Friday, December 13, 2013
Pennsylvania's House of Representatives has been holding a series of hearings on elder abuse, in anticipation of potential amendments to the state's Older Adult Protective Services Act. The hearings offer presentations and panel discussions with experts speaking from different perspectives, including administration, law enforcement, providers, and advocates from various organizations.
I was invited to speak at the last panel on the topic of "financial exploitation," as a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Elder Law Section, and because of my experience as the former head of Penn State Dickinson's Elder Protection Clinic. [UPDATE: Here's a link to my written testimony, submitted in advance of hearing.] Other speakers included representatives of the Pennsylvania Bankers Association; community banks; credit unions; and from Area Agencies on Aging that are charged with investigation of reports of suspected abuse. A particularly strong speaker was Linda Mill, a certified financial examiner and former banker, who is now the investigations manager for Temple University's Institute on Protective Services.
During the bankers' presentations, speakers emphasized their institutions' training for all levels of personnel to spot red flags of abuse. This was part of their argument against any need for the state to adopt "mandatory reporting" of suspected abuse by banks and other financial institutions. In contrast, Mills testified that during the last ten years, despite her history of working on the bankers' side, she had come to the personal conclusion that mandatory reporting is necessary in order to provide more timely, effective investigation by public authorities. Mills pointed to Maryland's 2012 adoption of mandatory reporting as precedent.
The interaction between panelists and legislators was robust. For example, Committee Co-Chair Steve Samuelson (in the photo on the right, seated next to Chairman Tim Hennessey) asked whether agents under powers of attorney should be required to file annual reports to facilitate greater accountability. Representative Stephen McCarter asked about the practicality of "bonding" for agents using POAs. Representative Harold English had a detailed list, including the possibility of "payback" to fund investigative services and mandatory "recording" of current documents in order to make it clearer about which POAs are "in effect." He also expressed concern about annuity sales to elders.
Draft legislation updating Pennsylvania's Older Adult Protective Services Act is expected to circulate for comment later this month.
Special thanks to Eric Kovac from the Pennsylvania Bankers Association for sharing copies of his "insider" photos from the hearing.