A coward named Cuomo

Whether you liked him as the governor of New York or not, only a fool would doubt the courage of Mario Cuomo. He stood fast in his opposition to the death penalty (I oppose it too) even when he knew many disagreed.  He was courageous man. Not so his son, the current governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. All I know makes it clear to me he is a coward and, if you permit me a redundancy, a wimp.

Numerous sources tell me about the bullying he likes to do behind the scenes. Bullies are cowards. Able to act all tough and strong when there is no one to challenge them. Leave it to Cuomo  to run around New York playing like he’s John Wayne when inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped. Notice Cuomo was always surrounded by state police. Easy to play tough guy when you have some real-life armed toughs as your escort.

And now, Cuomo has his Department of Health on the brink of pulverizing the lives of New Yorkers with brain injuries and the business stability of those who provide services to them under the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver Program. A waiver is a Medicaid reimbursement program that provide services so a vulnerable part of the population can live in the community or return to community life. It’s been in this state for 21 years now.  And under whose watch did it come to be?  Mario Cuomo’s, the Cuomo with the courage and integrity and compassion for others. Andrew’s DOH wants to shove the waiver into a form of managed care that will destroy the lives of New Yorkers with brain injuries, remove their housing subsidies, and get rid of their case managers. 

In other words, the son wants to destroy something great built by his father.

The reason? Well, one of Cuomo’s flunkies, DOH Official Mark Kissinger says, managed care is the way of the future.  Well, if the goal is to destroy lives and rob people of their independence, I suppose he’s right. Kissinger admits he has no formal training in the brain and the DOH admits no one on its staff addressing the needs of New Yorkers with brain injuries have any formal training in the brain either.

Another of Cuomo’s flunkies is yet another coward, a DOH official named Maribeth “Knuckles” Gnozzio.   Knuckles only escaped federal prosecution thanks to a plea deal her husband, New Jersey’s former Hudson  County executive and now convicted felon, Robert Janiszewski, cut with the feds. Media reports say the aforementioned Knuckles Gnozzio was spared charges as a result of Janiszewski’s agreement with the FBI. Too bad.  According to the Hudson Reporter, “Election records from 2001 show that the entire time that former Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski was working for the federal government, he was apparently directing campaign funds to a private campaign account” kept in the Knuckles’ name.

When this writer brought these details to the attention of Cuomo’s DOH, Knuckles was a contract employee. And how did Cuomo respond? As soon as Knuckles’ contract ran her made her a DOH staff member.  You have to have others do your dirty work when you’re a coward, and cowards like Knuckles fit the bill.

Several sources who were present say that during an October 6 DOH meeting about the state’s plan to knowingly destroy the lives of brain injury survivors,Knuckles said if people with brain injuries who were on the waiver were put on psychotropics they wouldn’t need waiver services.  At least the DOH’s support of chemical restraints is out in the open.

I’ve sent several emails asking the DOH to answer some questions, including an email to Knuckles asking her to explain her comments about drugging up waiver participants. And guess what? They refuse to respond. Why? Because they are cowards.

If any of you are wondering if this missive is meant, in part, to get a coward named Cuomo to step into the open with me, you bet. Do I think he will? No. He’s a coward. However, I’d be only too delighted to find out he found some unused courage sitting around one of his dresser drawers, under his socks maybe. Then we would meet in a public forum. Just the two of us, Andrew, no armed escorts, no Knuckles.

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Cuomo’s dysfunctional Department of Health remains unchecked

An attorney for New York State’s records access office says the state’s Department of Health does not maintain records identifying how many New York State Medicaid recipients with brain injuries are placed out of state. A shocking admission given the DOH has spent roughly 1.5 billion of the state’s Medicaid dollars on New Yorkers placed out of state from 2003 to 2013.

In a March 21 letter responding to a FOIL (Freedom of Information ) request filed by this writer asking, in part, how many New York State Medicaid recipients with brain injury disabilities are currently placed out of state, Elizabeth Sullivan, an attorney for the state’s records access office,  says “the department [of health] does not maintain Medicaid data for those diagnosed with (brain injuries) as no such coding exists exclusively for these diagnoses.”

Just when you think it impossible for the state’s DOH to appear even more dysfunctional – and disingenuous – the DOH proves you wrong. There is ample evidence of disingenuousness when it comes to the DOH. One example would be a sentence in Ms. Sullivan’s letter to me: “Upon further review of your conversations with Mr. (John) Harper (of the state’s Office of Health Insurance Programs) this office has determined the following enclosed tables are responsive to your request.”  Kudos to Ms. Sullivan for a well-written sentence. One minor problem with its content; I never had conversations with Mr. Harper. As for the tables she references. They list the numbers of New York residents on Medicaid placed out of state but whether they have brain injuries or not is anyone’s guess.

Another example of the DOH’s disingenuousness is its public assertion that it cares about New Yorkers who live with brain injuries yet when those who are stakeholders seek to work with the DOH to improve the lives of NYers with BID, the DOH gives them the straight arm. The DOH recently took part in a phone conference with representatives from  the Brain Injury Association of NY State, the Center for Disability Rights, Disability Rights NY (the state’s protection and advocacy agency), the Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordination Council (TBISCC) and the state’s Justice Center. It didn’t matter that the DOH had the agenda for a week, nor did it matter the agenda asked the DOH to clearly identify the number  of New Yorkers with BID placed out of state, and, clearly identify what support family members of those placed out of state could count on from the DOH. DOH representatives on the call provided none of the information sought. The DOH would not commit to a follow-up meeting with the stakeholders.

