Senate Bill 3270 is crafted to prevent elder abuse and exploitation and improve the justice system’s response to victims.
The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act was introduced July 14th, 2016 by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut during the 114th Congress (2015/2016). On September 17, 2016, the bipartisan Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a voice vote without objection. The legislation is intended to help reduce crimes against seniors through expanded education, prevention and prosecution tools.
Senator Blumenthal and I collaborated closely on its development. Earlier this year, I chaired a hearing before this Committee in which we learned that fraud and scams targeting seniors are widespread and growing. This bill tackles the financial exploitation of older Americans, which has been called the crime of the 21st century. It calls for enhanced training of federal investigators and prosecutors, and it would ensure that each judicial district has at least one prosecutor who is tasked with handling cases of elder abuse. The bill would require the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to each appoint an elder justice coordinator, giving states and victims a visible point-of-contact in the federal government. Finally, the bill adds stronger criminal and civil penalties for those convicted of defrauding seniors. This will send a strong message to other would-be fraudsters.
Better information sharing, stronger enforcement, and increased public awareness will make society a safer place for our loved ones who deserve to be treated with dignity after a lifetime of service to their families and communities. Groups supporting this bill include US Against Alzheimer’s, the 60 Plus Association, the 3,000-member Elder Justice Coalition, SIFMA, the American Bar Association, and Consumers Union, the National Center for Victims of Crime, as well as the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators.
The bill increases penalties for perpetrators of such crimes and improves information sharing among government agencies and between federal, state and local authorities to develop best practices in the fight against elder financial exploitation.
The unconscionable scourge of elder abuse is all too common in our country. It’s an issue that notably hit home in Connecticut with the tragic case of Purple Heart recipient Robert Matava. This national hero deserved the utmost care during his senior years, but instead he was defrauded 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.
The bipartisan 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.” Along with Grassley and Blumenthal, the bill is cosponsored by Senators, John Cornyn (R-Texas), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
In the meantime, seniors are being exploited right now across America. For example, 88-year-old Lillie is still in the fight in Florida. As of September 22, 2016, Lillie has been gone 23 days after being “taken” by the emergency temporary guardian and being isolated from her core family support system. The stress of worrying put Lillie’s 80-year-old sister, who has been fighting for her, in the hospital for three nights while the rest of the players in the case continue the feeding frenzy.
Please find out how you can help #FreeLillie. Follow us and retweet @elderdignitynow. If you have specific suggestions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy — Harvard Business School-trained strategist, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Human Potential Advocate/Coach, and President of Power Living Enterprises, Inc. Her latest award-winning book—co-authored with her mother Columbia University-trained journalist Janie Sykes-Kennedy—is Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master on her teacher/mentor 98-year-old yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch.