Bonamici, Neal, Wyden, Casey Propose Legislation to Protect Seniors from Abuse and Neglect
WASHINGTON, DC – House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), today offered a bill to protect seniors across the country by reauthorizing and funding the Elder Justice Act.
“We must do all we can to make sure the older Americans who cared for our communities throughout their lives are not taken advantage of in their later years,” said Congresswoman Bonamici. “Far too many seniors have experienced abuse and neglect, and the coronavirus pandemic has increased isolation and put even more people at risk. As Co-Chair of the House Elder Justice Caucus, I will continue fighting for this important update to the Elder Justice Act.”
“The rampant spread of COVID-19 and the devastation this deadly virus has caused among seniors has highlighted the desperate need to better protect our nation’s elderly,” Chairman Neal said. “The abuse and neglect they experience is unacceptable, and this legislation will improve the federal government’s elder justice work by enhancing existing programs and funding research for response methods.”
“Now more than ever, seniors need to know they won’t be forgotten,” Ranking Member Wyden said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed just how vulnerable seniors are, whether they live at an assisted living facility, with a relative or by themselves. The Elder Justice Act is aimed at protecting American seniors from abuse and neglect – it’s time to act.”
“Elder abuse is a pervasive scourge in our society. As our population ages, seniors deserve to live out their golden years free from financial, physical and emotional abuse,” said Senator Casey. “In cases where seniors are mistreated, we must ensure there are resources available to help them seek justice. The Elder Justice Reauthorization Act would provide funding to help address suspected cases of senior abuse and neglect, including the increasing number being reported during the current pandemic. It is critical that Congress quickly pass this legislation to help protect our nation’s older adults.”
“The bipartisan Elder Justice Coalition commends Chairman Neal, Ranking Member Wyden, Senator Casey and Congresswoman Bonamici for the expected introduction of legislation to reauthorize the landmark Elder Justice Act,” said Bob Blancato, National Coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition. “This bill recognizes two realities. The first is that elder abuse wherever it is committed remains a grave problem impacting millions of older adults annually. The second reality it recognizes is that we need a comprehensive and coordinated federal response to this problem, which must include dedicated funding for adult protective services, a stronger, better-trained long term care ombudsman program, forensic centers to better detect and report elder abuse, and adequate and well-trained staff working in nursing homes.”
The bill, called the Elder Justice Reauthorization Act, reauthorizes the Elder Justice Act and funds the bill’s provisions with over $2.2 billion. Key provisions of the bill would fund elder justice coordination and research activities, enhancements to the long-term care workforce and patient safety, grants to Adult Protective Services (APS) programs and protections for residents of long-term care facilities, among other activities.
The bill would also provide $200 million for the Social Services Block Grant to provide targeted support for APS programs and ensure their capacity to address abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults and people with disabilities. This new funding is essential to meet the health and safety needs of APS program workers and the vulnerable individuals they serve by providing support to purchase personal protective equipment for APS staff and increase their capacity to investigate the skyrocketing reports and cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Together, these activities are an important step toward a comprehensive federal response to ensure the safety and dignity of older adults and people with disabilities. The Elder Justice Act was first passed as a part of the Affordable Care Act, but authorizations for its programs and activities expired in 2014.