JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT PROTECTING ELDERLY PERSONS FROM EXPLOITATION.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
To criminalize the exploitation of elderly persons, prevent perpetrators from profiting from the exploitation, add certain financial institution employees to mandated reporters of suspected abuse of elderly persons and adopt the Connecticut Uniform Power of Attorney Act.
***Substitute language, as contained in LCO 4752, clarifies that all EMTs are now mandated reporters of elderly abuse and "professional patient representative" does not include state ombudsman staff; changes title.***
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Elizabeth B. Ritter, State Department on Aging:
“…As you know, the Department continues to grow and adapt to the changing needs of Connecticut's residents as we listen to concerns throughout the state. In fact, this led to the development of the Coalition for Elder Justice in Connecticut, the first truly public - private sector, non-political collaborative of aging disability and elder rights advocates and agencies.
…The Coalition already has several work groups addressing concerns included in this bill. The Financial/Bank group consisting of a Chair from Jewish Services in Fairfield, and members from the Department of Banking, Community Banking and Credit Unions, and the Departments of Social Services and Aging, has been researching best practices throughout the country to come up with an educational program to increase awareness and reporting of abuse without increasing mandatory reporters at this time. Our Department has also been working with DSS's Protective Services for the Elderly on how to combine our mission of programming and awareness with their mission of prevention of abuse within our financial constraints and will be adding appropriate Coalition partners, including the Chief State's Attorney, who are specifically involved in prevention and prosecution of elder abuse. Consumer Fraud, Law Enforcement Education, Probate Court Concerns and Senior Safety are all workgroups in some stage of formation and operation.
I respectfully recommend utilizing the findings of these existing groups rather than duplicating their efforts in statute.
…As to the other issues raised in this bill, the Department on Aging supports improvement to uniform statutes relative to Powers of Attorney, appropriate criminal sanctions when elders have been abused, and tempered actions in passing changes to the statutes before adequate study has been completed on the scope of ramifications.”
Deb Migneault, Connecticut's Legislative Commission on Aging:
“SB 1005 criminalizes the financial exploitation of older adults, creates a civil cause of action for recovery against a perpetrator, expands mandated reporters to include financial agents and otherwise enhances protections for victims of financial exploitation.
…Additionally, SB 1005 offers enhanced protections of which we are supportive, including the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (Sections 9-53). These sections contain provisions that aim to promote choice and autonomy and prevent and detect Power of Attorney abuse. UPOAA creates greater transparency and oversight about the agent's actions and set forth the powers that an agent cannot exercise unless specifically authorized to do so by the individual. Additionally, it lists circumstances under which a third party may legitimately refuse to accept a power of attorney or provide sanctions for unlawful refusals.”
Roderick Bremby, CT Department of Social Services:
“…In 2014, the Department referred close to 100 cases of financial exploitation to the Office of the Chief State's Attorney for criminal investigation, which is significantly greater than in previous years. Reports of financial exploitation account for approximately 25% of the reports the Department receives.
…The proposed changes to the protective services and criminal statutes, and the addition of a “Connecticut Uniform Power of Attorney Act” would go a long way toward deterring financial exploitation of elderly persons and creating meaningful consequences for those who are convicted of such exploitation. They add important changes to current law relating to oversight of individuals who have power of attorney. These revisions would reduce the financial burden imposed on the state as a result of the misuse of authority by powers of attorney.
…For these reasons the Department supports this proposal.”
Nancy Shaffer, Connecticut State Long-Term Care Ombudsman:
“…The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program supports this proposal, but with a specific recommendation: Section 4 (a) of the proposal defines mandated reporters to include “(8) professional patients' advocate”. I ask the Aging Committee to add the language “(excluding the Office of the State Ombudsman)”. Per the Older American's Act, the Ombudsman Program is not a mandated reporter. The work of the Ombudsman is designed to be resident-centered and directed.”
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Natasha Pierre, State Victim Advocate:
“Financial exploitation of seniors, a form of elder abuse, is on the rise and often goes unreported. The elder may experience shame, embarrassment, fear and guilt, coupled with the devastating reality that a trusted caretaker or family member is responsible for the abuse. Further, as the elder ages, mental and physical limitations may increase the elder's potential for abuse. Elders are likely to suffer financial, emotional and social harm as well as physical health effects.
…Senate Bill No. 1005 will make it clear that any person who violates the trust and welfare of an elderly person for personal financial gain will face harsh consequences.”
“…Several provisions outlined in SB 1005 are intended to fight elder financial exploitation and abuse. The proposal also provides additional mechanisms to detect and report potential abuse…In particular, AARP supports adoption of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (sections 9-53). Powers of Attorney are essential tools for delegating authority to others to handle financial matters in many situations. It is a legal document used by an individual (the principal) to name someone else (the agent) to make financial decisions and act on the principal's behalf. To be useful as an incapacity planning tool, a POA must give broad authority to the agent. A Power of Attorney, whether general or durable, is private; there is not the same level of court oversight as there is for a guardianship or conservatorship appointment. State laws often are unclear about the duty owed by the agent to the principal. This combination of broad consent, lack of oversight, and unclear duties makes it possible for agents to misuse their authority.
…While the Act can't prevent bad actors from committing theft and other forms of abuse, it does set forth clear agent duties and prohibitions that will make civil actions and criminal prosecutions more effective.”
Connecticut Bankers Association:
“The CBA has been diligently working with the Department of Aging and a task force including a broad group of key stakeholders, to create a public/private partnership for the voluntary reporting by banks of actual or suspected elderly fraud.
…While the Bills provisions are well intended, we are concerned that the language creating the new mandatory reporting, significant fines and criminal prosecution for perceived non-compliance will create several unanticipated and negative consequences. This will likely cause over-reporting “to be safe” and not address the complexities of effectively identifying and reporting to protect elder customers. Also, and importantly, is the potential for lawsuits from elder customers, their family members or those with Power of Attorney designations who do not want the bank reporting any activities, or telling them what to do with their monies. These provisions will also highlight a lack of capacity to address the flood of new reporting to law enforcement and those agencies that will receive those reports, as their resources are already stretched thin.”
Mag Morelli, LeadingAge Connecticut:
“Prevention of elder abuse is a priority for LeadingAge Connecticut members and we therefore support the intent of this proposed bill which is to extend the current statutory reporting requirements and protective services for elder abuse to include the financial exploitation of older adults.
…We do have questions regarding some of the new and amended definitions contained in the bill. For instance, in the definition of a “person who stands in a position of trust and confidence,” in line 36 we question whether the intent was to place an “and” instead of an “or” between (A) and (B). We also note that the definition of “neglect” now varies from its use in other similar statutes and we ask if the definition of “caretaker” should be clarified.”
Jill Nowacki, Credit Union League of Connecticut:
“…We are extremely concerned that mandating reporting of suspected financial abuse will put credit union employees at the risk of civil and or criminal penalties and could make the credit union liable should an employee make an error in reporting suspected financial abuse. We are fearful that a credit union member bring an action for damages against the credit union for revealing private information.”
“…I respectfully submit to you my opinion that this bill number 1005 unfortunately is just more business as usual in what we have so tragically learned is such a corrupt state, tragically learned that our “public servants” are in fact the perpetrators of the public corruption and tragically learned that abject lawlessness has truly destroyed the ironically named Constitution State.”
“…Many, many innocent citizen families in Connecticut are being injured and even destroyed by the systemic corruption that has taken root in the “Constitution State”.”
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Richard Ferrari/Art Mongillo