Higgins Announces Approval of Elder Abuse Protection Act
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced approval of the Elder Abuse Protection Act of (H.R. 2922) of 2021. This initiative coordinates criminal enforcement and public engagement efforts to combat abuse, neglect, and financial fraud and scams that target older Americans.
Higgins said, “Abuse targeting seniors is widespread and devastating. A House Judiciary Committee report estimates ‘elderly Americans lose at least $2.9 billion each year due to financial abuse and exploitation.’ This legislation provides for better national coordination of efforts to prevent and respond to abuse and expands resources available to the public.”
Each year, tens of thousands of elderly Americans fall victim to elder abuse. There are many factors that make them particularly vulnerable, but social isolation and mental impairment (like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease) are contributing factors. The most recent study conducted by the New York State Office of Children & Family concludes that one in thirteen elderly individuals have been victims of abuse in the previous year. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects that by 2060, the population of elderly Latino Americans will reach 21 percent of the overall elderly American population. A study on the mistreatment of Latino elders conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse indicates that, 40 percent of participants experienced at least one type of elder abuse, whether that was financial, physical, or mental, and 21 percent experienced multiple.
The bipartisan bill designates an Elder Justice Coordinator within the Department of Justice to oversee law enforcement efforts and evaluate training models for law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, emergency responders, medical and mental health professional, and others working with seniors who are experiencing abuse. With the addition of online Spanish materials on elder abuse, the bill will provide resources for over one million United States residents. It also creates a hotline to support elderly fraud victims and provide referrals to the appropriate law enforcement for those in need.
The American Bar Association supports this legislation, along with the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Social Security Works, Elder Justice Coalition, National Council on Aging, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. The bill passed in the House with strong bipartisan support. It will now be considered in the United States Senate.