The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved Senator Chuck Grassley’s bipartisan legislation to step up penalties against perpetrators of crimes against vulnerable senior citizens. The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act of 2017 cleared the committee by voice vote with no opposition. The bill was spurred by a Judiciary Committee hearing last year where Iowans provided testimony about being victims of elder abuse.
“The Judiciary Committee’s action 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.
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. Grassley first introduced the bill last year after chairing a Judiciary Committee hearing to examine how best to protect older Americans from financial abuse. At the hearing, the committee heard from Joseph Marquart a Fraud Watch Volunteer for AARP in Cedar Falls.
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, the bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), 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).