There is an effort underway to create an independent office for brain injury in the state. Good idea. But the current effort asks that the office remain in the control of the DOH. The very notion of the office being under the control of the DOH is a betrayal of New Yorkers with BID and their families. In truth, the office would be well-situated in a non-state agency, a non-profit that knows the plight of those who live with disabilities: CDR (Center for Disability Rights) would, at this point, be this writer’s choice. In fact, if the Cuomo administration wants to prove their claim of caring about individuals with BID is more than lip service (as well as his voiced commitment to ethics reform), then it should recognize that both the TBI and Nursing Home waivers  would be well-served under CDR’s leadership.

Over the past few years this blog has more than once memorialized the truly sickening mess that is the DOH. Examples abound: for 15 years plus  if you were a participant in the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Waiver and filed a complaint, the DOH never informed you of the results of your complaint. For 15 years the DOH’s most powerful person, when it came to the TBI Waiver, was Timothy J. Feeney, who then and now misrepresented his educational credentials, telling all the world he had a PhD and a Masters Degree when, in truth, both documents were issued by a now defunct diploma mill off the coast of Australia and were not and are not recognized as valid anywhere on planet earth.

Then, of course, you have the saga of Maribeth “Knuckles” Gnozzio. Knuckles, who wields enormous power on both the TBI Waiver and the Nursing Home and Transitions Waiver fronts, appears to have escaped federal prosecution thanks to a deal cut by her husband, Robert Janiszewski, who was convicted in 2002 of extortion and tax evasion by federal prosecutors. As this blog pointed out in January, Cuomo’s stated commitment to ethics reform is nothing more than smoke and mirrors if Gnozzio remains in place.  Reform “doesn’t seem to be on Knuckles Gnozzio’s mind. In 2010 she was the one who issued the verbal directive blocking waiver staff from advocating for waiver participants at Medicaid Fair Hearings, a move that has undermined the ability of many to truly represent themselves, which was Knuckles plan? Was it Cuomo’s plan as well? Or did he simply not know what his DOH was doing. He has known for some time now, and still not change. It was also Knuckles Gnozzio that directed that the housing subsidy this writer was receiving when he was on the TBI Waiver be taken away and it was Knuckle’s Gnozzio who led the effort to deny this writer a request for white noise machines secondary to sound sensitivity related to my brain injury. Gnozzio needs to go and, if Cuomo is telling the truth about his commitment to ethics reform, she will. If he isn’t, she won’t.”

It seems to me that the best thing that could happen for New Yorkers, in and out of state, who live with BID, is for the DOH to be removed from the equation altogether.

New York’s Cuomo has a problem named Gnozzio

With New York  Governor Andrew Cuomo pledging to bring about top to bottom ethics reform, one has to wonder what, if anything he will do about Department of Health official Maribeth Gnozzio, or, if you prefer the nickname this blog has bestowed upon her, Knuckles Gnozzio.

Some background, Gnozzio is the wife of disgraced New Jersey politician Robert Charles Janiszewski. Janiszewski was the County Executive for Hudson County NJ and one of the states top democrats before pleading guilty in 2002 to taking bribes and being sentenced in 2005 to 41 months in to prison. Media reports say the aforementioned Knuckles Gnozzio was spared charges as a result of Janiszewski’s agreement with the FBI. Too bad in a sense given that according to the Hudson ReporterElection records from 2001 show that the entire time that former Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski was working for the federal government, he was apparently directing campaign funds to a private campaign account” kept in the name of Maribeth Gnozzio. In fact, according to a report by New Jersey’s Star Ledger,  as recently as 2012 Knuckles was still the treasurer of  that same account, a PAC, and, in an interview, displayed her apparent penchant for never meeting a question she wants to or feels like answering. Knuckles “would not say if any donations to charities or campaigns have come from the account. “If it’s not on the report (required by law), I guess I’m not required to answer that question,” she said.”

This is the person Cuomo’s government brought on as a DOH staff member  to oversee the TBI Waiver and more. The governor can’t, on the one hand, claim loyalty to ethics reform and on the other hand hire people like this. It’s not as if she (or her husband) needs the money. Janiszewski gets a monthly pension from New Jersey of just about $1,000 and Knuckles gets a monthly pension of just over $3,000.

To be fair, everyone ought to be given the chance to reform. But reform, doesn’t seem to be on Knuckles Gnozzio’s mind. In 2010 she was the one who issued the verbal directive blocking waiver staff from advocating for waiver participants at Medicaid Fair Hearings, a move that has undermined the ability of many to truly represent themselves, which was Knuckles plan? Was it Cuomo’s plan as well? Or did he simply not know what his DOH was doing. He has known for some time now, and still not change. It was also Knuckles Gnozzio that directed that the housing subsidy this writer was receiving when he was on the TBI Waiver be taken away and it was Knuckle’s Gnozzio who led the effort to deny this writer a request for white noise machines secondary to sound sensitivity related to my brain injury.

Gnozzio needs to go and, if Cuomo is telling the truth about his commitment to ethics reform, she will. If he isn’t, she won’t.