New Laws Approved by the Tennessee General Assembly to Protect Elderly and Vulnerable Adults 2014-2018

New Laws Approved by the Tennessee General Assembly to Protect Elderly and Vulnerable Adults


2018:  Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2018 –  Legislation was approved in 2018 that modernizes Tennessee’s laws pertaining elder abuse to make it easier for law enforcement to recognize and prosecute.  It draws a distinction for aggravated elderly abuse with increased penalties for the offense; and increases fines for those who commit elder neglect which will go into a special fund that may be used to help victims.  Public Chapter 1050 by Norris, Bowling, Crowe, Haile  

2017Financial Exploitation — Three major bills were approved in 2017 to combat abuse and financial exploitation of Tennesseans who are elderly or have diminished capacity.  These include:

  • The “Senior Financial Protection and Securities Modernization Act provides a pathway for voluntary reporting. It gives civil and administrative immunity to broker-dealers, investment advisers, agents, representatives and other qualified individuals for reporting the suspected abuse or exploitation. It also allows those individuals to delay disbursements for a certain number of days if financial abuse or exploitation is suspected and authorizes notification to third parties previously designated by the elderly or vulnerable adult regarding any suspected fraudulent transactions.  In addition, it gives the Commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Insurance authority, under the state’s Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, to double current civil penalties against an offender who victimizes a vulnerable or senior adult.  Public Chapter 424 by Norris, Gardenhire, Crowe, Bowling, Niceley, Roberts, Stevens
  • Financial InstitutionsLikewise, legislation was passed in 2017 which gives financial institutions, like banks and credit unions, tools and greater flexibility as to how they can best protect their customers when there is reason to suspect financial exploitation of elderly or vulnerable adults is occurring or being attempted. This law provided new authority for financial institutions to delay or refuse to conduct transactions which permit the disbursement of funds when exploitation is suspected.  It also permits the financial institution to establish a list of persons the customer would like to have contacted if the bank suspects the customer is a victim of exploitation or theft.  In addition, it required the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions to consult with financial service providers, the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, and the Department of Human Services to develop a public education campaign to alert the public to dangers of vulnerable adults from financial exploitation.  Public Chapter 264 by Norris, Crowe, Massey, Bowling, McNally, Harper, Ketron, Kyle, Niceley, Overbey, Roberts, Stevens, Tate, Tracy, Watson, Yarbro
  • The “Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act” defines and creates the new offense of financial exploitation of elderly or vulnerable adults, including the use of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat of force to obtain or exert unauthorized control over an elderly or vulnerable adult’s property with intent to deprive them of it. If charged, a court may freeze assets of the offender up to 100 percent of the alleged value in question.  The statute also requires those convicted be included on the state Elder Abuse Registry.  This law also includes a provision that requires a court to hold a hearing to preserve the testimony of elderly or vulnerable adult victims. This is a critical new tool for prosecutors to use when defendants attempt to delay trial in order to have the victim continue to deteriorate or even pass away.  Public Chapter 466 by Norris, Crowe, McNally, Bailey, Gardenhire, Harper, Hensley, Kyle, Massey, Stevens, Tate, Tracy 

2016:  Elder Abuse / Elder Exploitation A major bill protecting Tennessee seniors passed in 2016 which stemmed from recommendations of the General Assembly’s Elder Abuse Task Force.  It helps keep the state’s elderly safe by setting up checks on the people who are working in direct contact with vulnerable adults in home healthcare and hospice.  This law lays out requirements that must be met before an employee may be hired. Applicants must supply fingerprint samples, submit to a background check and provide past references.  These requirements apply to third party vendors that have direct contact with the patients.  Public Chapter 1044  by Gardenhire, Crowe, Niceley, Norris

Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigation Teams — The General Assembly also passed a law in 2016 to create a Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigation Teams (VAPIT) in each judicial district in Tennessee.  The purpose of the measure is to coordinate the investigation of suspected instances of abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult.

The information generated by the multi-disciplinary adult protective services team can then be reviewed to determine what further action can be taken to protect these citizens.  Public Chapter 1006  by Norris, Gresham, Haile, Massey, Roberts

2015:  Elder Abuse – State legislators passed legislation in 2015 which gives law enforcement agencies and the Department of Human Services authority, during the course of an elder abuse investigation, to require medical examination of the person if the agency is not sure whether the elderly person is in imminent danger.  Previously, a law enforcement agency was not listed as being able to seek an order for an elderly person who is in imminent danger or lacks capacity to consent, to be examined by a physician, or a psychologist in consultation with the physician, or psychiatrist under certain circumstances.  This law allows law enforcement agencies as well as the Department of Human Services to seek such an order.  Public Chapter 387  by Bell

2014:  Punishment / Adult Abuse and Exploitation — The State Legislature passed legislation in 2014 to increase punishment for adult abuse, exploitation or neglect from a Class E to a Class D felony.  The move helps district attorneys prosecute the crime without having to meet the higher evidentiary standard required under the state’s adult abuse laws reserved for more serious crimes.  That legislation also required court clerks to notify the Department of Health when someone has been convicted of adult abuse so the offender can be added to the Adult Abuse Registry.  Employers of adult caretakers must check the Registry before hiring an employee.  Public Chapter 961 by Crowe, Burks, Norris

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