Recently we have had a number of physician clients in need of assistance from a family law attorney in Austin.  We have recommended Tim Whitten, PC.  Tim is a Board Certified Family Law Attorney who handles divorce matters, child custody cases, child support modifications and collaborative law as well as adoptions.  Tim’s office is

I continually get phone calls from licensed professionals in other states or need to refer a client to an attorney in another state due to reciprocal discipline / multiple state licenses.  After many successes and a few failures I have come to the conclusion that the following lawyers are who I would send my family members

Last week I resolved three cases involving pleas of guilty or no contest to drug / alcohol related offenses and the subsequent investigations and prosecutions by the individual Client’s respective State licensing Board(s):

  • The Texas Optometry Board
  • The Texas State Board of Pharmacy
  • The Texas Medical Board

In each case, although the Board did not have jurisdiction to discipline for the criminal status in-and-of-itself, each agency found a way to link the conduct (the actions behind the commission of the criminal offense) to the Client’s occupational practice and attempt to resolve the matter through a reasonable agreed order. 

Neither the Texas Pharmacy Act nor the Texas Optometry Act afforded jurisdiction to the agency to discipline the license holder for the court ordered felony deferred adjudication probation(s). However, public scrutiny being what it is, each Board simply stated that the conduct was egregious and unbecoming of a licensee. Moreover, the Board’s mission was to protect the public and each agency felt this was something the public should know about. 


Continue Reading Deferred Adjudication Probation & Discipline by State Licensing Boards

Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) is a metabolite created by the body following alcohol consumption. Testing for this metabolite, typically via a urine sample, has become increasingly prevalent in the United States following its initial approval and use in Europe especially by agencies concerned with monitoring an individual for any relapse or return to active drinking. Many favor EtG sampling because it is a “direct” test for alcohol consumption in contrast to older, more traditional tests like Gamma Glutamyl Transferase or Carbohydrate-Deficient Transferrin which look for indirect signs of alcohol use such as liver damage. Further, while older tests generally only become positive following heavy alcohol use, EtG can be present in the urine after only a single drink. Moreover, EtG remains in the body and is detectable in urine three to five days after consumption

Unfortunately, EtG testing has several serious short-comings that limit its viability as an stand-alone objective marker of recent alcohol consumption and relapse. In the area of medical testing, a test is characterized by two qualities: sensitivity and specificity. Sensitivity measures the ability of the test to correctly identify those individuals who do have the condition of interest, here relapse, while specificity measures the ability of the test to correctly identify those persons who do not have the condition of interest. EtG testing has a high sensitivity, that is it has a high probability of correctly identifying as positive an individual who has recently relapsed. However, it also has a low specificity, that is it has a high probability of showing as positive a person who has not recently consumed alcoholic beverages. For example, research has shown that use of everyday items such as bug spray, mouth wash, various over-the-counter medicines, and hand sanitizer can produce positive results. Additionally, without further research, testing facilities have been unable to arrive at a consensus on the level of EtG that should be considered positive for a relapse. The high level of false positives seriously undercuts its status as a viable test for relapse and can easily lend itself to abuse by monitoring agencies such as the Texas Medical Board or the Texas Board of Nursing (Formerly known as the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners).


Continue Reading What is Ethylglucuronide -EtG Testing?

The Texas Administrative Procedure Act (APA) offers a ready incentive for a licensee such as a doctor or nurse to seek prompt renewal of their license if they face or expect to face a disciplinary action before their respective state licensing board. Chapter 2001.054 of the Texas Government Code (The Administrative Procedure Act) provides a special rule when the professional’s license renewal is contested by the applicable administrative agency and such agency is required to provide timely notice and an opportunity to be heard, two conditions that apply to virtually every disciplinary action. When such a licensee applies for renewal, their existing license automatically remains in effect until their application has been finally determined by the state agency. Further, if the state agency decides to deny or limit the terms of the new license, the professional’s existing license does not expire until the last day for appealing the agency order or other date set by the reviewing court, whichever is later.

