Today U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, called on the Justice Department to make the growing problem of elder abuse a national priority.
"Sadly, the physical, mental and financial abuse and exploitation of our nation's seniors is all too common," Kohl said. "America's population of older adults is projected to increase by 60 percent over the next 25 years. If we fail to stop this problem now, millions of elderly victims will suffer in silence."
Kohl wrote to the Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to request that elder abuse be added to the list of priorities for states to consider when requesting funding for Victim Assistance Grants through the Criminal Victims Fund (CVF). These grants are used by states to provide emergency shelter, crisis intervention, counseling and other services to crime victims.
Kohl also asked OVC to provide leadership and specific recommendations for states on how best to expand efforts to stop elder abuse.
Earlier this year, Kohl convened a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. The hearing included heart-wrenching stories of physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of seniors.
Kohl has also introduced legislation -- the End Abuse in Later Life Act(S. 464) and the Elder Abuse Victims Act(S. 462) -- that would provide resources and strengthen enforcement in cases of elder abuse.
According to the Government Accountability Office, over 14 percent of our senior citizens living outside of nursing homes or assisted living facilities have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depend for care or protection. And, because elder abuse often goes unreported, the true number of victims is likely much higher. It is also estimated that financial exploitation of seniors alone costs the nation an estimated $2.6 billion annually.
The text of the letter follows.
September 20, 2011
Ms. Joye Frost, Acting Director
Department of Justice
Office for Victims of Crime
810 7th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20531
Dear Acting Director Frost:
I am writing to bring added attention to the pervasive and growing problem of elder abuse in the United States and urge you amend the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) guidelines to include elder abuse on the list of priority areas states should consider when funding programs. I applaud the Office for Victims of Crime for taking a comprehensive look at the current state of crime victims' services in your "Vision 21" project and look forward to your recommendations as to how federal, state and local entities should address enduring and emerging crime victims' issues, especially in the arena of elder abuse.
In my position as Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, I recently held a hearing on elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. In that hearing, the Committee heard heart-wrenching stories of physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of seniors. According to the GAO, over 14% of our senior citizens living outside of nursing homes or assisted living facilities have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depend for care or protection. Sadly, elder abuse often goes unreported so the true number of victims is likely much higher. The elderly population of the United States is expected to increase by 60% over the next 25 years, meaning that this problem will only grow and more and more elderly victims will suffer in silence.
In addition to causing the victims of elder abuse and their families immense emotional and personal harm, the problem of elder abuse imposes an economic burden on all Americans. Financial exploitation of seniors alone costs the nation an estimated $2.6 billion annually. The plight of vulnerable seniors must be a subject of great concern to us all. However, it does not get the attention it deserves.
The Crime Victims Fund (CVF), which your office administers, collects criminal fines and penalties and the money to provide grants to states for crime victim assistance programs. Through the CVF's Victim Assistance Grants, states are able to provide emergency shelter, crisis intervention, counseling and other services to crime victims. This is important work, but more often than not, these services overlook victims of elder abuse. In fact, your regulations, which provide guidance to states on how to prioritize their grant funding, do not list elder abuse as a priority.
1. 1. What steps have you taken to ensure that states are adequately addressing elder abuse?
2. 2. How can we encourage states to consider allocating grant funding to organizations that address elder abuse?
3. 3. While states determine which programs they will fund, your regulations require that they prioritize programs that serve victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and under-served victims. Where do victims of elder abuse fall in your list of priorities?
4. 4. Will you commit to adding victims of elder abuse to this list of priorities?
Thank you for your prompt attention to these questions. I look forward to working with you to address and put an end to elder abuse.
United States Senator