Between eight years of study, passing national board exams, completing a residency program, and qualifying for state licensure, the process of becoming an optometrist is almost as demanding as becoming a medical doctor. As a licensed optometrist in Pennsylvania, your entire livelihood hinges on your license. That's why it's such a crisis when allegations of wrongdoing are leveled against you. The Pennsylvania State Board of Optometry has an obligation to protect public health, and if the allegations against you trigger an investigation, it could very well end with having your optometrist license revoked.
Whether the accusations against you are based on a simple misunderstanding or an honest mistake, without adequate legal representation, the repercussions to your career could be devastating. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and legal know-how to protect your right to practice optometry in Pennsylvania. He and his team will work to get you the best possible outcome for your case, increasing your chances of keeping your license. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Allegations Could Put My Pennsylvania Optometrist License in Jeopardy?
The State Board of Optometry holds its licensees to high standards of ethical and professional conduct. Most allegations that put an optometrist license in danger have something to do with a violation of these standards. Common examples include:
- Insurance fraud. Examples of fraud include billing insurance for services not rendered, "upcoding" insurance claims, falsifying patient records, etc.
- Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships. Examples include sexual harassment or unwanted sexual advances toward patients or colleagues, sexual assault, etc. Also, it is a breach of ethics to have a romantic relationship with a patient you're treating, and doing so could result in license revocation.
- Medication violations. Abusing prescription privileges, diverting medications for personal gain, and so-called "pill mill" operations are just a few examples of illicit behaviors that could result in disciplinary action.
- Substance abuse. Abusing alcohol or drugs can cast doubt on your ability to act with sound judgment when treating your patients. Allegations of substance abuse may result in mandatory treatment at best and license revocation at worst.
- Criminal convictions. You may be disqualified from becoming an optometrist if you are convicted of certain offenses, especially crimes of moral turpitude or crimes related to your work.
What Does the Disciplinary Process Look Like?
The state of Pennsylvania provides its citizens with an efficient method to submit complaints against any licensed professionals, including optometrists. The Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) is in charge of managing such grievances and conducting disciplinary processes for the same. As soon as the BPOA receives a complaint involving you, your case will move through the following stages.
As a first step, BPOA will assign a Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) investigator to seek out corroborating evidence associated with the complaint. This typically involves speaking with the complainant or witnesses, documenting subpoenas, etc. You may also be asked to provide a written response to the complaint. If the investigation uncovers insufficient evidence to support the allegations, the BPOA may dismiss the complaint at this point.
If the BEI investigator discovers considerable proof of wrongdoing against you, the Board may offer to negotiate a consent agreement with you instead of initiating an official hearing. Under this agreement, you will voluntarily submit to the disciplinary actions recommended by the Board. Although signing a consent agreement isn't always the most desirable outcome, it may be your best option if disciplinary action is inevitable. An experienced attorney can use effective negotiation tactics to craft a consent agreement that will minimize any potential damage to your career and even include provisions for the restoration of your license.
If no consent agreement is offered or signed, you will be summoned to appear at a formal hearing before an examiner and demonstrate why your optometrist license should not be revoked. You may choose to bring along an attorney who can serve as your advocate for the hearing. After thorough consideration, the Board will come to a resolution as to whether punitive measures should be taken against you—potentially even revoking your license.
Why You Need a Pennsylvania License Defense Attorney
Navigating the disciplinary process can be daunting, especially considering that your livelihood and reputation are at stake. And the truth is, you're coming into the process at a disadvantage because there is no guaranteed presumption of innocence and because the Board has a relatively low burden of proof to find you guilty. But because a license defense lawyer will have specific experience in dealing with such matters, they can provide invaluable insight and guidance into navigating the process. A good attorney will act as your official representative in all dealings with the Board. They can also negotiate at multiple points to have the complaint against you dismissed or for leniency with penalties. And although a good attorney can defend you vigorously at a formal hearing, their experience with negotiation may help you avoid a hearing entirely. In short, you have a much better chance at keeping your license by hiring the right attorney than by going it alone.
You've paid a high price to establish your career as a Pennsylvania optometrist. An experienced attorney can help protect the license you've worked hard to earn. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team can provide you with the assistance needed to defend your license and safeguard your career. Don't take chances with the future of your practice—seek professional legal help today. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.