In reflecting on the past legislative year, we’re seeing APS programs continue their work on coordination, records sharing, perpetrator registries, and addressing financial exploitation. Nationally, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and built greater awareness of scams and frauds through the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act. The following are some highlights of what’s happening nationwide.
Financial Institutions and Financial Exploitation
States and regulators are adding more tools to combat financial exploitation. Nebraska (LB 707) and New Hampshire (SB 385-FN) have both passed legislation allowing financial institutions to hold funds if they suspect financial exploitation. In Nebraska the measure includes provisions around preventing changes to an account as well as allowing for delays or refusals of transactions when financial exploitation is suspected. New Hampshire (NH) allows for a hold up to 15 days that can be extended by a court. The NH statute also requires the state to do a report on the number of reports and related recommendations. Nationally, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which oversees U.S. broker-dealers, adopted amendments to its regulations on holds to allow firms to place a hold on securities transactions and extend temporary holds for an additional 30 business days beyond the current 25 business day maximum.
Maryland (SB 175) and West Virginia (HB 4297) have also seen efforts toward greater records sharing. The new Maryland statute requires that the financial institution must provide records requested by APS. The measure also allows, and encourages, APS to disclose the status or final disposition of the investigation to the institution that made the report. West Virginia’s legislation addresses record sharing between state offices. The measure facilitates information sharing between the Department of Health and Human Services and the State Auditor’s office as well as other specific agencies. Forensic accountants within the State Auditor’s office are able to assist, particularly in cases involving securities. In Nebraska, New Hampshire, Maryland, West Virginia, and across the nation, collaboration is key.
Legislatures also worked to give APS greater support in investigations. California (SB 1054) works towards building greater information sharing between APS multidisciplinary teams and child welfare multidisciplinary teams. When the legislation was introduced, the County Welfare Directors Association of California noted that APS and child welfare investigations may intersect such as when there are parallel investigations in one household or when a person with a disability has a history as a fostered youth. Allowing greater collaboration and information sharing will help better serve individuals across the lifespan.
Hawaii (Act 289) expanded APS entry provisions. Warrantless entry allows APS workers to request the assistance of law enforcement in entering a home when they have probable cause to believe a vulnerable adult will be injured by maltreatment. Previously, this provision only covered physical abuse. The new statute expands the coverage to include caregiver neglect, self-neglect, and physical abuse. The legislation notes all forms of maltreatment are potentially damaging and polyvictimization is frequent. With appropriate policy guidance and caution, this statute will support APS’ work in emergency investigations.
Adult Protective Services Registries
Additional states are looking at creating registries in a variety of forms. Alabama (HB 105) established its Elder and Adult in Need of Protective Services Abuse Registry covering individuals convicted of various crimes against the elderly or found by APS to have committed abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Care providers will be required to check the registry for current and prospective employees. Individuals hiring caretakers will also be able to check the registry. The Department of Human Resources, where APS is located, is in the process of developing the registry and appropriate due process considerations.
Maryland is working on studies around creating a registry. In Maryland (SB 357) the legislature pivoted from the creation of a registry to the implementation of a workgroup to study the best practices. This workgroup will include a variety of state and local governmental agencies as well as experts on data collection and data privacy. The group is tasked to look at a wide variety of issues including technological, legal, financial, and practical considerations as well as practices of other states. This move from implementing a registry to studying the impact will help address concerns on due process and funding. In a 2018 study the National Adult Protective Services Association found 26 states with some form of APS registry. As interest increases, states will need to address both the challenges and opportunities.
At the national level, Congress is wrapping up the 117th Session and newly elected leaders will start in January 2023. As of this writing, Congress is working to address issues such as appropriations, but several important bills have already been passed. In the spring of 2022 Congress passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2022 (Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 – Division W). First enacted in 1994, the act around domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking includes protections and programs supporting survivors of all genders, including older adults. The reauthorization includes increased services for underserved communities, including LGBTQ+ people, expanding efforts to address cybercrime, promoting trauma-based training, and expanded authorities for Tribal courts. Nearly 30 years later, VAWA continues to provide important services, including support for the National Clearinghouse for Abuse in Later Life.
In financial issues, the Stop Senior Scams Act (Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 – Division Q) established a Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Group to look at educational materials for various retailers, financial services, and wire transfer companies on identifying and preventing scams. The Advisory Group’s work will help inform the Federal Trade Commission’s efforts on senior scams. The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act of 2022 (Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 – Division Q) establishes an advisory office at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection around preventing fraud targeting seniors. The office will support oversight, consumer education, and work on complaints. We look forward to more to come in this area.
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