Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you for that warm welcome, Acting Assistant Secretary Barkoff. It is a pleasure to join you once again and to represent the Department of Justice at the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, alongside Andy Mao, the Department’s National Elder Justice Coordinator.
I would like to thank Deputy Secretary Palm for the leadership role that HHS has played on the Council and for partnering with Council participants to protect older Americans from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
For the past decade, combating elder fraud and abuse has been a top priority for the Justice Department. We remain committed to doing all we can to restore dignity to older adults who have been abused, and to repair the sense of safety and security for those who have been financially exploited or defrauded. Prevention, early detection and early intervention — combined with partnership at every level of government — are all necessary to combat elder abuse.
Let me begin with some updates since I last spoke to this group.
As outlined in our recent annual report to Congress, the Department pursued nearly 300 criminal and civil cases in the past year on issues ranging from COVID-19 fraud to grossly substandard care in nursing homes. We also returned millions of dollars to elder-fraud victims through asset forfeitures and other actions. At the same time, we developed tools for elder justice professionals on the front lines and devoted substantial resources to victim assistance, including by responding to a record number of calls on the National Elder Fraud Hotline. And the Department participated in public outreach on numerous elder justice topics to over 150,000 individuals, including members of law enforcement, legal aid attorneys, elder justice professionals and members of the public.
Collaboration and coordination at all levels of government have been key to the success of these departmental initiatives.
First and foremost, this is reflected in our close partnership with other federal agencies. As many of you know, the Justice Department has focused much of our elder justice enforcement on transnational schemes, which comprised nearly 40% of our cases in the past year. Our whole-of-government approach has been critical to detecting and disrupting these schemes, which include grandparent scams, romance fraud, identity theft and lottery fraud. Our work to investigate, build and prosecute these cases has involved collaboration with the U.S. Postal Inspection Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
Our federal partners have likewise been instrumental in helping raise awareness on issues impacting older adults. For example, with the help of the Administration for Community Living, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Institute on Aging and others, we convened a three-day virtual symposium last April focused on the role that decision-making capacity plays in elder justice proceedings, where criminal and civil judges are frequently called upon to undertake the complex and nuanced task of trying to assess the abilities of older adults to make independent decisions about personal and financial matters.
Equally critical for the department’s work has been our continued collaboration and coordination at the state and local level. Our federal initiatives have long benefitted from the assistance of our state and local law enforcement partners — and I am excited that the Council will be hearing today from some of our state partners who are so committed to this work.
We also have several efforts in the works to strengthen these partnerships in the days ahead.
One example of a successful collaboration is the National Nursing Home Initiative. Launched in 2020, this initiative is designed to coordinate and enhance civil and criminal enforcement related to nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care by drawing on a wide network of state and local professionals, including state Medicaid Fraud Control Units, adult protective services, Long-Term Care Ombudsmen, state and local law enforcement and many others.
Next month, the initiative will launch a significant new training effort with state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Directors across the nation. In a series of six virtual convenings, the Justice Department’s Elder Justice and Health Care Fraud Coordinators will meet with Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Directors to discuss the most effective ways to collaborate on priority substandard care cases and share best practices related to this enforcement work.
And just last month, the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime announced the first of its kind effort to support a National Elder Justice Coalition Center to support the development of new state and tribal coalitions that will collaborate with federal agencies to coordinate elder justice work. The National Elder Justice Coalition Center will release a competitive solicitation early next summer to fund and support additional elder justice coalitions across the country.
Finally, a bit of a coming attraction: I am pleased to announce that in the fall of 2023, the Justice Department will host an Elder Justice Summit specifically for state and local law enforcement. This Summit will provide a national platform for sharing strategies and best practices, information, and resources. Stay tuned for more information on this.
On behalf of the Justice Department, I want to thank you again for all that you have done and will do to advance the cause of elder justice. My colleagues and I look forward to continuing to partner with you on this important issue.