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Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act Introduced in Congress

Above: Kim Klobuchar (D-MN), one of the four senators who introduced the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act. Photo c/o Edward Kimmel, CC BY-SA 2.0

Last week, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (S. 3270). The legislation was prompted by a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held last month. The Elder Justice Coalition offered its support of the bill.  National Coordinator of the Coalition Bob Blancato said “It goes after the problem with three solutions in mind: to ensure prosecution of those perpetrating scams, improve our data collection so we better know the extent of the problem, and provide for enhanced prevention programs and activities to avert future victimization.” Read the text of the bill here and read a section-by-section summary here.

In support of federal cases involving elder justice, the bill requires the designation of “at least one Assistant United States Attorney in every judicial district to prosecute (or assist with) elder abuse cases, conduct public outreach, and ensure the collection of the statistical data on elder abuse.” It establishes an advisory working group of U.S. Attorneys who will provide advice on the DOJ’s elder abuse policies, provides training by the Attorney General for FBI agents on the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse, and creates an Elder Justice Coordinator position at the Federal Trade Commission.

Because the epidemic of elder abuse has, for the most part, raged silently so far, we need more data to be able to know how to fight it. Toward this goal, the bill requires the Attorney General to coordinate with federal, state, and local law enforcement to define the best practices for data gathering, and to provide technical assistance to law enforcement on how to enact these practices. The Department of Justice will collect and summarize all this information publicly on its website, along with additional recommendations to further improve data collection. The bill also calls for increased penalties in cases of telemarketing and email fraud targeting the elderly.

Because this bill does not make any additional budget appropriations, it can do little for victim assistance besides calling for “developing a multi-pronged approach to elder abuse and exploitation” and asking the DOJ’s Office for Victims of Crime to report to Congress on elder abuse-related issues. Still, we are glad to see that issues of elder abuse and exploitation are staying on the Congress’s radar in 2016, and we are hopeful this bill will be enacted.