Veteran Abuse: Guardian of Army Ranger admits conflict of interest

After veteran loses $100K, the guardian involved in the controversial guardianship of a former Army Ranger has acknowledged a conflict of interest and wants off the case.

Erie, Pennsylvania VA Medical Center. Photo taken by Adam Elmquist for Google Maps, Creative Commons License 3.0.

ERIE, Pa., October 22, 2016 — The guardian involved in the controversial guardianship of a former Army Ranger has acknowledged a conflict of interest and wants off the case.

Laura Eaton has been the guardian for Martin Patterson- 37 and a former Army Ranger since 2013, but that is about to end.

“Conflicts of interest have arisen which prevent Laura Eaton from continuing as guardian,” according to a filing by her attorney, Mary Alfieri Richmond. “In addition, Mr. Patterson assets (sic) that he is not incapacitated.”

The filing continues:

“A Guardianship review hearing is necessary for the appointment of a Successor Plenary Guardian of the Person and estate of Martin Jack Patterson and/or modification of the guardianship.”

The filing is in lieu of court date on November 28, 2016, which will not only hear arguments for Eaton’s removal from the case, but also whether or not Patterson should remain in guardianship.

Alfieri Richmond told CDN that “any interested party” involved in the guardianship could bring forward a review hearing.

The conflicts were not spelled out in the filing but Alfieri Richardson also stated there were numerous conflicts in the case, namely that Eaton and Patterson don’t see eye to eye and Patterson recently moving away being just two of them.

Patterson’s controversial guardianship was first exclusively reported by CDN in August 2016.

Though still in his thirties and with several evaluations finding him competent, Patterson’s mother, Gail Patterson an employee at the Erie Pennsylvania VA Medical Center, insisted on moving forward to have Patterson, who suffered a life-threatening injury in 2003 but then subsequently returned to active duty, declared incapacitated. Gail Patterson’s position was backed up by Eaton, who was initially appointed Patterson’s VA Fiduciary.

A VA Fiduciary “was established to protect Veterans and other beneficiaries who, due to injury, disease, or due to age, are unable to manage their financial affairs,” according to its website.

Patterson was placed into temporary guardianship in 2013 without a full hearing The guardianship was made permanent after that. Patterson has alleged that since being placed into guardianship in 2013 roughly $100,000 of his savings has been misspent.

Eaton runs a non-profit, MECA, which specializes in providing VA Fiduciary services. She previously declined to comment on the case directing all calls to her attorney.

Lisa Goebel, spokesperson for the VA Fiduciary Hub in Indianapolis, which is overseeing the case, said in an email:

“Since Mr. Patterson was rated competent to handle his VA funds in 2014, our office is not involved in the matter.”

But Eaton has had dual roles, as both Patterson’s VA Fiduciary and guardian, since 2013. Furthermore, the VA Fiduciary Hub answered a series of questions from CDN when this story broke initially in August 2016.

The Indianapolis VA Fiduciary Hub stated in a statement for this story that

“VA records reflect that on March 14, 2014, Mr. Patterson reported his fiduciary was misusing his funds. The Indianapolis Fiduciary Hub conducted a thorough investigation of the accusations, and on April 8, 2015, determined no misuse had occurred.”

Martin Patterson told CDN that while he has received a copy of the filing he has not been made aware of what this new conflict of interest may be.

Martin Patterson previously filed for a review hearing on August 3, 2014, stating

“I am requesting that the court provide me with an attorney to contest Judge Dimotrovich’s ruling, and a new court date to review all evidence in my case.”

Patterson told CDN that the Judge, Stephanie Domitrovich, declined to hear his plea, arguing that the evaluation he provided was too old. Patterson said he was unable to find a new psychiatrist to do an evaluation until 2016 and then declined to follow through with that evaluation after concluding his parents had poisoned the evaluator against him.

Patterson said his parents had schemed to place him into guardianship in his request for a new hearing, stating

“On April 12, 2013, I came before Judge Stephanie Domitrovich as a result of my parents attempting to obtain guardianship over me. Their reason for doing so had nothing to do with my well-being but was an attempt by them to maintain control over my disability income and strip me of my rights so I would have no credibility to take legal action against them for what they had done.”

Emails to Martin Patterson’s parents, Gail and Roger Patterson, were left unreturned.

Judge Domitrovich was removed from Patterson’s case in 2016. She has previously faced ethics complaints in an unrelated case. Peterson’s case is now being handled by Judge Elizabeth Kelly.

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