of the protected person, defined as an individual who has been determined by the court to be either incompetent or incapacitated.

Things began to unravel for Dobbs when he became the subject of a January 2016 series of investigative pieces by  the Commercial Appeal, which broke the news that Dobbs was the subject of an investigation by the Veterans Administration.

The VA was “currently investigating allegations of misuse and replacing Mr. Keith Dobbs as fiduciary for all of our court-appointed Veterans,” according to an emailed statement sent to the Commercial Appeal by Dana M. Farr of the VA’s fiduciary hub and cited in a February 2016 article.

Martin Greenwell, spokesman for the Veterans Benefits Administration’s fiduciary hub in Louisville, Kentucky, which is heading the investigation, did not respond to a voicemail from CDN for comment.

In February 2016, Dobbs was removed as conservator for all his VA-related cases. Shortly thereafter he temporarily surrendered his license to practice law. Dobbs did not respond to an email requesting comment and his attorney, Matt Scholl, did not respond to a voice mail for comment.

While the VA unravels the extent of Dobbs’ apparent misdeeds, the veterans under his care have suffered.

The February 2016 article by the Commercial Appeal focused on the plight of one veteran, Bobby Bouie, who received a lump sum settlement of $656,507 in 2012 for a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claim from the VA. Bouie, who was under the care of Dobbs since that time, had an account balance of $1,600 when Dobbs was removed.

According to Matt Hall, his sister, Blae Bryce, who, like Bouie, is also disabled due to chronic PTSD, suffered a similar fate. He said she had received $720 per month and $2,905 in VA monthly benefits with $2105 in monthly rent, a $500 per month allowance and $110 for phone and cable.

Despite apparently having more than enough income to cover her monthly expenses, Hall said his sister’s bank balance has nearly been drained dry from a beginning balance of approximately $35,000 to less than $3,000 as of her most recent bank statement.

“Mr. Dobbs has been uncooperative as far as communicating, returning calls, emails and text, even in the best of times.” Hall said. “An example is when my sister’s cable and phone were disconnected during the Christmas Holidays 2014. It took him a week to return my call prior to Christmas. When he did finally call his response was that he would take care of it after (the Christmas) Holidays which would have been an additional 10 days, leaving her without [any] outside communications whatsoever.”

Ironically, guardianship is generally designed to protect individuals from themselves, financially and otherwise. But Hall views Dobbs as a predator and believes no one was there to protect Bryce from the man chosen by the VA to handle her finances.

“I think Dobbs is the lowest kind of criminal preying on disabled veterans,” Hall said to CDN. “These veterans served their country and this man has absolutely no respect for their sacrifice which made them his wards in the very first place. Hiding behind an attorney just shows that Keith Dobbs only cares about Keith Dobbs with no remorse for what he has been caught doing. Dobbs took everything, all of her $35K savings and social security over three years.”

Hall told CDN he had several arguments with Dobbs over spending issues until Dobbs blocked his email in January 2015. Hall said that this is the first time he has been able to see his sister’s bank balances since she was put into guardianship and Dobbs was made her conservator.

Dobbs was originally the subject of a Daily Caller exposé in 2014 featuring the plight of a Korean and Vietnam War veteran named Norman Hughes Jr., then 79. Hughes was forced to move out of the home of his caretaker, where he paid $2,700 per month and into a room in a retirement community where he had to pay $7,200 per month after Dobbs was named his conservator.

In Hughes’ case, he began with a bank balance of just more than $150,000 when he entered guardianship under Dobbs’ care. That balance had declined to $80,000 at the time the article was written.

“I need somebody’s help to help get me out of here,” Hughes said in the Daily Caller story when the DC called him in the nursing home.

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