The U.S. House of Representatives will soon be considering legislation including the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act S. 178, which was recently passed by the Senate. It has now been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. This bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), addresses the escalating problem of elder abuse in this country. The bill has three goals: 1. to ensure prosecution of those perpetrating scams, 2. to improve our data collection so we better know the extent of the problem, and 3. to provide for enhanced prevention programs and activities to avert future victimization.
The bill would establish needed federal infrastructure within the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to support prosecution of elder abuse cases. The bill also provides that the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Justice Department will each have an elder justice coordinator. The bill provides that at least one Assistant U.S. Attorney per judicial district be assigned to the prosecution of elder abuse cases. One of the problems in prosecuting these cases is the differing state laws and interstate nature of many of the scams targeted toward the senior population. Establishing a federal forum for prosecution should go a long way to curb the elder abuse problem.
The bill would also raise public awareness through outreach efforts. The Assistant U.S. Attorney in each judicial district is also tasked with providing community outreach. The bill also provides for enhanced penalties for elder abuse, including mandatory forfeiture.
The plight of now deceased CT resident, Robert Motava, inspired Senator Blumenthal’s efforts to address the problem of elder abuse. Robert Motava, a decorated World War II veteran, became the victim of elder abuse at the hands of his son. His son took his house, his auto repair business and all of his savings. He brought his former constituent’s story to Senator Chuck Grassley and was able to get Senators on both sides of the aisle to support this bill. According to Senator Blumenthal the increased governmental oversite on the elder abuse problem could have alleviated or prevented the abuse that Motava endured.
Another important bill, the Credit for Caring Act (S. 1151/H.R. 2505) introduced by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Elizabeth Warren (DMA), and Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Linda Sánchez (D-CA) is expected to have bipartisan appeal. The Credit for Caring Act could help working family caregivers offset the cost of some caregiving expenses such as a home care aide, adult day care, home modifications, assistive technology, respite care, transportation, or other supports that help their loved ones.
According the AARP, the bill would provide a new, non-refundable federal tax credit of up to $3,000 to family caregivers to help address the financial challenges of caregiving. The amount of the credit would be 30 percent of the qualified expenses paid or incurred by the family caregiver above $2,000, up to a maximum credit amount of $3,000. The tax credit would phase out at higher income levels.
Family caregivers caring for loved ones of all ages could receive the credit if the care recipient meets certain functional or cognitive limitations or other requirements certified by a licensed health care practitioner. Eligible family caregivers include spouses and the qualifying relative relationships named under the “dependent” definition in current law, and they must have earned income for the taxable year over $7,500. The family caregiver would need to appropriately document qualified expenses. Some dollar amounts and income levels used in the bill would be indexed to inflation. The bill includes provisions to coordinate with other existing tax provisions to prevent double dipping.
While gridlock pervades Washington, congressional efforts to benefit the aging population is creating bipartisan cooperation.