Statement by Kathy Greenlee
Assistant Secretary, Administration on Aging
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
on Elder Rights and the Older Americans Act
before Special Committee on Aging United States Senate
Tuesday August 23, 2011
Thank you, Senator Blumenthal, for the opportunity to testify at this important hearing on elder justice. I appreciate the opportunity to share with you the Administration on Aging’s (AoA) commitment to this important issue and the role of the Older Americans Act (OAA) in helping to protect and serve victims of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. As a Federal advocate for older Americans and their concerns, AoA is dedicated to protecting the rights of older people and preventing their abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Elder abuse is a substantial global public health and human rights problem. The World Health Organization has declared that elder abuse is a violation of one the most basic and fundamental human rights: to be safe and free of violence. In a recent nationally representative study, one in ten older Americans reported being abused or neglected in the past year, and that many of them experienced it in multiple forms.
For nearly forty years, AoA has provided continual Federal leadership in strengthening the elder justice programming designed to prevent and address elder abuse and these consequences through the OAA.
•The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program was established in 1972 to represent the rights and advocate on behalf of older residents living in nursing homes, assisted living, and other residential settings.
•In 1987, a new objective to protect elderly from abuse, neglect, and exploitation was added to Title I of the Act. A separate authorization of funds for elderly abuse prevention services was also created under Title III Part G. This had previously been allowed, but appropriation authority not reserved.
•The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) was created in 1988 as an information clearinghouse on abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including best practices in prevention and treatment, serving as a repository of research, and conducting demonstration projects to promote effective and coordinated responses to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
•In 1992, the Title VII Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Program was established to provide funding to support State and community-based elder justice networks that protect vulnerable seniors and provide them with critical information, and the NCEA received a permanent home in Title II.
•The 2006 Older Americans Act amendments added provisions in Title II for the assistant secretary on aging to designate a person for elder abuse prevention and services with the responsibility for development of plans for a coordinated, national elder justice system. In addition, Title VII’s “Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Program” was renamed “Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection Services”, and broadened the authority for States to carry out a range of elder justice activities, such as financial literacy and elder shelters, and to initiate multidisciplinary elder justice activities.
•Most recently, the Elder Justice Act was passed and signed into law in 2010. The Elder Justice Act provides authority for additional attention in this area, including highlighting critical issues through citizen participatory advisory councils; enhancing APS programs and data; and improving the quality of care in nursing facilities through enhancements to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, establishing a system to report crimes in nursing homes, and assisting States to implement criminal background check programs for employees with direct access to patients.
Full Testimony and Source:
Elder Rights and the Older Americans Act
Senator Blumenthal's First Field Hearing as Senator