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Bipartisan Bill Curbing Crimes against Seniors Becomes Law

WASHINGTON –Bipartisan legislation to step up enforcement against perpetrators of crimes targeting senior citizens became law Wednesday after receiving the president’s signature. The Elder Abuse Prevention and Protection Act of 2017, introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), passed by a voice vote in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives in August and October respectively.
“Families across America, including in Iowa, have been victimized by crimes targeting seniors, and as the population ages, we can expect more and more victims if we don’t act. The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act takes meaningful steps to equip law enforcement, seniors and caregivers with additional tools so they can deter these crimes and hold perpetrators accountable,” Grassley said. “I am glad that the Senate, the House and the president—Democrat and Republican alike—took action to address such a kitchen-table, personal dignity issue.”
“Senior citizens and their loved ones deserve peace of mind and a sense of security during their golden years—not the constant threat of abuse and exploitation. Sadly, the breadth and invisibility of elder abuse present immense challenges to addressing these dangers. By raising awareness, improving prevention and increasing prosecution, this bipartisan victory will help combat the unconscionable nationwide scourge of elder abuse for years to come,” Blumenthal said.
Last year, Grassley chaired a Judiciary Committee hearing to examine how best to protect older Americans from financial abuse. The committee heard from officials at the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission who have handled these issues, as well as state officials from Iowa and Connecticut and a representative of the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
Elder financial exploitation has been called “the crime of the 21st century.” Studies indicate that it could be the most widespread form of elder abuse, costing older Americans as much as $36 billion each year; and many seniors are reluctant to report the crime. This legislation expands data collection and information sharing to better prevent and respond to all forms of elder abuse and exploitation, including financial crimes against seniors.
Specifically, the bill increases training for federal investigators and prosecutors and calls for the designation of at least one prosecutor in each federal judicial district who will be tasked with handling cases of elder abuse. It also ensures that the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Justice Department will both have an elder justice coordinator.
Finally, to deter future crimes against seniors, the bill increases penalties for perpetrators – including mandatory forfeiture.
Last year, the bipartisan 3,000-member Elder Justice Coalition called the bill, “one of the most comprehensive and meaningful bills ever developed to address the rapidly increasing problem of elder financial abuse in America.” The bill also has the support of Consumers Union, SIFMA, the 60 Plus Association, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Center for Victims of Crime, among others.
Along with Grassley and Blumenthal, the bill was cosponsored by Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.).
Grassley has launched several inquiries to combat crimes against seniors and worked to raise greater awareness for such issues facing seniors.