Monday, February 8, 2016
Yes, another Social Security Scam is making the rounds. The AARP Fraud Watch Network alerted folks about a new scam that the FTC has discovered. According to the Fraud Watch explanation, people are being sent
an email with the subject line “Get Protected.” ... The email describes that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is supposedly offering great new features to help taxpayers protect their personal information and identities. It sounds so good that you may be tempted to click on the link provided — [don't do so] ...It’s a SCAM!
The scammers pose as SSA employees and to be even more authenticate-sounding, may even mention the “SAFE Act of 2015.” Of course, the email includes a link, and we all know what happens when one clicks on a link in a scam email....bad things.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
The Senate Special Committee on Aging has a meeting scheduled for 2:30 p.m., est on February 10, 2016. The topic of this meeting is "to examine a new scam by global drug traffickers perpetrated against our nation's seniors." Stay tuned for more information
Thursday, February 4, 2016
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) sent an email to the elderabuse listserv on February 4, 2016 that announced the release of a new brochure for family caregivers on how to advocate for those in their care with dementia. The email announcement explained that the
material was created by the USC Department of Family Medicine, with funds provided by the Archstone Foundation, and was developed using input from actual family caregivers of people with dementia through informant interviews and focus groups. The brochure provides information about elder abuse, tips for caregivers on how to protect and advocate for their loved ones, real life scenarios, and resources. The goal of this brochure is to help family caregivers of people with dementia to learn how to take care of themselves in order to prevent mistreatment....
The brochure explains elder mistreatment, offers tips on advocating for and protecting relatives with dementia and provides helpful contacts along with examples. The web version is available here and the print version, here.
Attorneys from Justice in Aging and Pro Seniors, Inc., with support from a grant from the Administration for Community Living, are offering a free webinar that targets the way in which older adults can lose benefits such as Social Security, SSI or Medicaid because of the actions by others who prey upon them.
The Webinar on "Recognizing and Remedying Elder Financial Abuse in Medicaid Denials" is on Tuesday, February 16, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EST, and is part of a series on protection of older adults from abuse for the National Legal Resource Center, working in conjunction with the National Consumer Law Center.
Here's a link to the registration page -- and again it is free!
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
My Blogging colleague Becky Morgan suggested that our faculty readers share hot topics or videos they are using in Elder Law courses. Along that line, I'm using an excerpt from a Dateline NBC program (archived in part by NBC, although special arrangements appear to be required for copies) from several years ago, that provides a dramatic introduction to a number of age-related legal issues.
The program tells the story of Dr. Gerald Klooster and his family. In 1995, friends of the family became concerned when they learned that Dr. Klooster, once a practicing obstetrician in California who was forced to retire early from his practice as the result of a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, had an appointment with his wife to meet with Dr. Kevorkian, of "assisted suicide" fame. One son, also a physician, became so concerned that he made the decision to whisk away his father to the son's own state of Michigan, for safeguarding. That triggered a two-state custody battle, initially resulting in inconsistent court rulings. Eventually, however, Dr. Klooster was returned to California where he resumed living with his wife, Ruth, and regularly saw his other children and grandchildren. The NBC program shows Gerald swimming and interacting with his family members.
One night, however, emergency personnel were summoned to the Klooster home, when it was learned that Gerald had ingested as many as 60 sleeping pills and alcohol in the middle of the night. Ruth is the one who called the emergency personnel, but then also reportedly directed them not to provide certain life-saving treatments. She was relying on her husband's pre-dementia living will.
Gerald Klooster did survive, and the NBC program provides fascinating interviews with family members, and shows the couple sitting hand-in-hand. Did he knowingly attempt to take his own life? Did he do so because he was a physician and, as his wife put it, "didn't want to live the disease through?" Or did Alzheimer's prevent him from having the capacity to make any such decision? The saga was also detailed in a New York Times article, linked here.
Lots of food for discussion with this story. It introduces the limitations of advance directives or living wills; it encourages discussion about Alzheimer's as a "real" phenomenon; it provides a stage for discussing powers of attorney, guardianships and family caregiver roles, just to name a few topics still "hot" today. Plus, it offers historical perspective on recent changes in laws, including uniform laws on jurisdiction for protective proceedings for adults, and assisted-suicide laws, including the California law that became effective on January 1 of this year.
The Klooster Saga lasts several years beyond the NBC Dateline story itself, as Dr. Klooster did live with his wife in California for additional years, before spending his last 18 months in a nursing center. According to this San Francisco news report, he passed away at the age of 72 of natural causes, but, sadly, the break in the relationship between his physician-son and the rest of the family had not healed.
January 13, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
When researching laws that purport to serve the interests of a target population, such as the elderly, I look to see whether there is an effective enforcement mechanism attached to the law. Without enforcement, the laws may serve merely as "scarecrows" to deter bad guys (who presumably are reading the laws… right?) or, perhaps, as a means by which legislators can proudly wear their "white hats," to show they are the good guys. One possible example could be Colorado's civil penalties for violation of the state's consumer protection laws where the victim is "elderly." C.R.S.A. Section 6-1-112 provides that:
"Any person who violates or causes another to violate any provision of this article [on consumer protections], where such violation was committed against an elderly person, shall forfeit and pay to the general fund of the state a civil penalty of not more than ten thousand dollars for each such violation. For purposes of this paragraph (c), a violation of any provision of this article shall constitute a separate violation with respect to each elderly person involved."
In a recent pro se Colorado case, Donna v. Countrywide Mortgage, the federal district court dismissed all counts of the complaint filed by the borrower, including the count alleging a violation of “Colorado elder law,” concluding that such a private claim must fail because only the attorney general and district attorneys are authorized to seek civil penalties under that law.
Of course, there could be other sources of effective, private rights of action for elder abuse in Colorado law.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
An article in the Washington Post shortly before Christmas had me shaking my head at the cluelessness of some employees of nursing homes regarding resident privacy. Nursing home workers have been posting abusive photos of elderly on social media gave me one of those "you have got to be kidding me moments." Maybe it's an age-gap thing, but I just can't fathom why it would be appropriate to post intimate photos of individuals with whose care one is entrusted. The article indicates that this is not a geographically isolated problem:
Nursing home workers across the country are posting embarrassing and dehumanizing photos of elderly residents on social media networks such as Snapchat, violating their privacy, dignity and, sometimes, the law.
ProPublica has identified 35 instances since 2012 in which workers at nursing homes and assisted-living centers have surreptitiously shared photos or videos of residents, some of whom were partially or completely naked. At least 16 cases involved Snapchat, a social media service in which photos appear for a few seconds and then disappear with no lasting record.
The article offers some illustrations of these photos and the remedies available against the perpetrators. The article also notes that not only are those photos invading resident privacy, they serve as evidence of the violations.
The incidents illustrate the emerging threat that social media poses to patient privacy and, at the same time, its powerful potential for capturing transgressions that previously might have gone unrecorded. Abusive treatment is not new at nursing homes. Workers have been accused of sexually assaulting residents, sedating them with antipsychotic drugs and failing to change urine-soaked bedsheets. But the posting of explicit photos is a new type of mistreatment — one that sometimes leaves its own digital trail.
How often is this violation of resident privacy occurring? The article notes that "ProPublica identified incidents by searching government inspection reports, court cases and media reports. [A district attorney in Massachusetts] said she suspects such incidents are underreported, in part because many of the victims have dementia and do not realize what has happened." So far HHS' Office of Civil Rights hasn't sanctioned any nursing homes "for violations involving social media or issued any recommendations to health providers on the topic." The article notes that CMS, in the process of revising the regs dealing with nursing homes, plans to deal with the issue when revising the definitions of various types of elder abuse. Even one of the social media sites referenced in the article expressed concern about the actions of those nursing home employees.
The article summarizes some cases where charges have been filed. Read the story and assign it to your students.
December 29, 2015 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Other | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, December 28, 2015
Sad news about manipulation by attorneys of older clients, and about specific individuals who have been sanctioned recently for their abuse:
- Florida Supreme Court "permanently disbarred" Cape Coral Florida attorney William Edy for theft from his clients. Before being charged with second degree grant theft from clients, Edy apparently held himself out as a trustworthy elder law attorney, writing a newspaper column and even commenting on financial abuse of the elderly.
- New Jersey Supreme Court suspended New Jersey attorney William Torre for one year, while sanctioning his conduct in "borrowing" money from a "vulnerable" 86 year old client, acting in his own self-interest and failing to repay her in a timely and appropriate manner.
The New Jersey court, writing unanimously, observed:
The Court considers respondent’s conduct against the backdrop of the serious and growing problem of elder abuse. As the population ages, and more people suffer health problems, it is not uncommon for family members to seek the appointment of a guardian to oversee the finances of an incapacitated loved one. Others, like M.D., turn to family or professionals for help and execute powers of attorney in favor of a relative, friend, or trusted lawyer. In those situations, the vast majority of attorneys perform honorably and act in a manner consistent with the highest ethical standards. But regrettably, as more seniors have needed help to manage their affairs, allegations of physical and financial abuse have also increased.
In a News-Press article about the Florida disbarment, Professor Geoffrey Hazard (Emeritus at Penn Law, Southern California Law and Yale Law) is quoted as noting that places with large numbers of retirees, such as Southern California, Florida and Arizona, have a "greater risk of attorney misbehavior," in part because of isolation from children and friends with whom they can discuss situations.
Along the same lines of financial misconduct by "professionals," a Texas psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Hadley Gross, was recently sentenced to "nearly six years in prison" for submitting false claims for services to residents at a nursing home, individuals who were shown to be either dead or discharged.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Although there is no season for scammers-it's a year round problem. But with the holidays there are specific scams that pop up. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently blogged about holiday scams that target elders. Beware of Scams Targeting Older People During the Holidays warns that
Scams that target older people occur every day, but you can count on scammers to ramp up their efforts to prey on people’s generosity during the holiday season. These grinches, armed with their dirty tricks, may even weave the holidays into elaborate stories to pull at your heartstrings as they slip their sticky fingers into your wallet.
During the holidays, the common scam known as the imposter or “grandparent scam” might be decorated with a special plea, a story of a relative in trouble who desperately needs money to fix a car or get out of jail – and home for the holidays.
These perpetrators are very skilled at what they do, and they aren't shy about intimidation:
The ruse known as the IRS scam takes on a vicious new twist with a grinch on the phone threatening an elder with being arrested and spending the holidays in jail for unpaid taxes or a fake debt. And then there is the predictable increase in false or imposter charities, which sound identical to the real ones. The pitch is wrapped in sympathy inducing requests for year-end, tax-deductible holiday donations. These grinches stand ready to take your credit card or check routing information and charge you for bogus Nutcracker ballet tickets, or a holiday charity fundraising event.
The CFPB offers tips for folks to protect themselves against these three scams and provides links to information available on the CFPB website. The blog post also appeared on the National Center for Elder Abuse website.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Court Rules Charter School Founder "Incompetent to Stand Trial" on Fraud Because of Alzheimer's/Dementia
In an extraordinarily detailed consideration of expert reports and testimony, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled on November 23, 2015 that a high-profile criminal defendant, Dorothy June Brown, was unable to stand for retrial on fraud charges, following her diagnosis of dementia of an Alzheimer's type. See United States v. Brown, 2015 WL 748490 (E.D. Pa. 2016).
Ms. Brown, age 78 at the time of the ruling, was accused in 2013 of multiple counts of federal wire fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, arising from her role in founding and operating two charter schools, with the alleged fraud totaling more than $6 million from federal funding sources. The charges were big news, with coverage often depicting Brown, a "career educator," as blond and fashionably dressed, and noting that she was married to a prominent attorney.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Here's a summary of interesting, key findings from the complicated case of Moylan v. Citizens Sec. Bank, an "elder abuse" and wrongful termination claim with a long litigation history in Guam:
- Bank Comptroller Moylan realizes his grandparents have certificate of deposit accounts in his bank, with assets totaling more than $1 million.
- He notes that when the accounts rollover, they are no longer in the names of his grandparents, but rather solely in the names of two individuals identified as "caretakers" for the grandparents.
