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. 8169, the Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2020:
"H.R. 8169, the 'Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2020,' would establish the Elder Justice Initiative as a permanent Department of Justice coordinating element; require the Elder Justice Initiative to post online materials for the public to help identify elder abuse and report it; and require the Initiative to translate into Spanish the materials it prepares aimed at the public.
"Elder abuse is a pernicious crime. Physical abuse can lead to early 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 it is particularly tragic, as elderly Americans can see their whole life’s savings be stolen away.
"In addition, elder abuse can sever family ties and destroy longstanding relationships.
"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.
"In recent years, Congress has worked to help focus federal and local law enforcement efforts on elder abuse. Making permanent the Elder Justice Initiative is an important step toward normalizing DOJ-wide coordination efforts and is an important sign to United States Attorneys nationwide that prosecuting elder abuse will and should remain a priority area for the foreseeable future.
"This bill also requires that the Elder Justice Initiative’s current library of materials remain online and available to prosecutors and front-line elder abuse responders.
"But this alone is not enough. 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. 8169 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 will also strengthen family bonds by educating Spanish-speaking caretakers to spot warning signs of abuse.
"Empowering older Spanish-speaking Americans and their families is an important step to reducing elder abuse within a particularly vulnerable group.
"Elder justice and protecting the rights of older Americans has been a bipartisan effort. I thank our colleague, Representative Garcia, for taking up this important issue and I ask all my colleagues join me in supporting this legislation."