Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, during the markup of H.R. 2922, the Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2021:
“I am proud to support H.R. 2922, the ‘Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2021,’ a bipartisan measure to establish the Elder Justice Initiative as a permanent part of the Department of Justice. The bill would also require the Elder Justice Initiative to post online materials for the public to help identify elder abuse and report it, and it would charge the Initiative with translating into Spanish the materials it prepares aimed at the public.
“In the months since this Committee considered and approved this proposal by voice vote last Congress, elder abuse and elder fraud issues have continued make national news.
“Sadly, we continued to see that physical abuse of the elderly can lead to premature death, debilitating physical limitations, and damaged psychological health. Emotional abuse can leave elderly Americans feeling fearful, depressed, and further isolated. Financial abuse can leave elderly Americans destitute and forced to make substantial adjustments to their lifestyle and is particularly tragic, as elderly Americans can see their whole life’s savings be stolen away.
“The pandemic has only exacerbated these problems. For nearly a year, tens of thousands of seniors have lived in preventative isolation, making it more difficult for families and communities to address the emotional toll of elder abuse.
“Every community in the United States has been impacted by instances of elder abuse. A study in my home state of New York found that an estimated one in 13 elderly individuals had been victims of at least one form of elder abuse in the previous year.
“These numbers are astounding.
“Even worse, according to one study funded by the National Institute of Justice, elderly Americans who were victims of psychological, physical, or sexual abuse were almost five times more likely to be victimized again. The same study found that a lack of social support for victims of elder abuse was a uniquely predictive factor for depression, general anxiety disorder, and poor health.
“We must do more to interrupt the cycle of elder abuse. Preventive measures, like those in H.R. 2922, must be expanded now.
“Unfortunately, existing efforts to address this issue have not been adequate to the task. Making available elder abuse resources that are accessible to all Americans is critically important.
“In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that the Latino population in the United States aged 65 and over was almost 4 million; this is approximately 8% of the overall population of those age 65 and over in the United States.
“To meet the needs of the Latino population, H.R. 2922 mandates that public materials on the Elder Justice Initiative website be translated into Spanish.
“Providing these translated resources will not only help Spanish-speaking older Americans find needed resources but also will strengthen family bonds by educating Spanish-speaking caretakers to spot warning signs of abuse.
“In recent years, Congress has moved to enact legislation to help focus federal and local law enforcement efforts on elder abuse. In 2017, Congress enacted ‘The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act’ to prevent and curtail elder abuse and to improve law enforcement’s response to victims of elder abuse and exploitation. Our colleague, Representative Ted Deutch, was a leader in the House effort to enact that law.
“H.R. 2922 continues these efforts by permanently authorizing the Elder Justice Initiative, to ensure that it can continue performing its important work, and by empowering older Spanish-speaking Americans and their families with the resources they need to reduce elder abuse.
“Elder justice and protecting the rights of older Americans historically has been a bipartisan effort, and I am pleased that this legislation continues in that tradition.
“I thank our colleague, the Gentlewoman from Texas, Sylvia Garcia, for taking up this important issue, and the Gentlewoman from Indiana, Victoria Spartz, for joining her in introducing this bill. I urge all my colleagues to support this legislation.”
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