Elder Abuse

Issue: Elder Abuse

Impact:

The numbers of reports of elder abuse is increasing and are being filed in state courts.   

Position:

State court leaders support legislation to assist state courts to more effectively address guardianship and elder abuse cases. (CCJ and COSCA Resolution 13-A-6) and (CCJ Resolution 14-A-5 and COSCA Resolution 13-M-3)

Summary:

Congress incorporated the Elder Justice Act into the health care reform legislation (Public Law 111-148). The legislation authorized (1) an Elder Justice Coordinating Council, (2) an Advisory Board on Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation, (3) dedicated funding for adult protective services, and (4) a national program for criminal history background checks.  

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Court-Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act in the last two Congresses and in the current Congress.  NCSC was asked to testify at a hearing preceding introduction of the bill in October 2011. The bill introduced at that time would have amended the Older Americans Act to establish: (1) demonstration grants available to the Supreme Court of each state to assess the “role, responsibilities, and effectiveness” of courts that hear guardianship proceedings and monitor guardianships; implement changes based on those assessments; and collect data regarding those proceedings and the impact of the changes, (2) a pilot program to “identify efficient, effective, and economical procedures for State courts to conduct background checks on prospective guardians and conservators, ” and (3)   grants to state Supreme Courts to “assist in improving conservator monitoring efforts through electronic filing.”  No specific amount was authorized to support the new grants. 

Senator Klobuchar re-introduced the Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act (S. 1614) on 6/18/15.  The bill would amend the (Block Grants to States for Social Services and Elder Justice section) Social Security Act  to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to the highest courts of states to conduct demonstration programs that: (1) assess adult guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, including the appointment and the monitoring of the performance of court appointed guardians and conservators; and (2) implement needed changes based on these assessments, such as requiring background checks on all potential guardians, electronic filing, and annual accounting reviews. 

Status:

On 7/14/16, Senator Grassley introduced the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (S. 3270).  As introduced, the bill primarily addressed telemarketing and e-mail fraud.  The bill was marked-up by the Senate Judiciary Committee on 9/15/16.  Senator Grassley presented a revised bill for consideration in the form of a chairman’s substitute amendment, which included the text of Senator Klobuchar’s S. 1614.  The substitute amendment was approved by voice vote and the bill was reported favorably.

Senator Grassley re-introduced his Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (S. 178) on 1/20/17.  Senator Klobuchar’s Court-Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, is a provision in S. 178.  On 8/1/17, the Senate passed S. 178 by voice vote. 

On 10/3/17, the House approved S. 178 by a voice vote and the President signed the bill making it PL 115-70 on 10/18/18.

On 9/28/17, NCSC staff met with representatives of the Social Security Administration (SSA) to discuss CCJ/COSCA’s resolution encouraging increased information sharing related to representative payees.  SSA committed to conducting a legal analysis of the barriers to information sharing. 

On 12/5/17, Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX) introduced the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017 (H.R.4547).  One provision of the bill would direct the SSA to study how to exchange information with state courts regarding individuals with guardians and report to Congress on statutory barriers to exchanging information.