WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved legislation to step up penalties against perpetrators of crimes against vulnerable senior citizens. The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act of 2017, which was introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), cleared the committee by voice vote with no opposition.
“Today’s vote builds on our work from last year to crack down on those who would cowardly seek to exploit the vulnerabilities of America’s seniors. Families across America, including in my home state of in Iowa, have been victimized by such crimes, and as the population ages, we can expect more and more victims if we don’t act. The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act takes meaningful steps to deter criminals seeking to exploit seniors and hold accountable those who do,” Grassley said.
“Far too many seniors in our country are abused or exploited by the very people who are supposed to care for them. This issue notably hit home in Connecticut with the tragic case of Purple Heart recipient Robert Matava. A national hero, he deserved the utmost care during his golden years. Instead, he was defrauded and left penniless by those he trusted most. Our bipartisan legislation, a portion of which is named in Matava’s honor, is now one step closer to raising awareness, improving prevention, and increasing prosecution in order to combat this shameless crime,” Blumenthal said.
The legislation (S. 178
) 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 calls for the designation of at least one prosecutor in each federal judicial district who will be tasked with handling cases of elder abuse. It also ensures that the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Justice Department will both have an elder justice coordinator. 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. Identical legislation passed the committee without opposition last year
Last year, 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 also has the support of Consumers Union, SIFMA, the 60 Plus Association, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Center for Victims of Crime, among others.
Along with Grassley and Blumenthal, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mazie Hirono (D- Hawaii).
Last 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 awareness for such issues facing seniors.