During Older Americans Month, Spanberger, Molinaro Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Combat Elder Abuse, Improve Link Between Health & Social Services for Seniors

Recent Studies Have Found That Approximately One in 10 Seniors Have Experienced Some Form of Abuse in the Last Year, Including Psychological Abuse, Financial Abuse, and Neglect

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Marc Molinaro (R-NY-19) today reintroduced the Linking Seniors to Needed Legal Services Act to create medical-legal partnerships — multidisciplinary teams that combine clinical staff with social workers and lawyers at a single healthcare site — to improve seniors’ and other vulnerable elders’ access to legal and social services in healthcare settings and help protect them from elder abuse.

Recent studies have found that approximately one in 10 seniors have experienced some form of abuse, including psychological abuse, financial abuse, and neglect.

This bipartisan legislation would create a grant program for individual states to develop medical-legal partnerships to establish, improve, or maintain linkages between health and social services for vulnerable seniors in healthcare settings. These linkages would help meet vulnerable patients’ social and legal needs that can be detrimental to overall health when unmet, such as housing, food, education, and access to care.

“All seniors deserve to age with respect, dignity, and security.” said Spanberger. “I’m proud to lead the bipartisan Linking Seniors to Needed Legal Services Act with Rep. Molinaro to make sure our seniors can access the care, legal resources, and social services they deserve. Our commonsense effortwould provide the funding necessary to expand these services and allow more patients to access trained healthcare professionals dedicated to meeting their needs and preventing elder abuse.”

“We know that senior abuse is happening and can come in many forms including psychological, financial, and neglect. We have to do everything we can to stop it and lend a helping hand,” said Molinaro. “I’m proud to partner with Rep. Spanberger on this bipartisan legislation to ensure seniors have access to the necessary legal, medical, and support services to make fully informed decisions and achieve a better quality of life.”

Specifically, this bill would also require states to fund the development and expansion of legal assistance hotlines to identify seniors who could benefit from access to these services. These hotlines would help connect more vulnerable patients to professionals who can best address seniors’ social determinants of health and combat neglect, isolation, and exploitation.

The Linking Seniors to Needed Legal Services Act is endorsed by Social Security Works, the Elder Justice Coalition, the Virginia Center on Aging, and the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Social Security Works applauds Representative Abigail Spanberger for her important leadership in sponsoring the Linking Seniors to Needed Legal Services Act of 2024. Social Security and Medicare are essential for economic security, and so are services to ensure that people can access the medical, legal, and other support they need,” said Nancy Altman, President, Social Security Works. “Rep. Spanberger understands this. Her visionary approach will bring together interdisciplinary teams in every state to ensure that seniors can get their needs met at a single location. There is no question that this important legislation will improve all of our economic security.”

“The Elder Justice Coalition is pleased to endorse the bipartisan Linking Seniors to Needed Legal Services Act. The grants within this bill invest in resources such as a legal services hotline and medical-legal partnerships to better serve, protect, and empower older adults,” said Bob Blancato, National Coordinator, Equal Justice Coalition.  “We commend Representatives Spanberger and Molinaro for their leadership in authoring this bill.”

“We thank Rep. Spanberger for her leadership on behalf of vulnerable older Americans,” said Leland “Bert” Waters, Director of the Virginia Geriatric Education Center, Virginia Commonwealth University. “The development and expansion of medical-legal partnerships to establish, improve, or maintain linkages between health and social services for vulnerable seniors in healthcare settings is imperative. Legal assistance hotlines are effective and evidence-based in identifying seniors who could benefit from access to these services.”

“Through the Linking Seniors to Needed Legal Services Act, people living with Alzheimer’s would have improved access to critical legal and social services through medical-legal partnerships,” said Robert Egge, Chief Public Policy Officer and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) President, Alzheimer’s Association. “On behalf of the Alzheimer’s community, thank you to Rep. Spanberger for introducing this bipartisan legislation that will help protect vulnerable populations from elder abuse.”

The Linking Seniors to Needed Legal Services Act would directly appropriate $125 million per year over four years to fund these programs as part of the Elder Justice Act. The legislation would also require states to report to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for evaluation and a report to Congress from the Secretary every four years.

Click here for the full bill text.

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