The Robert Matava Elder Abuse Prosecution Act of 2017, introduced by Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, has recently passed the House after passing the Senate in August. It awaits signature by President Trump before officially becoming law.
Also named the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, the act seeks “To prevent elder abuse and exploitation and improve the justice system’s response to victims in elder abuse and exploitation cases.” The act contains several major components, including assigning at least one federal United States Assistant Attorney, called an elder justice coordinator, in every federal jurisdiction. This attorney would help pursue and prosecute cases of elder abuse, increase community awareness of elder abuse, and train FBI agents in recognizing, pursuing, and prosecuting those guilty of elder abuse.
The act requires the Federal Trade Commission to also elect someone to serve as an Elder Justice Coordinator that would be responsible for “coordinating and supporting the enforcement and consumer education efforts and policy activities of the Federal Trade Commission on elder justice issues.” The Federal Trade Commission is also expected to submit an annual report to both the House of Representatives and the Senate that outlines all cases of elder fraud that were pursued that year. This includes financial schemes that target the elderly. The act notes that nearly $3 billion is swindled from the elderly each year due to fraud or exploitation.
Federal Elder Abuse Cases Will Now Become Public Record
Another major provision of the act is to streamline and improve and communicate data collection regarding instances of abuse. The Attorney General will become responsible for gathering data annually from federal law enforcement regarding elder abuse cases and posting them on the Department of Justice’s website for public viewing. The act enforces what elder advocates already know: That nearly half of all elderly adults suffering from dementia are victims of abuse and that “elder abuse involves the exploitation of potentially vulnerable individuals with devastating physical, mental, emotional, and financial consequences to the victims and their loved ones.” We are hopeful that President Trump will sign the Act into law and that increased scrutiny and prosecution of financial, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of the elderly will deter those who are potentially capable of such hideous crimes.
To read the act in its entirety, please click here.