Fighting Back Against the Hidden Epidemic of Elder Abuse

June 14, 2012

Today, Deputy Attorney General James Cole spoke  on behalf of the Department of Justice at the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event at the White House. In 2006, June 15th was designated as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to recognize the mistreatment of elderly people globally and to highlight the need for preventative actions. Elder abuse includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse; neglect; and even financial abuse.

Deputy Attorney General Cole spoke about the importance of protecting older Americans who are often targets of financial fraud and abuse schemes. Financial abuse and exploitation crimes include nursing homes and other health care providers that exploit Medicare beneficiaries for their own profit. It may also include the elderly falling victim to consumer scams and fraud. The government continues to fight back against these types of crimes.

As Deputy Attorney General Cole said:

“Elder abuse is a hidden epidemic that annually impacts the health and well-being of six million older people…For me, and for today’s Department of Justice, protecting older Americans is a top priority that we advance on multiple fronts. Too many elderly Americans are suffering alone - together we can change that.”

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice also hosted a historic consumer protection summit for law enforcement and consumer advocates to harness collective experiences, discuss strategies for enhancing enforcement of consumer fraud crimes, and increase public awareness of these crimes so ordinary citizens can fight back themselves.

Deputy Attorney General Cole further explained that financial abuse of the elderly involves draining resources of individuals, families, businesses and public programs like Medicare and Medicaid. He specifically called for more programs by civil legal aid lawyers to help prevent and remedy such elder abuse, and announced the “Missing Link Project.” This program, established by the department’s Elder Justice Initiative, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Access to Justice Initiative, will develop training materials for legal service providers to identify, support, and respond to the special needs of older victims.

To protect the financial integrity of the Medicare program, both the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services created the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Teams (HEAT) in 2009. Since then, the agencies have recovered over $8 billion in cases involving fraud against Medicare and other federal health care programs – returning these dollars to taxpayers and preventing these criminals from continuing their operations.

For more information on these programs to fight abuse, or if you or someone you know is a victim of elder abuse, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse. You may also find more information at WhiteHouse.gov.

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