Issue: Elder Abuse
The numbers of reports of elder abuse is increasing and are being filed in state courts.
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)
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 continues to champion this issue through her re-introduction of the Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act (S. 1614) on 6/18/15. The bill amends 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.
On 5/16/13, Senator Klobuchar, along with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), introduced the Court Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protect Act (S. 975). The measure would include court-appointed guardianship improvement and oversight activities as a new purpose under the existing demonstration grant program authorized by the Elder Justice Act of 2009. On 12/19/13, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 975 by a vote of 14-4. The bill as introduced in the 114th Congress, the Court Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protect Act (S. 1614), was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Cornyn is again an original co-sponsor. Additional co-sponsors are being sought as is the introduction of a companion bill in the House.
On 6/29/16, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing, Protecting Older Americans from Financial Exploitation. In his opening statement, Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) said that the hearing “gives us an opportunity to ask whether the federal government is doing all it can to protect our Nation’s seniors.”
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.
It is not clear yet whether either Senator Klobuchar or Senator Grassley will re-introduce their respective bills.