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White House Coordinates Effort to Fight Elder Abuse

The AARP Blog shared information last week on new federal programs seeking to target elder financial abuse. Like all forms of elder mistreatment, our Chicago elder abuse lawyers know that there is chronic underreporting of these issues. Older Americans are consistently barraged by a range of individuals that seek to use their vulnerability for their own financial gain.

The problem is severe and it is only getting worse. The most recent data suggests that nearly $3 billion was lost in 2010 to this abuse. That represents a steady increase from the three previous years, with a least a 12% jump from 2008.

In an effort to tackle the problem once and for all, the White House is hoping to replace the current anti-financial abuse measures that are quite fragmented. Instead, it will be replaced by a much improved, coordinated project. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the new project last Thursday.

The New Approach
About $5 million in funds from the Affordable Care Act will be designated to the effort. In particular, a new federal “elder justice coordination team” will be created with officials from the Justice Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). the team is tasked with analyzing current efforts across various federal departments that target this abuse. They will then come up with recommendations to correct the current fragmentation and enhance protections for seniors.

Part of the effort will also take a look at successes at a state level. Secretary Sebelius noted that the new task force will look at state protective service systems which worked to prevent fraud and other forms of elder financial exploitation. All efforts that worked will be included in the group’s plan to come up with best practices. Much of the material will be shared with caregivers and others in a position to recognize the abuse and report it.

In keeping with the new spirit of coordination on these efforts, the Director of the CFPB also announced step the the agency to better address the ways that seniors are taken advantage of financially. For their part, CFPB Director Richard Cordray wants to hear from members of the general public on ways that these abuses are stopped. All those who work directly with seniors or otherwise have experience with these matters are being sought out for counsel.

For example, our Illinois elder abuse attorneys know that the CFPB wants guidance on helping seniors root out legitimate financial advisors from those who are merely looking to take advantage of the senior’s vulnerabilities.

Like most recent efforts on this front, a lot of work is going into figuring out ways to remove the problem from the shadows. Elder abuse and exploitation advocates repeatedly explain how the vast majority of abuse is kept hidden for a range of reason. Surveys into the issue found that nearly 86% of victims reported shame at being taken advantage of in this way. In addition, those with certain mental vulnerabilities are more likely to be taken advantage of and also more likely to be unable to recognize and report the abuse.

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