Friday, February 20, 2009

Federal "Elder Abuse Victims Act" Reintroduced

On February 11, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill reintroduced on January 9, 2009, by Rep Joe Sestak and co-sponsors, entitled the Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2009 (House Resolution 448), and sent it to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

The text of the legislation is found here, and a summary of its provisions is found here.

The summary of H.R. 448 states its purpose:

To protect seniors in the United States from elder abuse by establishing specialized elder abuse prosecution and research programs and activities to aid victims of elder abuse, to provide training to prosecutors and other law enforcement related to elder abuse prevention and protection, to establish programs that provide for emergency crisis response teams to combat elder abuse, and for other purposes.
Health Industry Washington Watch, in its posting, "House Passes Elder Abuse Victims Act" (02/12/09), itemized the directives of H.R. 448:
The legislation would direct the Attorney General to:
  1. Study and report to Congress on state laws and practices relating to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation (including laws requiring reporting of nursing home deaths);
  2. Develop a long-term plan for elder justice programs and activities;
  3. Award grants to support and train state and local prosecutors, courts, and law enforcement personnel handling elder justice-related matters; and
  4. Establish the Elder Serve Victim grant program to facilitate and coordinate programs to provide emergency services to victims of elder abuse.
An article entitled "House passes Elder Abuse Victims Act" (02/14/09) published in the Delaware County Daily Times (PA) noted that "[f]unds for training law enforcement officials on how to respond to elder abuse cases and nurse-investigators that are experts in identifying elder abuse are also in the bill."

According to a press release entitled "
House Passes Elder Abuse Victims Act Congressman Sestak Introduced Bill to Protect our Senior Citizens" issued on February 12, 2009 by the bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Joe Sestak, "H.R. 448 was the first bill on elder abuse to pass the House in 17 years.
Congressman Sestak originally introduced the Elder Abuse Victims Act in the 110th session. It is now the first bill to pass the House of Representatives in 17 years on elder abuse.

The legislation focuses on protecting seniors from abuse by evaluating state and federal programs, advocacy grants, and prosecution of elder abuse cases.

Notably, it funds elder abuse prosecutorial departments at the local, state and federal levels; trains law enforcement officials on appropriate action in these cases; funds nurse-investigators who are experts in identifying elder abuse; and requires the Attorney General to conduct a study evaluating state programs and practices designed to protect seniors from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. * * *
This bill is the successor to H.R. 5352, the Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2008, which was introduced into the 110th Congress, but which failed to become law. See EE&F Law Blog posting Federal "Elder Justice" Acts Appear Elusive (09/12/08).

A Republican Party website, in its Legislative Digest entry regarding the
Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2009 provided further background & summaries about H.R. 448, its predecessor legislation, and projected costs of its proposed programs.

Given its quick reintroduction into the 111th Congress, and its even quicker adoption by the House, the prospects for H.R. 448 seem far brighter than its predecessor.

“I believe that this legislation will advance the way we prosecute perpetrators of elder abuse and protect its vulnerable victims.
It will require a comprehensive review and study of state elder justice systems, including definitions of abuse, and it will do more to improve the prosecution and enforcement of elder justice cases.”

-- Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA)