On the introduction of the Older American's Protection from Violence Act of 1999

Jul 20, 1999
Press Release

"I want to begin by thanking Martha McSteen, former acting director of the Social Security Administration and president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Sara Burger, National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, Burton Fretz, Executive Director of the National Senior Citizens Law Center, and Cindy Wade from the Office of Elder Rights and Protection of Northwest Georgia, for being here today.

"I also want to thank Alethea Campbell and William Millman, who are here today to talk about what their relatives have been through.

"When the Older Americans Act was enacted in 1965, it promised our seniors that there would always be a safety net. Today the Older Americans Act is a vital network of services that protect seniors when they are at their most vulnerable time of life.

"The Older Americans Act means Meals on Wheels. It means nursing home protections. It means legal services for poor seniors. It is training for police officers to identify and stop abuse of the elderly.

"Unfortunately, the Act has not been reauthorized for 4 years. And as the House considers reauthorization, the Republican leadership is threatening to take further anti-senior actions by dismantling some of these vital services.

"Congress also must reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act this year. When VAWA was enacted in 1994, it went a long way toward treating domestic violence as a serious national problem. Unfortunately, its 5-year authorization is about to run out. While we must fight hard to ensure VAWA is maintained, we must also acknowledge that not even the Violence Against Women Act specifically addresses the concerns of older women.

"Seniors are, sadly enough, high targets of violence. Between 1986 and 1996, the number of reports of elder abuse in the United States increased by 150%. Further, of the more than one million people aged 65 and over who are victims of abuse each year, at least two-thirds are women. And older women report more serious injuries than male victims of elder abuse.

"We need to take action to protect our grandmothers and grandfathers -- people who bear a lifetime of stories and generations worth of wisdom.

"Older Americans are victimized by many kinds of abuse. Sometimes, they are swindled out of their life savings. And many older people are abused by adult children or care givers.

"Too often in America, for seniors, the golden years are colored black and blue.

"I am proud to introduce today the Older American's Protection from Violence Act of 1999. This legislation will:

  • improve domestic violence services to address the specific needs of older victims
  • reauthorize the ombudsman and elder abuse prevention programs under the Older Americans Act
  • help protect older people from financial abuse
  • train social workers, law enforcement, and health professionals in identifying, preventing, and treating domestic violence and sexual assault
  • provide legal assistance for victims of elder abuse through law school clinical programs
  • call for research about the sexual abuse of older women.

"As Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, I am particularly concerned about what many older women are facing -- being turned away from domestic violence shelters due to their special health needs or disability.

"We also know that at least two-thirds of those in institutional settings are women. Many of these women spent many years caring for their husbands, and now find themselves alone - and vulnerable.

"Older women often experience such violence differently than their younger counterparts. She has fewer options than a younger woman, and usually is more dependent on her husband's medical coverage as well as his income. And like many women her age, she is unlikely to have a career or pension of her own on which to rely.

"Experts have found that service providers in the field of domestic violence often lack critical experience and skills in working with elderly clients.

"Most shelters for abused women are not equipped to deal with older women who may have physical limitations or health problems.

"Similarly, service providers in the field of elder abuse have also had difficulties in working with older battered women because their approaches often do not address the root causes of such violence.

"I am hopeful that we can pass this bill to protect our most vulnerable and treasured citizens.

"I want to again thank those who are here today to tell their stories. They are courageous, and we appreciate them for speaking for the thousands who cannot speak for themselves."