U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar's legislation to protect seniors from neglect and abuse by guardians passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today with a 15-3 vote, paving the way for a vote in the full Senate. The Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, co-sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), would protect seniors and persons with disabilities from neglect and financial exploitation by improving oversight and accountability for court-appointed guardians and conservators.
"While most court-appointed guardians are undoubtedly professional, caring and law-abiding, there is mounting evidence that some guardians use their position of power for their own gain," Klobuchar said."This is a positive step forward for this critical legislation that would help increase accountability and oversight of guardians and protect those who are most vulnerable."
Klobuchar's legislation would provide support to states to implement programs to increase oversight of guardians and conservators. Specifically, the bill provides funding for state courts to assess the handling of proceedings relating to guardian and conservators, and then make the necessary improvements to their practices. The bill sets aside a portion of the funding for states seeking to implement or improve systems for conducting background checks on potential guardians and conservators. It also authorizes state courts to implement an electronic filing system in order to better monitor and audit conservatorships and guardianships.
A 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2010. The report reviewed 20 of these cases and found that guardians had stolen,or otherwise improperly obtained,$5.4 million from 158 incapacitated victims, many of whom were older adults.
Klobuchar chaired a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts focusing on the issue of abuse by guardians. During the hearing, Klobuchar called for more accountability and oversight of court-appointed guardians to ensure that seniors are safe and receive the services they deserve. Klobuchar also invited the Minnesota State Ombudsman for Long-Term Care, Deb Holtz, to testify at the hearing. Holtz highlighted the challenges facing court systems that lack the resources to effectively oversee guardians and conservators.