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As Elder Abuse Grows, Advisors Urged to Start Fighting It: SIFMA Forum

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Kathleen Quinn, executive director of the National Adult Protective Services Association, is calling on financial advisors to help stop elder financial abuse and take the necessary steps to protect client assets.

Speaking before a SIFMA Senior Investors Forum held at the organization’s New York headquarters on Tuesday, Quinn told attendees, “You have the capacity to stop financial abuse before or as it occurs,  protect clients assets, refer clients to social services to address multiple complex needs [and] address a massive public safety, public health public crisis.

Elder abuse, including financial abuse, is growing while resources to address the problem are not, according to Quinn. She then reeled off these statistics:

  1. One in 10 older people, or 5 million people a year, are victims of elder abuse. That’s more than the combined total of abused children (1.25 million) and battered women (2.3 million)
  2. Only one in 24 cases of elder abuse are reported; for financial elder abuse the ratio is one in 44 cases
  3. Victims of elder abuse are three times more likely than other seniors to  die within a few years and four times more likely to go into a nursing home
  4. Elder abuse costs victims, their families, financial institutions and government billions of dollar per year, and increased government spending means taxpayers pay more
  5. Congress appropriated just $4 million a year on Adult Protective Services for fiscal year 2015 — (the president requested $25 million), which funnels federal funds to state and local government adult protective services programs. No appropriations were made from 2011 to 2014 even though Congress passed the Elder Justice Act in 2010 which created APS. (Other funding for elder abuse is available but not specifically earmarked for that purpose.)
  6. Elder abuse cases rose 87% while half the states reported cuts in spending to address those cases, according to an NAPSA 2012 survey.

Quinn appealed to her audience to help APS get the funding it needs to address the growing problem of elder abuse.

“You all can much better make the case at the federal level that APS needs resources than APS itself,” said Quinn. “We need more resources, we absolutely need more resources.”

She said it’s in the financial industry’s interest to help APS get more resources.

“As the number of reports go up you are going to be increasingly frustrated when you say ‘well they say they couldn’t take the case’ or ‘they took the case; they didn’t do anything’   and there are confidentiality frustrations around this too,  ‘I reported and nobody told me if anything happened.’

“The financial services industry needs APS because clients being abused usually very often have multiple issues going on that need to be addressed and we’re the people charged with doing that,“ said Quinn.

She asked for help to identify victims of elder abuse and investigate individual cases and said a major impediment to those efforts is “the refusal of financial institutions to release their records to APS.

“Even when an institution has reported a case and APS has signed release from clients, in many cases financial institutions say ‘we can’t violate privacy. We are protecting people’s privacy at the expense of protecting the people and their assets.’ “

Quinn said she understood that financial firms’ need to get clear guidance from Washington and regulatory agencies to explicitly say that they’re  allowed to give these files to APS but noted that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which replaced Glass-Steagall, allows financial institutions  to comply with civil investigations which APS conducts in order to protect and prevent fraud.

In addition, she noted that 15 states currently require that individuals working at financial institutions – and sometimes with others as well – report suspected cases of elder abuse to the authorities. Quinn admitted, however, that addressing abuse can be complicated because states differ on their definition of abuse and on the types of individuals eligible for help.

She also said that APS is looking for a representative from the financial industry to sit on the organizations National Institute on Elder Financial Exploitation which already has representative from Hunter College’s Brookdale Center on the Aging and the university of Texas Medical Center.

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