Elder Abuse Victims Act (EAVA) of 2013: What You Need to Know
The Elder Abuse Victims Act (EAVA) was introduced in 2009. At its core, it was a legislative effort to address the growing problem of crimes and abuse against older people.
According to the National Institute of Justice, older adult abuse and neglect are historically understudied and underreported problems in criminal law. This is partly because of:
- A lack of uniform reporting systems
- Unreliable data
- Varying definitions of older adult abuse across jurisdictions
- Older adult victims are afraid to report the abuse
- Lack of access to the criminal justice system
There are many forms of elder abuse. Physical elder abuse is the infliction of physical pain on an elderly person. Psychological elder abuse refers to verbal and non-verbal behaviors that inflict mental anguish on an older adult. Risk factors for elder abuse include mental illness, mental incapacitation, physical impairment or incapacity, social isolation, and financial instability.
According to a National Council on Aging study, one in 10 older adults reported that they experienced:
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse or mistreatment
- Unwanted sexual contact
- Neglect or self-neglect
- Financial abuse
- Financial exploitation or scams,
- Domestic violence
- Undue influence
Abuse can come from health care providers, fiduciaries like agents of a power of attorney or conservators, nursing homes, long-term care facility caregivers, and even loved ones.
History of Elder Abuse Legislation and the EAVA
In 1965, the Older Americans Act (OAA) was created in response to the growing concern about the lack of social services available to older adults. The OAA supports several social service programs that exist today, including the Long-term Care Ombudsman program.
In 1974, Title XX of the Social Security Act allowed the support of protective services to any person 18 or older suffering from abuse. Title XX also helped create Adult Protective Services.
In 2010, the Obama administration passed The Elder Justice Act. The EJA allowed federal funds to combat elder abuse and established national U.S. Department of Health and Human Services leadership.
The purpose of EAVA was to increase elder abuse training for law enforcement officers and prosecutors. Although the House of Representatives passed a version of EAVA in 2009, it was never voted on in the Senate and failed to become law. The EAVA was reintroduced to the House of Representatives in 2013. It did not pass either chamber and was not enacted into law.
What Did EAVA Hope to Do?
Elder abuse enhances the risk of hospitalization, nursing home admission, and death. The Elder Abuse Victims Act was designed to address these risks by protecting the rights of older adult victims of crime. The purpose of EAVA was to strengthen efforts to prosecute older adult abuse cases criminally.
The Elder Abuse Victims Act would have built on the related Elder Justice Act (EJA), which became law in 2010. The EJA:
- Coordinated federal and state responses to various types of elder abuse
- Expanded reporting rules and civil penalties
The 2013 version of EAVA wanted to specifically:
- Enhance the capacity to prosecute older adult abuse cases criminally
- Ensure the collection, research, and evaluation of data relating to such cases
The Office of Elder Justice
The 2013 Elder Abuse Victims Act wanted to create an Office of Elder Justice within the Department of Justice (DOJ).
That office was proposed to link the DOJ's expertise in older adult abuse with the experience of state and local prosecutors working on older adult abuse cases throughout the country.
Specifically, the Office of Elder Justice would have been responsible for the following:
- Providing information, training, and technical assistance to states and local governments to investigate and prosecute older adult abuse and to address elder abuse victim trauma
- Evaluating the effectiveness of efforts and interventions to prevent, detect, respond to, or remedy older adult abuse
- Determining the best practices for investigating older adult abuse, addressing common risk factors and legal issues, and interacting with victims
- Providing regular updates on state laws and practices relating to older adult abuse
While the Office of Elder Justice was not created, the U.S. Department of Justice established the Elder Justice Initiative (EJI) to coordinate federal efforts and social services to combat elder abuse.
EAVA Policy on Data Collection
The 2013 EAVA would have forced the Attorney General to collect annual data on older adult abuse cases from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
The EAVA would then force the Attorney General to identify common data points to develop a uniform national database on older adult abuse cases.
EAVA Grant Funding for States
The 2013 Elder Abuse Victims Act wanted to allow the Office of Elder Justice to provide grants for up to 15 states. These grants would have established and operated programs to improve:
- Responses to older adult abuse
- Investigations and prosecutions of older adult abuse cases
But, the grants would have required such states to have the following:
- Programs for compensating crime victims
- Multidisciplinary task forces to review investigative, administrative, and judicial responses to older adult abuse cases
Other Support to States
Although the EAVA was not enacted into law, the Department of Justice now operates the Elder Justice Initiative (EJI).
This initiative provides resources for:
- Older adult victims of abuse
- Legal professionals who assist older adults
- Caregivers and health care professionals who assist older adults with both medical care, personal care, and other basic needs
- State and local law enforcement agencies
- Prosecutors (including sample pleadings and references to relevant state statutes covering crimes against older adults)
- Behavioral and mental health services
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, you can report abuse to Adult Protective Services (APS), your local long-term care ombudsman program, or local law enforcement.
If you are unsure where to start, contact an elder law attorney to discuss the situation and the steps you must take. The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging is also a great legal resource.
Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?
- Complex abuse situations usually require a lawyer
- A lawyer will take these matters seriously and enforce protections
- Get tailored advice and ask your legal questions
- Many attorneys offer free consultations