January 6, 2012

Editorial Lambasts Washington for Ignoring Elder Abuse

by Levin & Perconti

An editorial in this week’s Huffington Post from the National Coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition, offered a general summary of the sad state of affairs when it comes to elder abuse identification and prevention. Despite the encouraging signs that more focus is slowly being directed at the plight of so many vulnerable seniors, the fact remains that elders suffer every day without anyone doing anything about it. Certain aspects of the problem have reached epidemic proportions. For example, during the holiday season it is estimated that one in ten seniors fell victim to some form of elder financial abuse. Collectively, this amounts to a loss of more than $3 billion each and every year. In some of the most extreme cases, seniors lose savings that they had built up over a lifetime.

Each Chicago elder abuse attorney at our firm knows how most victims of this form of abuse never receive any vindication. The problem remains hidden, accountability is not had, and future abusers feel confident enough to hurt more and more victims in this way. Last year Congress held hearings on the plight of many of these seniors, highlighting the scope of the problem and its various forms. In the past the body has actually worked to enact legislation to tackle the problem—the Elder Justice Act. However, as the editorial points out, for the second year in a row Congress passed a spending bill while failing to fun this piece of legislation—the only federal elder abuse prevention act on the books. The President had asked Congress to authorize $21.5 million in startup funds to get the prevention project off the ground. However, Congress ignored this request and so the measure will remain stalled yet again.

It remains disappointing that so little is being done on a federal level to actually prevent this abuse before it occurs so that victims are spared. Instead, elder abuse lawyers are forced to spearhead the accountability project by seeking to hold wrongdoers accountable after the fact. Ideally steps would be enacted to help stop the problems from arising in the first place.

It is always frustrating when political posturing gets in the way of addressing a real issue. As the editorial notes, going into this election year, it is obvious that politicians on both sides with engage in loud rhetoric in an attempt to attract the vote of older Americans. Seniors are the most reliable voters, and with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, their numbers are increasing. However, all elder rights advocates know that seniors respond to promises kept, not promises made. Promises to ensure quality medical care and prevent instances of elder abuse are worthless if positive steps are not taken to fulfill those promises. Passing an elder prevention bill and then failing to fund it is an example of a promise made but not kept. The author noted that proper funding for elder justice must be made a priority this election season. All those who care about proper treatment of seniors should educate themselves on where each candidate stands on this important issue.

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