While Congress might be out of session, three congressmen representing the Sunshine State introduced a new proposal to help protect the disabled from abusive guardians.
Along with U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., U.S. Reps. Darren Soto, D-Fla., Charlie Crist, D-Fla. and Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., showcased the “Guardianship Accountability Act” on Wednesday, insisting their proposal could help 1.3 million disabled Americans from guardians who abuse or neglect them. The bill adds new oversight and data collection measures for guardians, following guidelines from the Aging Committee‘s “Ensuring Trust: Strengthening State Efforts to Overhaul the Guardianship Process and Protect Older Americans” report released in November. The bill would create state guardianship databases to collect “information on guardians, training for court visitors, and sharing information on guardian background checks with appropriate entities” and create a National Online Resource Center on Guardianship to collect and publish information for guardians.
“It is our duty in Congress to speak up and protect the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Soto. “In Orlando, we saw firsthand the abuse of a former guardian which led to a preventable death. We owe it to our seniors and to those living with disabilities to provide protections from ill-intended bad actors who abuse the system designed to provide a better quality of life. Guardianship is a critical resource that gives Americans support when they need it most. This bipartisan legislation will empower the good guardians and allow them to continue serving those in need, while combating against fraud and abuse.”
“It is said that the strength of a society can be judged based upon how it treats its most vulnerable populations. We’ve seen from recent examples in the news, and alarming rates of elder abuse throughout Pasco and Pinellas counties, that guardianship is an area where we can and must do better in order to ensure the protection of our seniors,” said Bilirakis. “Following the recommendations from the Senate Special Committee on Aging, I am proud to be part of this bipartisan initiative that provides additional resources, strengthens protections and improves intergovernmental coordination in order to achieve this paramount objective.”
“Guardianship abuses are resulting in seniors literally being held against their will, isolated from family members and friends, their assets liquidated and drained by unscrupulous people gaming a broken system,” said Crist. “This legal form of kidnapping is happening in communities across the country, in many cases with little or no recourse available, and recently in Florida directly resulting in a death. This legislation brings federal resources to bear, providing the missing transparency needed to understand where problems exist with a better ability for stakeholders to track outcomes across disparate state court systems nationwide.”
The bill is being championed in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Aging Committee, and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., the top Democrat on the committee.