U.S. Representatives Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Peter T. King (R-NY) praised the Senate Finance Committee for unanimously passing the Elder Justice Act earlier today. In 2007, Emanuel and King, joined U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) to introduce the Elder Justice Act (HR 1783/S.1070), the first comprehensive federal effort to address and prevent elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Elder Justice Act aims to make communities safer for older Americans by developing new strategies and requiring prompt reporting of crimes in nursing homes.
"Every year, millions of American seniors are victims of abuse and neglect. This bill will bring focus to the problem of elder abuse and elevate it to the same level as other family violence issues, like domestic violence and child abuse," said Emanuel. "I applaud the Senate Finance Committee for taking on this important legislation."
"Unspeakable acts of physical abuse and neglect have led to the deaths of too many of our senior citizens. I commend the Senate Finance Committee for passing this bipartisan legislation which will dedicate federal resources to the prevention of elder abuse and the protection of our seniors."
If enacted into law, the Elder Justice Act would provide federal resources to state and community officials who currently grapple with elder abuse with scarce means and fragmented systems. Mechanisms for identifying and tracking elder abuse indicate that many instances of injustice are not reported for appropriate prosecution.
Some of the bill's provisions include measures to:
Establish an Elder Justice Coordinating Council to make recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the coordination of activities of the Federal, State, local and private agencies and entities relating to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Improve the quality of information and research related to elder abuse.
Create new forensic expertise in elder abuse (similar to that in child abuse) that will promote detection and increase the capacity to prosecute offenders. New programs will train health professionals in both forensic pathology and geriatrics.
Establish penalties and prosecution for failure to promptly report crimes in long-term care facilities. The act will require reporting of crimes in nursing homes on an official federal website.
Provide a first-time direct funding stream for Adult Protective Services (APS) - $100 million a year for four years.
Establish an advisory board to create a short- and long-term multidisciplinary strategic plan for the developing field of elder justice.
Authorize $10 million for national organizations or states that represent or train long-term care ombudsman representatives to provide training, technical assistance, demonstration programs and research to improve ombudsman effectiveness in addressing abuse and neglect in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Authorize $20 million in grants to enhance long-term care staffing through training and recruitment to establish employee incentives including career and wage benefit ladders and programs to improve management practices.
The legislation has been endorsed by the Elder Justice Coalition, a national membership organization comprised of 525 groups dedicated to eliminating elder abuse, neglect and exploitation in America, including the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, National Association of Adult Protective Service Administrators, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, AARP, National Association of State Ombudsman Programs and the National Association of State Units on Aging.