Elder Law

ABA president urges House to help prevent elder abuse

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ABA President Patricia Lee Refo is urging the U.S. House of Representatives to pass bipartisan legislation to help prevent elder abuse across the country.

In a letter sent Thursday, Refo said the Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2021 would establish the Elder Justice Initiative as a permanent part of the Department of Justice. In addition to coordinating criminal enforcement and public engagement efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams, the initiative would expand online resources and translate them into Spanish.

“Elder abuse—encompassing physical and sexual abuse, neglect and financial exploitation—is a problem that respects no boundaries,” Refo told representatives. “It is not defined by socioeconomic, racial or ethnic status, and it occurs with alarming frequency in your state, as well as all others.”

Refo pointed out in the letter that a recent study by the National Council on Aging shows that about one in 10 Americans who are 60 and older have experienced elder abuse.

“We support this legislation without reservation because we believe that enhancing efforts to prevent and redress elder abuse is central to any viable notion of the rule of law and social justice,” Refo said.

Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Indiana, and Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, introduced the Elder Abuse Protection Act on April 30. Garcia, a former social worker, said at the time she has seen the impact that elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud has on older Americans.

“The Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2021 is a critical step in making sure that our seniors can live with dignity and respect, and that they are not the targets of scams that can seriously jeopardize their livelihoods,” she said in a press release. “This is especially important amid COVID-19, which many experts say has led to a significant increase in the number [of] abuse cases of elderly people.”

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