Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Your monthly water bill .. is it correct?

November 28, 2007

During this same time last year our average water bill was about $15, so imagine our shock when last month's bill showed an amount due of $195.33.
What a HUGE increase.
Was this a costly price hike? Were we careless water hogs? Could there be a mistake? Did the house have some unknown water leak spewing gallons of water by the minute?
The bill stated 66,000 gallons of water was used in a single month.
That seemed nearly impossible for a single occupied home with (a) desert landscaping, (b) water saving shower heads, (c) water saving toilets, and (d) plenty of bottled water to replace drinking out of the tap.
Customer service at the Water District suggested we read our meter and compare that number to what was printed on our last statement.
We did ...and guess what?
The number on our meter and on our bill were completely different.
In fact, the current meter read was less than the previous read 2-months ago.
It turns out the electronics that spit out our water usage information into the readers the water district uses to measure were defective.
Not only was the $195.33 not due, but after an examination by the water district a $70 credit was issued for previous months where usage was miscalculated.
It paid to read our meter.
How often do errors with meter reads occur? Not very.
The water district told us they have a 99% to 99.2% accuracy.
About 200 to 280 residential bills get kicked-out of their system each month for examination because water usage was either unusually high or low. (Somehow our $195.33 sneaked by.)
About a year ago the water district replaced our meter. That's something they do as meters reach the age of 20 years. There's something else to know that could be helpful in detecting unknown water leaks on your property. These new meters have a small red triangle on the face of them, and when water is being used the triangle will rotate. So if all your faucets are turned off and no water is being used inside or outside your home, the triangle should not rotate - that's one way to see if you have an unknown leak somewhere on your property.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Taken for Big Bucks!

November 26, 2007

Received yet ANOTHER call from a local resident who received in the mail "a hefty sized check" made out to them.
The enclosed instructions explained that they were to deposit the check into their personal checking account and then withdraw some cash. Next they were instructed to Western Union that cash back to the sender.
They did!
And what happened?
The results is something we have reported on and blogged about many times.
Let's all say this next line together..."The check they deposited bounced and the money they sent out is gone for good."
It's now an old scam but one that continues to work. There may be a variety of bogus reasons given in the instructions for the receiver of these checks to send cash back to the sender; it's to cover the cost of shipping or handling of a prize you've won, lottery fee's on a contest you have won, application fees to become a secret shopper....
If you get a check in the mail and you do not know the sender or why they have sent it to you? Call: PHONE BUSTERS 1-888-495-8501

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Update on the way


Hello from the Watchdog unit!

News 3 viewers will remember our report on Gayle Gonsalez. She is the bookkeeper who was hired by many valley businesses. They accuse her of fraud, forging checks, ID theft, etc. Those companies say she took them for thousands of dollars. If you didn't see the story, click on this link. There's also a link to see the story on video.
It turns out an employer we didn't include in our story contacted News 3 this week to say they've found some unusual transactions. Thousands of dollars in misappropriated funds that appear to be from checks made out to Gayle Gonsalez. Police are working the case, and so are we. Stay tuned, we're working on an update!
Also, we're continuing to get many complaints about car repair. Frankly, there's not a lot we can do. I would suggest calling the Better Business Bureau BEFORE you take your car in to a company you've not dealt with before. The BBB can tell you how many complaints were lodged against the company, and how many of those complaints were resolved. If the company doesn't care to resolve the case, why would you take your car there? The BBB's number is 320-4500.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Feedback from Las Vegas Veterans .. and their experiences with the VA.

November 9, 2007

These are portions of emails we received after our story about the VA healthcare system:

Both of my parents were recipients of VA benefits from WWII. My mother passed away from damage done to her heart by chemotherapy in 1987. She told me that the nurse had mixed too much of the therapy she was on, and basically shamed her into taking the excess that treatment. That was in July of '87 and she was gone by mid-September. She had her leg amputated and was treated for bone cancer (which getting a specialist to do a biopsy took forever - they told her it was arthritis before she pushed hard enough). 5 years later they found lesions on her lungs on her x'rays and began treatment again. The rest is history.
To add insult to injury, when she began to fail my father called the VA (they retired to Southern Utah) and he was told to take her to the nearest emergency facility. That was the hospital in St. George. They eventually transferred her to Salt Lake, then sent her home when they could do nothing, After her death my Dad received a hospital bill that the VA declined to pay as she wasn't treated at a VA hospital. There was no VA hospital in S. Utah, and they traveled to the clinic in Vegas for regular treatment. It took numerous letters and the intervention of a Senator before the VA paid her hospital bill.
I lost Dad on Valentine's Day two years ago. This time Dad did his homework ahead of time and called the VA when he began to fail. Again he was told to go to the nearest emergency facility to be stabilized, then they would transfer him to Salt Lake. His lungs gave out before they could transfer him, but this time all the arrangements had been made ahead of time, so the system took care of everything.
I didn't tell you all this for sympathy - I told you because even though the system has made strides towards accommodating the needs of the Vets they still have a long way to go. I still don't understand why, after spending the money to build it, that the O'Callahan Fed. Hospital outside Nellis could not be used. Toward the end of Dad's life he was being shuttled all over town for his appointments (after driving from Toquerville, UT) and then had to drive 2 hours home again. While getting mileage reimbursement, it wasn't enough to cover travel expenses AND a hotel room. When the nearest VA hospitals are in California, Arizona or 400 miles away in Salt Lake, it makes no sense to tell these Vets to go to a VA hospital if the system cannot provide for them.
I watched your news segment on VA healthcare tonight and I must disagree. I am also a disabled vet under VA care here in Las Vegas valley and I have never been treated better in my life. The VA healthcare is based on a rating system. To be rated you must turn proper VA paper work to be service connected. All military members are briefed before separating the service. Most vets do not turn in the required VA paper work, if the gentelman did he would not be waiting for his required surgery. You never asked the gentleman if he was service connected. If you are not rated you are on the bottom of the list. I am service connected and I never had to wait longer than 1 day for any appointments. I am sick of hearing all the negativity on the VA healthcare system. If the vets weren't so lazy to complete the paperwork in the first place they would not have to wait for medical appointments. You must know the whole story and just not one side. I am very pleased with the Las Vegas valley VA medical system. __________________________________________________________________________________________
I saw your story tonight on the care of the Veterans in Nevada. Boy did this hit home. My husband is a 100% service connected disabled Vet, exposed to agent orange in Viet Nam and boy have we had a difficult time getting the items he has needed and the care he has needed. It took 45 days and letters and calls to Senators Reid and Ensign's office to get the Fee Base PT and OT care approved because the VA's PT department is not equipped to handle my husband because he cannot walk or stand. His disability is a result of prostate cancer which has moved to his bones caused by agent orange. I have spent so many hours on the phone trying to follow up on services and supplies that he is entitled to. We have even gone so far as to pay for additional insurance in order to be able to go outside the VA to get the care he needs; and why should we have had to do this. I have been told a number of times that if we lived in Texas or even Arizona that due to the fact that my husband in confined mostly to the bed and does not walk or stand that we would be entitled to much more, including having someone come in the home to assist me and him and someone to sit with him while I work. I have had to stay home more in order to stay with my husband or I would be responsible for paying someone at a cost of 18.00 to 20.00 an hour to stay with him. I think that care for Veterans should be the same, no matter what state they live in. We have an extremely large population of Veterans in Las Vegas and I listen all the time to how they are not getting the care they need. I have even had to write John Bright to get services for my husband. I think you should not stop at the story today but continue you investigation into the care of our Veterans and how they are treated in Las Vegas. It can truly be a nightmare.
I am a local veteran here in Las Vegas, while I have to say that the VAMC here in Las Vegas may have some of it's problems, I have to say that it is one of the best centers that I have ever delt with. I do have private insurance, and have used it on occasion, I prefer to use my VA benefits. The media concentrates so much on problems, it does not tell people about the GREAT care that it does give. Just as an example, I had cancer in my abdomen and saw at least 4 or 5 doctors on the "outside", through Blue Cross. I was told that I had to wait 3 months to get an appointment with an oncologist, because I had a history of cancer in the past and it was considered "pre-existing". None of them were willing to do the surgery that I needed. My cancer was considered terminal and the surgery was EXTREAMLY delicate. It was then that I went to the VA, who, not only was willing to do the surgery, but SAVED MY LIFE, and I did not have to wait 3 months. It is the GREAT doctors, nurses and technicians that I owe my life to.
First of all ... thank you very much for doing such an excellent report on the plight of the local veterans. I am one of those veterans who has been promised something I cannot get. However, that is another story.
Are you aware of the fact that one of the major problems with getting treatment is the fact that we, the veterans, have to give way to the active duty personnel? This applies whether or not you have an appointment. In addition, that nice new hospital that is allegedly coming is something of a farce. Ms. Berkeley caved in but did NOT tell us that the only way she could get the hospital for the VETERANS is to agree to share it with the active duty personnel .... once again, we are second in line in what is supposed to be OUR hospital. This news was dropped very quietly by Nicholson at the ground blessing ceremony ... not many of the veterans picked up on it. It doesn't take an Einstein to see what is coming .. the new hospital will take over and the hospital at Nellis will be closed and we, the veterans, have gained nothing. In addition, the new hospital will be much too small to accommodate the veteran population by the time it is finished to say nothing of the fact that the "state of the art equipment" now contracted for will be obsolete by then.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