- Moylan proceeds to "investigate further" and concludes that multiple transactions on the accounts were suspicious, given his "personal knowledge of his Grandparents' advanced age and deteriorating mental condition."
- Moylan discusses his findings with his brother, an attorney, thus revealing bank account information without getting the permission of his Grandparents or the "caretakers" who were listed on the accounts.
- The brother advises that the findings may constitute "elder abuse" and thus trigger a mandatory duty to report the activity to Adult Protective Services.
- Moylan, fearing he may lose his bank job, encourages his father to make the report -- thus again sharing banking information without the consent of the listed account holders, the Grandparents and their caretakers.
Eventually, a guardians is appointed for the grandparents, the bank becomes a subject of the guardian's complaint about handling of the grandparents' accounts, the caretakers (one of whom is a family member) object to Moylan's "misuse" of his access to account information as a bank employee -- and, lo and behold, Moylan is fired in 2007. Moylan challenged his termination as wrongful.
In 2015, after more than 7 years of litigation in the courts below, the Supreme Court of Guam overturned summary judgment in favor of the bank on Moylan's wrongful termination claim. That's the good news for Moylan, as the Court recognizes a public policy exception to the "at will" nature of his employment contract:
Because the object and policy of the [Adult Protective Services Act] is to protect the elderly and disabled adults, the reporting requirements of 10 GCA §21003(a) should be construed liberally in favor of promoting the reporting of suspected abuse. This approach is consistent with the fact that the legislature chose to include the term “immediately” instead of a specified reporting deadline. Therefore, we hold that in the limited context of the facts of this case, Scott's oral reporting within seven days after the discovery of alleged abuse qualifies as sufficiently immediate....
Termination motivated by Scott's mandatory reporting would jeopardize the public policy to protect elderly and disabled adults from abuse because it would discourage future reporting. Scott presented evidence that at least one Bank executive knew that Scott had caused a report to APS before Scott was terminated.
Under Guam law, mandatory reporting of suspected elder abuse applies to "banking and financial institution personnel." 10 GCA §21003(b).
The bad news is the reversal sends the case back to the trial court for "further proceedings." The full opinion by the Supreme Court of Guam, issued November 20, 2015, linked above, is well worth reading, as it demonstrates both weaknesses and strengths of statutory attempts to mandate that banks report suspected elder abuse.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Washington State Elder Law Attorney Margaret Dore has shared with us her interesting analysis of "California's Assisted Suicide Law: Whose Choice Will It Be?," published here in JURIST, the on-line platform by University of Pittsburgh Law. She criticizes California's new law as inviting misuse, including elder abuse, observing:
The bill, ABX2-15, has an application process to obtain the lethal dose, which includes a written lethal dose request form with two required witnesses. Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, there is no oversight over administration. No one, not even a doctor, is required to be present at the death.
ABX2-15 allows one of the two witnesses on the lethal dose request form to be the patient's heir, who will financially benefit from the patient's death. This is an extreme conflict of interest. Indeed, under California's Probate Code, similar conduct (an heir's acting as a witness on a will) can create a presumption that the will was procured by "duress, menace, fraud or undue influence." ABX2-15, which specifically allows the patient's heir to be a witness on the lethal dose request form, does not promote patient choice. It invites duress, menace, fraud and undue influence.
Further, she notes the potential trauma for family members, citing examples from her practice:
Two of my clients, whose fathers signed up for the lethal dose in Washington and Oregon, suffered similar trauma. In the first case, one side of the family wanted the father to take the lethal dose, while the other side did not. The father spent the last months of his life caught in the middle and torn over whether or not he should kill himself. My client, his adult daughter, was severely traumatized. The father did not take the lethal dose and died a natural death. In the other case, it is not clear that administration of the lethal dose was voluntary. A man who was present told my client that the client's father had refused to take the lethal dose when it was delivered, stating: "You're not killing me. I'm going to bed." But then took the lethal dose the next night when he was already intoxicated on alcohol. My client, although he was not present, was traumatized over the incident, and also by the sudden loss of his father.
