Elder abuse, like many forms of domestic abuse, is often a hidden phenomenon that affects hundreds of thousands of older Americans. Financial exploitation is the most prevalent form of this type of abuse. In fact, 1 out of 5 older adults experience financial exploitation and on average lose $120,000.
AARP has a long history of fighting for protections against the financial exploitation of older adults, and this year, AARP Virgin Islands aggressively advocated in support of Bill No. 33-0077. The bill, sponsored by Senator Allison DeGazon, was unanimously passed by the Senate and signed into law by Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on July 27. Now older Virgin Islanders have an additional tool to help fight against financial exploitation.
In fact, the passage of this new law will provide additional protections for older Virgin Islanders from perpetrators intent on causing financial harm to an older adult. It also allows the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services Adult Protective Section to seek assistance from local law enforcement when investigating reports of suspected financial exploitation.
“People have the right to live free from all forms of abuse. I am pleased the Virgin Islands has a stronger law to combat financial exploitation and provide survivors with a sense of security that their assets are protected,” said Troy de Chabert-Schuster, AARP Virgin Islands state director.
Financial exploitation can cause injures far beyond the pocketbook. This abuse frequently affects an older adult’s physical and emotional health. The government in many instances finds itself trying to pick up the pieces. Yet, efforts to prevent this type of abuse through the passage of stricter laws, like Bill No 33-0077, are often cost-neutral. The enactment of stronger safeguards against financial exploitation of older Virgin Islanders is a win for the government, older adults and their families.
AARP Virgin Islands remains committed to working on behalf of its members to continue efforts to combat all forms of elder abuse. We, alongside lawmakers and other partners, are developing a comprehensive elder abuse law to prevent, detect and prosecute all forms of abuse – physical, psychological and financial. The intent, among other things, is to provide additional safeguards for older adults and individuals with disabilities and increase criminal penalties for people who commit all forms of abuse. AARP Virgin Islands stands ready to collaborate on this and other initiatives that continue to empower older adults to live their lives as they chose and free from abuse.
Troy de Chabert-Schuster