Bill would give state elder abuse programs a federal funding boost

Legislation proposed in the Senate last week would authorize federal assistance to state programs that seek to prevent elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

S. 2727, the Elder Protection and Abuse Protection Act, was introduced last Tuesday by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), with Sens. Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Bob Casey (D-PA) co-sponsoring.

The bill would amend portions of the Older American Act of 1965 to define elder abuse as “the knowing infliction of physical or psychological harm or the knowing deprivation of goods or services that are necessary to meet essential needs or to avoid physical or psychological harm.”

Under the bill, federal funds also would be appropriated for states to establish elder abuse screening, reporting and support programs.

“By requiring tough national standards for screening and reporting, this bill would help hold bad actors accountable for their deplorable behavior and provide critical protections for senior citizens,” Blumenthal said in a statement on the bill.

Just 1 in 23.5 cases of elder abuse is ever reported due to a lack of screening, awareness and prevention resources, according to the bill. The mortality rate of seniors who fall victim to elder abuse is three times higher than those who don't experience elder abuse, and the annual financial loss of those victims is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion, Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal introduced similar bills in 2012 and 2013, but the Senate passed neither.