Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Elder Justice Act - Doesn't Anybody Care? Enough Dilly Dallying!

Contra Costa Times Editorial Series
ALL ACROSS CALIFORNIA,(America) defenseless old people are being robbed of their life savings by heartless predators.

Perhaps they suffer from Alzheimer's Disease. They're physically weak from a chronic illness. Lonely and isolated. Dependent upon someone else to take care of them. Afraid of being sent to a nursing home. Financially unsophisticated.

"The lioness goes to the watering hole because that's where the gazelles are," says Alameda County District Attorney Eileen McAndrew who heads the elder abuse unit. "They don't find the strongest ones, they find the small, the sick the lame and the old."

Criminals and the criminally-minded target vulnerable elderly people because, like the gazelles, they're such easy prey. What's so outrageous is that, for the most part, predators are getting away with it.

Yet despite the magnitude of the problem, the federal government hasn't taken any significant steps to protect elders. We have federal laws to protect children from abuse and women from domestic violence.

So why hasn't Congress passed comprehensive legislation to detect elder abuse, protect victims, and prosecute elder abusers? Our lawmakers' failure to protect the most vulnerable among us is downright shameful. Don't they care that thanks in large part to their inaction, millions of old people are suffering?

It's not a question of ignorance.

For 30 years at least, witnesses have testified before the Congress about the devastating effects of elder abuse --

especially financial -- on seniors and their families. There have been committees galore.
In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences released a damning report called "Elder Mistreatment, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in Aging America."

That same year, then-Sen. John Breaux, D-La., introduced the first Elder Justice Act of 2002, which incorporated a number of recommendations from the NAS report. The bill died. So has every version of the Elder Justice Act introduced since then.

As often happens with good, sound legislation, the bill fell victim to partisan maneuvering -- despite support from both sides of the aisle.

It's time for our lawmakers to stop burying their heads in the sand. The ramifications of elder abuse -- for California and the nation are staggering. Seventy-five million baby boomers are approaching retirement age. Unfortunately for a number of them, they will fall victim to Alzheimer's and other debilitating conditions that make them unable to protect themselves from thieves.

Meanwhile, Social Security is fast heading toward insolvency. That means elderly people who get swindled out of assets that it took decades to accumulate may not even have Social Security checks to fall back on. What's going to happen to the millions of elderly victims of financial abuse who become destitute?

The public costs of caring for them will be astronomical. But even more to the point, the final years will be ruined for countless elderly parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Instead of enjoying their golden years, they will be living a nightmare
-- thanks to ruthless con artists who are getting away with highway robbery.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has introduced yet another version of the Elder Justice Act in the 110th Congress. Says Hatch: "Few pressing social issues have been as systematically ignored as elder abuse." No truer words were spoken.

The Elder Justice Act has the broad support of the AARP and other advocates for the elderly. SB2010 and its companion bill in the House, HR4933 will elevate what has largely been a grass-roots issue into the national spotlight.

For the first time, federal funds would be allocated specifically for elder abuse and prevention research. The government would begin gathering national statistics on elder abuse, which are currently lacking.

Those are crucial if we are to truly comprehend the scope of the problem and convince the holders of the purse strings that it should be a national priority.

Most important, the Elder Justice Act mandate federal funds to bolster Adult Protective Service Agencies around the country. These are the frontline public agencies responsible for investigating elder abuse complaints and intervening to protect at-risk seniors.

Many APS offices can't respond to complaints in a timely manner because they're understaffed and underfunded. At present, APS agencies have to rely on funds from the federal social services block grants that go to each state.

Individual states can devote as much -- or as little -- as they choose to elder abuse prevention. In most cases, it's usually very little. Elder financial abuse isn't a priority because no one has made it one. Because it so often occurs behind closed doors, people mistakenly think it isn't a problem.

A guaranteed flow of federal funds would enable APS to hire much-needed caseworkers and investigators. That means more manpower to conduct investigations into elder abuse complaints. It also means more trained staff to conduct regular home visits to check on the safety of at-risk seniors who might be in trouble.

It would provide the ability to intervene before an elder has been physically abused, neglected, or a victim of financial exploitation.

At present APS investigators and case workers don't even have the resources to keep up with the most egregious cases. This worthy bill has been sitting in the Finance Committee since March. It's time for the Congress to act.

There's been enough dilly dallying. Our vulnerable elders have waited long enough.

It's time for the Congress to show some long overdue leadership on this vital issue and pass the Elder Justice Act now.

Someone at the Contra Costa Times must have been a victim of Elder Financial Abuse, which for most major news outlets is taboo , is it kind of like the Torture Issue, it's political, yes and it's un savory, to say the least and elder abuse not unlike the torture issue is something most people don't want to take sides against as long as it is something that happens to somebody else.

The folks at Contra Costa Times are getting lukewarm when they say that "heartless predators are getting away with robbing poor defenseless old people."

Actually lets go ahead and tell them the truth, E.A. readers can handle it, let's tell them like it is .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The answer as told to me by those in a position of authority to help: "They are old and going to die anyway so why bother. They are not a priority"

I submitted testimony via 3rd party in Sept 1999 with Ways and Means Committee which went on deaf ears as usual. It costs too much money to save and protect our elderly and disabled so they are put on the back bunner as very low in priority.

As for Social Security, this is where the money is going and why the funds are running out. We are being decieved. The child protection industry racket just received another $8 billion dollars I believe from the SSA. See Title IV-E Foster Care authorized under title IV-E of the Social Security Act, as amended, the Foster Care Maintenance Payments Program which provides Federal matching funds of 50 to 83 percent, depending on the state's per capita income. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/programs_fund/state_tribal/fostercare.htm

Senator Nancy Schaefer 50th District of Georgia will be a great resource. She uncovered the Corrupoption withn her state's and national CPS industry so maybe we can all contact her with our stories of elder abuse and see what she will and can do.

Senator Nancy Schaefer
50th District of Georgia

Senator Nancy Schaefer
302 B Coverdell Office Building
18 Capitol Square, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Phone: 404-463-1367
Fax: 404-657-3217

Senator Nancy Schaefer
District Office
P O Box 294
Turnerville, Georgia 30580
Phone: 706-754-1998
Fax: 706-754-1803

email: senatornancyschaefer@alltel.net
website: http://www.senatornancyschaefer.com/