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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

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By Mr. KOHL (for himself, Mr. CASEY, Mrs. Gillibrand, Mr. BLUMENTHAL, Mr. NELSON of Florida, Ms. MIKULSKI, and Mr. BROWN of Ohio):

S. 462. A bill to better protect, serve, and advance the rights of victims of elder abuse and exploitation by establishing a program to encourage States and other qualified entities to create jobs designed to hold offenders accountable, enhance the capacity of the justice system to investigate, pursue, and prosecute elder abuse cases, identify existing resources to leverage to the extent possible, and assure data collection, research, and evaluation to promote the efficacy and efficiency of the activities described in this Act; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today with Senators BLUMENTHAL, SHERROD BROWN, CASEY, GILLIBRAND, MIKULSKI and BILL NELSON to introduce the Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2011. This legislation creates in the Department of Justice an Office of Elder Justice, OEJ, that will protect America's seniors by strengthening law enforcement's response to elder abuse. The OEJ will provide leadership, training materials and other needed information to prosecutors, law enforcement, adult protective services and others, in order to build a robust infrastructure to effectively address elder abuse. Additionally, the bill will encourage states to set up multidisciplinary teams where information and resources are shared in order to better serve the victims of elder abuse.

The plight of vulnerable seniors is a subject of great concern. Elder abuse is often hidden from sight by the victims themselves. Even so, experts conservatively estimate that as many as two million Americans age 65 and older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depend for care or protection.

As Federal policymakers, it is time that we step forward and tackle this challenge with dedicated efforts and more vigorous programs that will make fighting elder abuse as important a priority as ongoing efforts to counter child abuse.

We need to provide assistance to our courts, which would benefit from having access to designated staff that has particular knowledge and expertise in elder abuse. Specialized protocols may be required where victims are unable to testify on their own behalf, due to cognitive impairments or poor physical health. And there is a great need for specialized knowledge that will support successful prosecutions and enhance the development of case law. Today, many state elder abuse statutes lack adequate provisions to encourage wide reporting of abuse and exploitation, more thorough investigations, and greater prosecution of abuse cases.

For the victims of elder abuse, many of whom are physically frail and very frightened, we must do much more. First and foremost, we must be more responsive. Not too long ago, it was difficult to even get an abuse case investigated. While that is starting to change, we have much more work to do. Sometimes, for example, emergency interventions may be needed, particularly if the older person is being harmed at the hands of family members or trusted ``friends.'' It may be necessary to remove the older adult from his or her home to a temporary safe haven. To do this, we must build a much more robust infrastructure.

This legislation, strongly supported by the Elder Justice Coalition, will go a long way toward improving the ability of law enforcement, prosecutors and other government agencies to respond to abuse of older Americans.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

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By Mr. KOHL (for himself, Mr. CASEY, Mr. BLUMENTHAL, and Mr. BROWN of Ohio):

S. 464. A bill to establish a grant program to enhance training and services to prevent abuse in later life; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today with Senators BLUMENTHAL, SHERROD BROWN, and CASEY to introduce the End Abuse in Later Life Act of 2011. This legislation improves the provisions in the existing Violence Against Women Act dealing with abuse in later life by enhancing direct services for victims and increasing the kinds of experts who participate in multidisciplinary training programs.

Abuse in later life is a sad and growing problem in our society. Experts conservatively estimate that 14.1 percent of older Americans have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depend for care or protection each year. This type of abuse is especially disturbing because the victims are often physically frail, defenseless, and very frightened.

It is time that we take action on the Federal level to protect older Americans who fall victim to physical, financial, sexual and emotional abuse. We can do this by training law enforcement, prosecutors, governmental agencies, victim advocates, and relevant court officers to recognize and address instances of abuse in later life. This legislation also encourages cross-training of these groups and multidisciplinary collaborative community efforts in order to better serve victims.

By passing this legislation, we will ensure that abuse later in life is given the serious consideration it deserves and make great strides to protect one of the most vulnerable populations in America. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

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