NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) announced the ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 1267, the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Financial Exploitation Prevention Act and Senate Bill 1230 the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act for Wednesday, June 21 at 1:00 p.m. in the War Memorial Auditorium. These historic acts expand protection for victims of financial exploitation, increase the punishment for those who commit this devastating abuse and also promote education and awareness raising of abuse and exploitation. Both acts were sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Norris with Chairman Crowe as co-sponsor.
“Tennessee is continuing to take a stand against elderly and vulnerable adult abuse, and I am proud of the years of hard work that has made these acts possible,” said Senator Crowe, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman. “This shows our commitment to not only protecting the financial, physical and emotional well-being of our citizens, but also to their dignity.”
“Elder abuse is a silent crisis,” said Leader Norris. “Crimes of elder abuse often go unreported, leaving its helpless victims to suffer silently. And, far too frequently, it happens at the hand of those whom they trust the most. This legislation will keep seniors and vulnerable adults safer by giving law enforcement the tools they need to prosecute individuals who prey on seniors.”
“These bills will work to protect the ‘Silver Tsunami’ of Tennesseans reaching retirement age in the coming years,” continued Norris.
The Senate’s focus on elder abuse comes as the result of a 2013 WJHL investigative report by Nate Morabito which led to the implementation of an Elderly and Vulnerable Abuse Task Force, per the request of the late Senator Douglas Henry and led to several bills passed by Chairman Crowe, strengthening our elder abuse laws.
While it is impossible to know for certain how many elders will experience abuse, neglect and/or exploitation during the course of their lifetime, the most recent studies on elder abuse indicate that between 7.6% and 10% of the study participants experienced abuse in some form or fashion in the previous year.
To counter these statistics, the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act further codifies elder and vulnerable adult financial exploitation, punishes the exploitation as one degree higher than if the offense was theft for those found guilty of exploitation and requires state agencies to submit offenders’ names to the Tennessee Department of Health’s Abuse Registry.
Studies have also estimated that between 1 in 14 and 1 in 23 cases of elder abuse never come to the attention of the appropriate authorities.
The Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Financial Exploitation Prevention Act is an important step in addressing abuse. The Act allows financial service providers to delay or refuse a transaction when they have a justified suspicion of financial exploitation. Further, the Act requires 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 in order to consider ways they can collaborate to promote education, raise awareness of the dangers of financial exploitation and theft and explore preventative measures that can be taken by vulnerable adults to avoid such dangers.
“The signings of these acts is a powerful step in the right direction for protecting Tennesseans, and I look forward to continuing this progress during legislative session,” added Crowe.