Ms. Dore is a former Chair of the Elder Law Committee of the American Bar Association Family Law Section. She is also president of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Renowned Cornell educators and specialists in geriatric medicine, Mark S, Lachs, M.D., and Karl A. Pillemer, PhD, have an important review essay in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine on "Elder Abuse" (linked above). The authors articulate roles for physicians and health care staff as the first line of help for many older persons who are victims of elder abuse, including the "virtual epidemic" of financial exploitation. From the introduction:
In the field of long-term care, studies have uncovered high rates of interpersonal violence and aggression toward older adults; in particular, abuse of older residents by other residents in long-term care facilities is now recognized as a problem that is more common than physical abuse by staff. The use of interdisciplinary or interprofessional teams, also referred to as multidisciplinary teams in the context of elder abuse, has emerged as one of the intervention strategies to address the complex and multidimensional needs and problems of victims of elder abuse, and such teams are an important resource for physicians. These new developments suggest an expanded role for physicians in assessing and treating victims of elder abuse and in referring them for further care.
In this review, we summarize research and clinical evidence on the extent, assessment, and management of elder abuse, derived from our analysis of high-quality studies and recent systematic studies and reviews of the literature on elder abuse.
One of the perhaps surprising observations in the article is that the "young-old" actually have a higher potential to become victims of abuse than the "old-old," in part because they are most likely to be living under the control of a spouse or adult child, the most often-identified perpetrators.
Further, the authors advise that "the most important tasks for the physician are to recognize and identify elder abuse, to become familiar with resources for intervention that are available in the local community, and to refer the patient to and coordinate care with those resources." The article includes community services and organizations that may provide help to victims.
I was especially interested to see the authors' thoughts on the importance of interdisciplinary teams, especially given my own law school's current involvement in creating a Medical Legal Partnership Clinic. The authors write:
The most promising response to the complex nature of cases of elder abuse has been the development of interprofessional teams. Evidence suggests that interprofessional teams, also referred to as multidisciplinary teams, consisting of physicians, social workers, law-enforcement personnel, attorneys, and other community participants working together in a coordinated fashion, are the best practical approach to assisting victims.
Our thanks to "devoted reader" Professor Dick Kaplan, University of Illinois Law, for providing us with early notice of this important article.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
In the October 2015 issue of the Pennsylvania Bar Quarterly, attorney Owen Kelly reports on "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Elder Law Task Force Report and Recommendations" as a "Blueprint for Justice." His overview provides:
Our Commonwealth is in the midst of a period of unprecedented growth in its elder population and this growth is projected to continue for the foreseeable future. The growing elder population will present profound challenges to the Commonwealth's courts, particularly with respect to guardianships, abuse and neglect, and access to justice. In April 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court established the Elder Law Task Force to address the impact this growing segment of the population will have on the judicial system. In November 2014, the Task Force issued its report which contained a multitude of recommendations on a variety of issues related to elders' interactions with the court system. Since their creation on January 1, 2015, the two entities charged with overseeing implementation of the Task Force's recommendations -- the Office of Elder Justice in the Courts and the Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts -- have been actively implementing many of the recommendations. Task Force recommendations implemented or in progress include: proposed new and revised guardianship forms; education and training initiatives; proposed changes to the Rules of Criminal Procedure; revising bar admission rules to allow retired or voluntarily inactive attorneys to provide pro bono services for elders; a study of a pilot Elder Court; and changes to the statewide electronic case management system to allow for better monitoring of guardianships.
As someone who was a member of the Task Force, I am glad see that concrete steps are underway to implement changes, especially with respect to better accountability for guardianships on a state-wide basis. Much work is ahead.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Healthline News ran a story that made me sad, even though I know these scams happen. Growing Kind of Elder Abuse: Marrying Seniors for Their Money ran on September 15, 2015. The article quotes a California attorney whose firm handles financial exploitation cases who "[said] marrying for money is a form of elder abuse that is spreading throughout the United States." The attorney noted that this type of financial exploitation case is often unreported and hard to uncover. These "sweethart scams" happen to both sexes about equally. The article quotes the deputy director of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) that
[W]hile these scams can take many forms... a common scenario is that the elders have experienced a recent loss, such as the death of a spouse, and they find themselves befriended by someone younger.
