WORLD ELDER ABUSE AWARENESS DAY
Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. As ranking member on the Special Committee on Aging, I am pleased that the international community has designated this day. It is important to recognize the grim reality of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation and focus on what we can do to end these horrible crimes.
In the past 40 years, our Nation has struggled to address some of our society's worst ills: child abuse and domestic violence. Now we must confront elder abuse.
For the past 25 years, Congress has held hearings on the devastating effects of elder abuse, yet we have taken no comprehensive action. Abuse of the elderly is nothing new, but as our Nation has aged and the baby boom generation stands on the cusp of retirement, the prevalence of elder abuse will only get worse. The time to act is now. We can no longer ignore or tolerate the shame and scandal of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of our Nation's seniors.
I have long made ending elder abuse a top priority. I worked hard to develop a national criminal background check system for nursing home, home health, and other long-term care employees. While the vast majority of these employees are diligent, dedicated, and professional, it is too easy for people with abusive and criminal backgrounds to find work in long-term care. This is unacceptable. Today, seven States, including my home State of Wisconsin, are engaged in a pilot project based on my legislation which requires long-term care employers to run FBI criminal background checks on potential employees before they are hired and trusted to care for our loved ones. My hope is that upon completion of this pilot project, we will move to a national criminal background check system and protect seniors in all 50 States.
I am also a proud original cosponsor of the Elder Justice Act, which takes a number of steps to prevent and treat elder abuse. It will improve prevention and intervention by funding State and local projects that keep older Americans safe. It will ensure that health officials, social services, law enforcement, long-term care facilities, consumer advocates, and families are all working together to confront this problem; and, it will establish training programs so health professionals in both forensic pathology and geriatrics can better detect elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Finally, the bill will establish victim assistance programs, create ``safe havens'' for seniors in dangerous living situations, and help train law enforcement officers to prioritize and investigate cases of elder abuse.
Researchers have warned us that the reported cases of elder abuse might only be the tip of the iceberg; that is why World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is so important. We must spread the word: elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation is occurring every day and, if left unchecked, will only grow more prevalent. As I continue my efforts here in the Senate, I encourage my colleagues and Americans everywhere to join me in putting an end to this terrible scourge of elder abuse.