Thus a doctor who expects the Texas Medical Board to deny the renewal of their professional license or to take other disciplinary action against them should timely apply as they will still retain and be able to practice under their existing license. The same situation applies to a nurse facing disciplinary action by the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners, an optometrist in front of the Texas Optometry Board, a dentist before the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, and other licensed medical and non-medical professionals.
Continue Reading Timely License Renewal Under the Texas Administrative Procedure Act

The Board of Nurse Examiners for the State of Texas received authorization and funding from the legislature to undergo complete criminal history and background checks on every nurse in the State of Texas.  Accordingly, every LVN and RN in Texas will be required to submit a fingerprint card to the BNE over the next ten years.  The cards will be submitted to the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Saftey for verification and accuracy of the Nurse’s identity and criminal history. Ten percent of nurses will be required to undergo this scrutiny per year until all licensees have been evaluated.  This has created a marked rise in investigations and disciplinary orders.  There are several inherent problems with this process however, and nurses should seek advice from an experienced lawyer before they accept a proposed disciplinary sanction that will mar their record indefinitely.

      To begin, the BNE did not acquire jursidiction over deferred adjudications until September 1, 2005.  Staff of the Board however, is investigating offenses that resulted in deferred adjudication probations and dismissals that are more than twenty years old.  This week alone I received calls from two LVNs who had just such misdemeanor criminal records and were being investigated by the BNE.  Board Staff, including the Attorneys, readily admit they did not and do not have substantive jurisdiction over the criminal history, but maintain they are concerned about the conduct or the psychiatric disorder that may be reflected by the offense and the behavior.  The fact is both of these nurses have renewed their licenses for the last twenty (20) years and have never been required to reveal this history.  Additionally, both have practiced nursing without incident during this period and each has had exceptional performance appraisals from all employers.  Why then is the BNE delving into these issues when all of their investigators have such large case loads that they can not adequately work up a case?  The answer is simple -Public Image.


Continue Reading BNE & Criminal History -Public Image or Public Safety?

Physician with AttorneyThe Texas Medical Board (TMB) pursuant to the Medical Practice Act section 164.059 has the authority to temporarily suspend a physician’s license to practice medicine with or without notice if the physician poses a real and imminent threat to the public through his/her continuation in practice.  Although the evidentiary threshold is more stringent than in disciplinary matters

Consider this scenario: You lose your medical (nursing, pharmacist, etc.) license to practice, so you move states in order to escape the ramifications of a surrendered or revoked license. 

Unfortunately, the ramifications of your lost professional registration may follow you in the form of an exclusion. An individual subject to an exclusion is significantly limited in her ability to work in the health care profession nationwide. The purpose of the exclusion remedy is to protect beneficiaries of Federal health care programs from incompetent practitioners and from inappropriate or inadequate care. In the broadest sense, a section 1128 exclusion prevents individuals and entities from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and State health care programs. However, this does not affect your rights to participate as a beneficiary (i.e., if you break your arm and Medicaid normally pays, then you can still collect these benefits). 

According to 1128(b)(4) of the Social Security Act, an individual may be excluded from participation in any Federal health care program if that person’s license was revoked, suspended, or otherwise lost, or because it was surrendered while a formal disciplinary proceeding was pending before an authority and the proceeding concerned the individual’s professional competence, professional performance, or financial integrity. The Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) will generally send you a letter informing you that you may be excluded from health care programs including:

  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Veterans Administration
  • TRICARE, etc. 

The Social Security Act allows the OIG to exercise discretion when deciding whether or not to exclude individuals from participating in Federal health care programs. Even if the OIG decides to exclude you, they also have discretion to determine the length of the exclusion. Of course there are guidelines and considerations, such as:

  1. the nature of the act that gave rise to the exclusion;
  2. length of license suspension;
  3. criminal history, and;
  4. the availability of other sources of the type of health care services furnished by the individual. 


Continue Reading Surrendered Licenses & OIG Medicare Exclusions