“If children aren’t nearby or the person is isolated and depressed, they’re more vulnerable to this attention.... The difficult thing is that if the older adult has capacity to make decisions then they are entitled to do what they want with their money.”
The article provides some examples of actual cases and the variation among the states on capacity to marry as well as what actions to take if the elder is a victim of this scam.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
I previously posted a new article from Consumer Reports on the cost of financial exploitation. Consumer Reports also ran an article about whether elder abuse is preventable. Lies, Secrets, and Scams: How to Prevent Elder Abuse. Seniors and their families lose billions of dollars each year to heartless fraudsters. Learn how you can help ran September 28, 2015. The article opens with a victim of the grandparent scam. Looking at the proliferation of financial exploitation, the article notes
Estimates of the crime’s frequency vary. A 2010 survey of seniors by the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust projected that 1 in 5 seniors had been taken advantage of financially. A study last year in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that 4.7 percent of Americans—about 1 in 20—reported that they had been financially exploited in their later years. The study provided perspective: If a new disease struck that same percentage of older Americans, researchers wrote, “a public health crisis would likely be declared.”
The article discusses why elders are targets "[o]lder people’s vulnerabilities—including isolation, loneliness, generally trusting natures, relative wealth, and in some cases declining mental capabilities—make them ideal quarry for con artists. Even those whose cognition is intact can be swayed if they’re stressed or depressed, or recently have lost a loved one." The article paints a bleak picture regarding projection, noting that s "as baby boomers age, the pool of potential victims will expand, with assets ripe for the pickpocketing." The article reviews the reasons why victims may not report the exploitation, how the perpetrators work a scam and why some victims are exploited multiple times.
The article covers some successes when the victims (or families) report the crime and initiatives to fight elder abuse, mentioning specifically the DOJ elder justice initiative. The article concludes with photos and summaries of stories of 8 victims and a list of agencies that may help.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Does the amount $3 billion shock you:? What about $36 billion? According to an article in Consumer Reports, Financial Elder Abuse Costs $3 Billion a Year. Or Is It $36 Billion?, the exact amount is unclear. Here's how the $3 billion figure came about, according to the story:
When Consumer Reports recently reported on elder financial fraud, Lies, Secrets, and Scams: How to Prevent Elder Abuse, we used the number $3 billion. It comes from a study published in 2011 by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in collaboration with the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the Center for Geronotology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. We rounded up from that study's estimate of $2.9 billion annually....
We chose that figure because a number of experts we interviewed thought it was a credible figure. But they—and an author of the study—admitted to us when we first reported it a couple of years ago that the figure probably represents the tip of the iceberg. The figure is probably far larger than that.
We have all heard the tip of the iceberg analogy with the number of cases of elder abuse, since we know that elder abuse cases are under-reported. The article goes on to explain the $36 billion figure which came from TrueLink which "projected that financial elder abuse costs families more than $36 billion a year," Their study used a more expansive view of financial exploitation, including fraud and scams as well as financial exploitation. The article notes that Investor Protection Trust estimates that 20% of elders have been victims.
The author of the article explains the title.
Though the article focuses on financial exploitation at the hands of strangers, the headline encompasses abuse by all types of con artists, including family members and people the senior knows. When discussing stranger-initiated abuse, we couldn't arrive at a figure that made sense to us. Experts I consulted through a listserve used by professionals in the elder-abuse prevention and treatment community couldn't agree on a figure themselves. However, several professionals I interviewed said they were comfortable with saying it was in the "billions."
The point of this difficult exercise is that no really one knows how big the problem is. But clearly, it's huge. And until seniors feel comfortable reporting their victimization—and there's a standard way to define it and a central place to report it—we'll never know the total impact. Here's hoping that day comes, so the individuals working to help victims and prevent the crime can get the attention and resources they deserve.
Assign this article to your students. It illuminates a number of the issues in these cases. Regardless of whether the total is $3 billion or $36 billion, the numbers are shocking.
