Sen. Allison DeGazon protects elderly with financial abuse bill
Sen. Allison DeGazon’s bill protecting the elderly from financial abuse has been forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary.
Bill No. 33-0077 is an act amending title 34, chapter 15 of the Virgin Islands Code by deleting section 470 and adding a new chapter relating to the financial exploitation of elderly persons or dependent adults.
According to DeGazon, elder financial exploitation is a significant problem now and is expected to worsen with the aging of our community.
“This issue has gained the attention of lawmakers, financial regulator and other professionals, with new measures introduced over the recent years to address this issue,” DeGazon said during a Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services hearing on Monday afternoon.
The senator noted that the bill was also for those who were abandoned by their families at the Juan F. Luis Hospital.
According to the U.S. Securities and exchange commission, Financial exploration is recognized as one of five forms of elder abuse followed by psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.
“Colleagues it is my vision that Bill 33-0077 relating to the financial exploitation of elderly persons or dependent adults can be adopted to supplement Act 7002 and protect our most vulnerable in our community,” DeGazon said when presenting the bill.
Atty. General Denise George testified in support of the bill, noting that 51 percent of crimes committed against the elderly are by strangers, home repair scams, burglaries and robberies, and 34 percent are committed by their family, friends, loved ones and caregivers.
“Given just the small sampling of the numerous and complex issues that relate to elder and dependent financial exploitation, I stand in support of this measure with recommendations for certain amendments,” George said, but said the bill needed language to address crimes committed by non-family. “New language should be adopted that would penalize anyone seeking to financially exploit the dependent or elderly.”
AARP Virgin Islands, The VI Police Department and Department of Human Services also supported the bill, but DHS asked for language to strengthen their ability to investigate suspected or known cases of exploitation.
As the bill was voted on favorably and was moved to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, DeGazon said the testifiers’ concerns will be addressed.
“We let the community know that we are in fact taking care of those who are vulnerable. We will address those amendments and suggestions and make sure that we are all on the same page,” DeGazon said