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Press Release

Seventeen Federal Agencies Recognize Decade of Federal Progress Addressing Elder Abuse

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

At a meeting of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council (EJCC) on Wednesday, June 12, 17 federal agencies including the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will look back on a decade in which the federal government has significantly expanded efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation — including in the areas of enforcement, public education, training, interagency collaboration, research, and support for older adults who experience or are at risk of experiencing abuse.

“We know that the vast majority of elder abuse cases go unreported. And that too many victims remain unseen,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “That is why the Department of Justice has aggressively targeted perpetrators of elder fraud and abuse, while providing victims with the support they need. In the last five years, the Department has pursued more than 1,500 criminal and civil cases involving conduct that targeted or disproportionately affected older adults. We have provided services to more than 1.5 million older victims. And we have returned hundreds of millions of dollars to elder fraud victims. The Elder Justice Coordinating Council has played a key role in our work.”

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting the health, well-being, and independence of older adults and to advancing equity for all Americans. Elder justice is a crucial element of both,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Today, we celebrate the progress we have made advancing elder justice. But we will not rest until every older person lives with dignity and without fear of abuse or neglect.”

“We know that it will take an all-of-government approach to make our shared vision of elder justice and community inclusion a reality, and in the last decade, the federal response to elder abuse has become more robust and coordinated,” said Alison Barkoff, who leads the Administration for Community Living. “It is incredible to reflect on the progress we have made in the years since the EJCC first convened. We have a lot of progress to build upon and so many opportunities to do more. The work of advancing elder justice has never been more important, or more urgent.”

The EJCC was established by the 2010 Elder Justice Act to coordinate federal activities related to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation across the federal government. Today’s meeting looked back on accomplishments in the decade since the EJCC adopted Eight Recommendations for Increased Federal Involvement in Addressing Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation as a common set of priorities to guide federal efforts. Highlights include:

  • HHS’ Administration for Community Living awarded the first-ever federal formula grants to support state adult protective services (APS) programs and established the first-ever federal regulations to improve quality and consistency of APS services. Until recently, APS programs had been funded and administered wholly at the state or local level.
  • The Justice Department expanded its critical efforts to identify and combat transnational elder fraud schemes and, over just the past five years, has pursued over 1,500 criminal and civil cases involving conduct that targeted or disproportionately affected older Americans. It also significantly enhanced the capacity of state and local elder justice professionals to identify, investigate, and address elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.
  • The Justice Department, FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and five other federal law enforcement agencies undertake an annual Money Mule Initiative, targeting networks of individuals through which international fraudsters obtain proceeds of fraud schemes. These individuals, sometimes referred to as money mules, receive money from fraud victims and forward the illicit funds, often to overseas perpetrators. Since 2020, U.S. law enforcement has taken to address over 14,000 money mules through the annual initiative; enforcement actions have occurred in every state in the country.
  • The HHS’ Administration for Community Living developed the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS), a first-of-its-kind effort to systematically collect from APS programs across the country standardized data about the incidence of elder maltreatment. Participation is voluntary, but all states, territories, and the District of Columbia submit data each year.
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) launched Slam the Scam Day in 2020 to raise awareness about government imposter scams. In addition, SSA has created a variety of resources to train its employees, representative payees, and others on to recognize elder abuse and financial exploitation.
  • The Federal Trade Commission established the Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Group of government partners, consumer advocates, and industry representatives to collaborate, develop ideas, share suggestions, and insights and identify actions that can be taken to help older adults spot, avoid, and report scams. The advisory group’s four subcommittees focus on expanding consumer education efforts; improving industry training on scam prevention; identifying innovative or high-tech methods to detect and stop scams; and developing research on consumer or employee engagement to reduce fraud.

In addition to leaders from HHS and the Justice Department, speakers at today’s EJCC meeting will include four pioneers of the elder justice movement whose hard work has made the progress of the last decade possible:

  • Marie-Therese Connolly, President, RISE Collaborative; Former Coordinator, Elder Justice Initiative and Former Senior Trial Counsel, Civil Fraud Section, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, Justice Department
  • Kathy Greenlee, Senior Director of Elder Justice Initiatives, Advancing States and Former Assistant Secretary for Aging, Administration for Community Living, HHS
  • Sidney Stahl, former Chief, Individual Behavioral Processes Branch, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health
  • Edwin Walker, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging at HHS’ Administration for Community Living.

By statute, the EJCC is chaired by the HHS Secretary, and the Attorney General is a permanent member. HHS has assigned responsibility for implementing the EJCC to the Administration for Community Living. Since it was created, the EJCC has grown from nine to 17 members, with each new agency bringing unique knowledge and resources to address the complex issue of elder maltreatment.

Research shows that at least one in 10 older adults who live in the community experiences some form of maltreatment each year — and this is likely an undercount, because only one in 14 cases is reported. People who experience abuse have higher rates of depression, hospitalization, and institutionalization — and they are more likely to die prematurely. They also may experience deteriorated family relationships, diminished autonomy, and institutionalization as the direct result of maltreatment.

Updated June 12, 2024

Topic
Elder Justice
Press Release Number: 24-744