“…one of the most comprehensive and meaningful bills ever developed to address the rapidly increasing problem of elder financial abuse in America.”
WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley introduced comprehensive legislation to combat the abuse and exploitation of America’s seniors. The bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act expands education, prevention and prosecution tools to reduce crimes against seniors and to bring perpetrators to justice.
“Financial exploitation of America’s seniors is so widespread, it has been called the crime of the 21st century. Some seniors have lost homes, farms and entire life savings because of fraud. Sadly these crimes often go unreported, and as we learned at a recent Judiciary Committee hearing I held, the government doesn’t even have a clear picture of the scope of this problem. My bill would help improve our understanding of these and other devastating crimes against seniors and how best to prevent them. It also sends a strong message through steeper penalties that crimes against vulnerable seniors will not be tolerated. Americans in their golden years have worked too hard for too long to be preyed upon by criminals who lack the same work ethic and moral compass,” Grassley said.
While financial exploitation is on the rise, and is expected to increase further as more Americans age, the Justice Department has admitted that prosecution of such crimes “remains relatively uncommon.” An estimated six million Americans over the age of 60 fall victim to abuse or exploitation each year, and many of those crimes go unreported. Financial crimes targeting seniors robs them of at least $2.9 billion annually. Half of all dementia patients will experience some form of abuse or neglect, and elderly victims of such physical or emotional abuse are three times more likely to die earlier than peers who are not abused.
The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (S. 3270) expands data collection and information sharing to better prevent and respond to all forms of elder abuse and exploitation, including financial crimes against seniors. Specifically, the bill increases training for federal investigators and prosecutors and equips each judicial district with at least one prosecutor having expertise with elder abuse cases. It also establishes an elder justice coordinator within the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Further, the bill improves information sharing among government agencies and between federal, state and local authorities to develop best practices in the fight against elder financial exploitation. Finally, the bill increases penalties for perpetrators of such crimes – including mandatory forfeiture – to deter future offences.
The bipartisan 3,000-member Elder Justice Coalition called the bill, “one of the most comprehensive and meaningful bills ever developed to address the rapidly increasing problem of elder financial abuse in America.”
The bill is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).
Earlier this year, Grassley chaired a Judiciary Committee hearing to examine how best to protect older Americans from financial abuse. Grassley also launched several inquiries to combat crimes against seniors and worked to raise greater aware for such issues facing seniors.