Public Laws | Pending Legislation
Elder Justice Act
Senator John B. Breaux (D-LA) has a strong interest in the issue of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. In his former capacity as Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Senator Breaux held several hearings on the topic of elder abuse. In June 2002, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report entitled “Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America.” The National Institute on Aging (NIA) asked NAS to conduct a review of the available information on elder abuse and develop recommendations for the establishment of a research agenda. Citing concerns that there is no Federal law that addresses elder abuse in a comprehensive fashion, Senator Breaux introduced S. 333, the Elder Justice Act, on February 10, 2003. The measure is identical to S. 2933, which Senator Breaux introduced during the 107th Congress. Provisions in S. 333 attempt to address the recommendations that were put forth in the 2002 NAS report.
Provisions of the Legislation/Impact on NIH
Most of the provisions in S. 333 focused on programs that were already under the purview of the Administration on Aging (AoA) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). However, the following provisions were of interest to the National Institutes of Health:
- Office of Elder Justice: Section 1 of the legislation would have established an Office of Elder Justice within AoA. The Director of this new office would have been given the authority to develop objectives, priorities, policies, and a long-term plan for elder justice programs and activities relating to the prevention, detection, training, treatment, evaluation, intervention, research, and improvement of the elder justice system in the United States. The legislation would have also established a parallel office within DOJ.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Intra-Agency Elder Justice Steering Committee: S. 333 would have established the Intra-Agency Elder Steering Committee, which would have included several components of DHHS, including NIA . The Committee would have been responsible for coordinating elder justice programs and policies within DHHS.
- Elder Justice Coordinating Council: The legislation would have established the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, which would have comprised representatives from DHHS, DOJ, and other relevant Federal agencies; States; communities; and nonprofit groups. A representative from NIA would have been required to participate in the Council. The Council would have been required to meet at least twice a year and make recommendations for the coordination of activities relating to elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, and other crimes against elders to DHHS, DOJ, and other relevant Federal, State, local, and private agencies and entities.
- Advisory Board on Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation: An Advisory Board on Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation would have been established under S. 333 and would have comprised members of the general public who have expertise in the area of elder justice. The Board would have made recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Attorney General, the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, and appropriate congressional committees.
- Elder Justice Resource Center: The legislation would have created an Elder Justice Resource Center at AoA to collect, maintain, analyze, and disseminate elder justice information to numerous groups, including researchers.
- Grants and NIA Centers of Excellence (COEs): S. 333 would have authorized the Secretary of HHS to award grants for the prevention, detection, assessment, and treatment of and intervention in elder abuse. The legislation would have also given authority to NIA to establish five COEs to specialize in research, clinical practice, and training on elder abuse. The COEs would have had the authority to examine potential issues related to human subjects protection for individuals who are the subjects of elder abuse research and develop and recommend to the Secretary guidelines to assist the institutional or peer-review boards in the review of elder abuse research. The COEs would have also been given the authority to conduct a study of the national incidence and prevalence of elder abuse, develop screening tools to assist in detecting ongoing or potential elder abuse, and conduct intervention research.
Status and Outlook
S. 333 was introduced by Senator Breaux on February 10, 2003, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. The Committee passed an amendment in the nature of a substitute on September 20, 2004. The measure was reported out by the Committee Chair, Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), with an amendment in the nature of a substitute and an amendment to the title. No further action occurred on this legislation during the 108th Congress.