Monday, October 5, 2015
DOJ's Elder Justice Initiative & Office for Victims of Crimes, along with the Corporation for National and Community Service announced the creation of the Elder Justice Americorps. According to the website
[E]lder Justice AmeriCorps, a new grant program to provide legal assistance and support services to victims of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation and to promote pro bono capacity building in the field. This effort will expand a partnership between the two agencies, which includes justice AmeriCorps, a legal aid program launched in 2014 by the Department of Justice and CNCS to serve vulnerable populations.
The Elder Justice AmeriCorps program, which is intended to complement existing Office for Victims of Crime grants to support the development of legal assistance networks providing comprehensive, pro bono legal services for victims of crime, will consist of a single grant to an intermediary organization that will support approximately 60 full-time AmeriCorps positions for each year of the two-year program. Interested applicants can review the Notice of Funding Opportunity at http://www.nationalservice.gov/build-your-capacity/grants/funding-opportunities/2016/americorps-state-and-national-grants-fy-2016#FGSAAA.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Jeff Guo, writing for the Washington Post, recently offered a provocative look at "tontines" as a theoretical retirement planning alternative to "annuities." Apparently these are advocated by some modern legal and financial experts:
Economists have long said that the rational thing to do is to buy an annuity. At retirement age, you could pay an insurance company $100,000 in return for some $5,000-6,000 a year in guaranteed payments until you die. But most people don’t do that. For decades, economists have been trying to figure out why....
But there’s also some evidence that people just irrationally dislike annuities. As behavioral economist Richard Thaler wrote in the New York Times: “Rather than viewing an annuity as providing insurance in the event that one lives past 85 or 90, most people seem to consider buying an annuity as a gamble, in which one has to live a certain number of years just to break even.”
Here is where tontines come in. If people irrationally fear annuities because them seem like a gamble on one's own life, history suggests that they irrationally loved tontines because they see tontines as a gamble on other people's lives.
A simple modern tontine might look like this: At retirement, you and a bunch of other people each chip in $20,000 to buy a ton of mutual funds or stocks or whatever. Every year, the group withdraws a predetermined amount and divides it among the remaining survivors. You might get a bonus one year, for instance, because Frank and Denise died....
Want to know more? Read It's Sleazy, It's Totally Illegal, and Yet It Could Become The Future of Retirement. Hat tip to David Pearson for sharing this story.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
I was having a conversation recently with our elder consumer protection fellow at the College of Law about remedies for financial exploitation, so this headlline from US News & World Report Health certainly got my attention. Vanishing Retirement: the Hidden Epidemic of Financial Exploitation focuses on the ramifications of being a victim of financial exploitation.
Many Americans look forward to the day they'll be able to put their weekly routines aside and enjoy retirement. It takes decades to realize this goal – after putting kids through school, paying mortgages, making car payments and covering myriad other expenses, all while saving for a time when Mondays no longer mean a return to work. So much time and effort goes into building the nest egg – the target of so many schemes in recent years as more and more older Americans face financial exploitation.
Once someone’s income starts being depleted, many things have to be given up. Discretionary items fall to the wayside first: vacations, hobbies and leisure activities. One may lose the ability to leave an inheritance. Even basic travel becomes difficult when a person can’t afford auto insurance and fuel. Then, paying for basic utilities becomes a challenge, leading to late fees and threats power will be shut off.
Personal health becomes compromised as medication costs overtake retirement income. Even a person’s ability to stay in his or her own home becomes threatened, due to the loss of sufficient funds to pay for rent, taxes or water.
The article mentions Mr. Mickey Rooney's testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. I still remember his testimony, especially him noting if it could happen to him, it could happen to others. The story turns to the lack of recognition that exploitation (or other types of elder abuse) is taking place. The article notes that there are many professionals who could be in a position to spot financial exploitation (such as a bank teller or pharmacist).
It should be a community responsibility to get to know our seniors, engage them regularly and recognize and address concerning changes. That’s why, in many states, mandated reporters for elder abuse include any individual, from the physician to the janitor working in a nursing home, who has contact with an older person. This acknowledges we all have the opportunity to identify abuse.
It is so easy to pass off these clues and say, “It’s not my responsibility,” or “Someone else will take care of it.” But addressing the suspicion of wrongdoing can save a person from Mickey Rooney’s fate.