VA Healthcare--The good, The bad, The ugly

November 8, 2007

From Investigative Producer Mark Whitehead--

A critical eye takes a look at the VA health services here in southern Nevada - as seen by Vietnam Vet, Raymond Ritter, who waits day after day for urgent surgery that was supposed to have taken place last July.
As the waiting hours tick, Raymond wonders when time will run out for his leg. Raymond fears without immediate surgery his leg will be amputated.
On October 24th we received this note from the VA regarding Raymond, "patient has been seen, scheduled for pre-op and surgery."
Yet, weeks later, after a November 8th visit to the VA, Raymond tells us there has been no pre-op and no date set for surgery.
Where does this leave Raymond? We contacted the VA and explained the latest.
The VA response? "During his pre-op evaluation, additional healthcare issues were identified and are being addressed prior to his surgery. Once these matters have been addressed, his surgery will be rescheduled. I apologize for not providing additional information, but due to HIPAA (patient privacy) we are not able to elaborate. I will say that the delay is appropriate and in the best interest of the patient."
The WATCHDOG called Raymond and read this note from the VA to him.
WatchDog: Raymond, we're you told anything about additional healthcare issues?
Raymond: No.
WatchDog: So, you have not had healthcare issues identified and explained to you?
Raymond: No.
WatchDog: You saw a doctor today?
Raymond: They called her one. All she did was tell me what I had to do to get the operation.
WatchDog: What did she tell you?
Raymond: She just told me I had to take these tests but I have already done these test.
WatchDog: Why are you having to redo them?
Raymond: She said they were not recent enough.
WatchDog: When is your next appointment?
Raymond: I don't have an appointment.
WatchDog: How is your leg doing?
Raymond: Very bad. It's getting worse.
WatchDog: In what ways?
Raymond: The pain. Swollen more. Popping out more. And, the fact of it is I can not get out of bed. Then, it will go numb. My foot goes numb all the time.
WatchDog: What's next for you?
Raymond: Redo test that I have already had done. January before I could have surgery.
WatchDog: Has your doctor explained more about your leg and potential amputation?
Raymond: Said I have to get it (surgery) done. She said, eventually, they are just going to take your leg off.
WatchDog: And explain the problem with your leg in simple terms?
Raymond: There's no blood going through the bone so it will start rotting inside.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Do-Not-Call List update you need to read.

Do you miss those annoying telemarketing calls? I didn't think so.

Well, there's a new ploy to get you to accept those calls again. The Nevada Attorney General's office says telemarketers are getting around the do not call list by promising free "consumer information". Sneaky, huh?
Here's how it works: You may get a card or document in the mail that asks you to sign and return it so you can get "free information" about a particular product. But those mailers, according to the AG's office, also include language that could allow companies to by-pass the Do Not Call list and make unsolicited telemarketing calls. Chances are it'll happen just when you're having dinner.
Senior citizens are often targeted. Some mailers claim "certain government benefits" are going to change, or that consumer groups encourage people to have their medical, retirement, or probate plans reviewed. It's a scare tactic to get seniors to fill out the card and send it in. Often these mailers are made to look like they are from a government or consumer group. Watch out! Once you send that card in, expect to get calls from businesses selling investments, insurance and other financial products. By sending in that card, you're agreeing to get these calls.
Speaking of the Do Not Call List, Congress has not made the registration permanent, yet. That means you have to renew your phone numbers every 5 years. The majority of phone number registrations were done when the list was created in June 2003. You can renew at ANY time, you do not have to wait until the 5 years are up. Registering your phone is easy and always FREE.
You can renew one of two ways:
If your number is registered on the Do Not Call List for at least 31 days, and you're still getting calls from a non-exempt telemarketer, file a complaint! You can do that at, just look for the "File A Complaint" button. Or by phone, 888-382-1222. Either way, you'll need to provide the telemarketer's name or phone number, the date the telemarketer calls, and your registered phone number.
The bad news. There are some exemptions to the Do Not Call List. The following groups are allowed to call people on the Do Not Call List:
Political Parties (You knew the people who passed the law would include themselves on this list!)
Those companies you have an existing relationship with
Those companies you've given written permission to contact you
Telephone Surveyors
More information about this?