What Is the Elder Justice Act?

The Elder Justice Act (EJA) is a federal act that President Obama signed into law in 2010 as part of the larger Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It serves to prevent elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation, and prosecute abusers when appropriate. The EJA was the first piece of legislation to address elder abuse in America. It authorized $100 million in federal funding for state and local Adult Protective Services Programs around the country and took a major step toward protecting the nation’s most vulnerable population.

Provisions of the Elder Justice Act

Under the EJA, the federal Department of Health and Human Services must oversee the development of resources to prevent, detect, and treat elder abuse. The act requires the establishment of several advisory boards, councils, and protective service offices around the country. The Elder Justice Coordinating Council and the Advisory Board on Elder Abuse are two such establishments that came about because of the act. The act also gives additional funding to state and local programs that serve to protect the elderly from abuse, as well as to training programs and state agencies that survey nursing home facilities. Other provisions include:

  • Increasing support to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation forensic centers.
  • Mandating the immediate reporting of crimes in long-term care and nursing home facilities.
  • Creating penalties for any retaliation elderly individuals suffer as a result of reporting health, safety, or law violations.
  • Directing a study on how to create a national nurse aide registry to improve the safety of residents.

The provisions of the EJA serve to educate the population of the very real dangers of elder abuse – a problem that remains widely underreported (studies suggest victims only report one in 23 cases). It also establishes better leadership and guidance on this subject, through more programs made available to the elderly and their family members/caregivers. The EJA oversees the efforts of the Department of Justice to combat elder abuse and expanded legislation related to elder abuse, such as the Elder Abuse Victims Act and the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act.

What the Act Means to the Elderly

The Elder Justice Act is not new, nor was it new back in 2010. The EJA has been in the works since 2002 when Louisiana Senator John Breaux wrote the original bill and introduced it to Congress. Although it failed to pass back then, it inspired the Elder Justice Coalition (EJC) to form in 2003. In the seven years following, the EJC worked hard to get the EJA to pass through Congress – a dream that finally became reality in 2010.

Today, almost exactly eight years later, the EJA has taken great strides toward improving things for the elderly. The Elder Justice Coordinating Council adopted its first recommendations for changes in 2014, which included suggestions to improve the response to elder abuse, as well as to increase the awareness and prevention of the problem. Long-term care facilities must report elder abuse to local law enforcement and to the Department of Health and Human Services within 24 hours after forming reasonable suspicion, or within two hours if the event could cause serious bodily injury. Learn more about the EJA with help from a Kansas City nursing home abuse lawyer.