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January 12, 2012

New Law Gets Tough on Elder Abuse (IL. USA)

January 11, 2012
BY Mary Anne Meyers
Illinois News Connection

Some of the most vulnerable Illinoisans will be better protected starting this month from those who would take advantage of them financially.
Those who steal Social Security checks or defraud Illinois elders and people with disabilities have a better chance of being locked up under a new state law. That measure, House Bill 1689, increases penalties for such financial exploitation, in many cases making the crime a serious felony, depending on how much money is involved.
Ryan Gruenenfelder, associate state director for advocacy and outreach with AARP Illinois, said most of these cases involve family members or caregivers.
“That’s why the Illinois Department on Aging and other elder abuse experts say that only about one in 13 cases of these crimes actually does get reported.”
Nationally, financial exploitation costs elders nearly $2.5 billion every year, and yet, Gruenenfelder said, many times it is treated as a civil case rather than criminal.
“That’s been the biggest frustration for us with regards to elder abuse, specifically. It hasn’t received the attention and the sympathy, I guess, that child abuse and domestic violence has.”
Gruenenfelder said he understands why elders would be hesitant to report family members for financial abuse, but he said law enforcement and advocates need to help them understand that they don’t deserve to be exploited.
“This is criminal. Just because someone has control of your money, say in a power-of-attorney situation, it doesn’t mean that that person isn’t taking advantage of that person  and stealing their money,” he said.
Taking money or property, cashing checks without permission, or denying services to save on funds can all be considered financial abuse, and can now land a person in jail in Illinois

SOURCE:        My Journal Courier
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