Legal Hotline Services Can Help Seniors Who Are Targeted by Scammers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) re-introduced the Senior Legal Hotline Act in the U.S. House, a bill with Democratic and Republican support to boost federal funding for senior legal hotlines, which help protect older Americans from scams and offer services for an array of other legal issues. An identical version of this legislation also was introduced in the U.S. Senate today by U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Bob Casey (D-PA).
“Senior legal hotlines can provide invaluable advice and resources on issues affecting our elderly community like health, housing, and other legal assistance concerns,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “By expanding the network of senior assistance hotlines, and providing federal funding, we can also protect our seniors from scams and misinformation. Thank you to my friend, Congressman Cartwright for his leadership, and I look forward to working to ensure that our seniors are safe, healthy, and treated with dignity.”
“Unfortunately, older Americans are often targeted by scammers who try to con people out of their savings,” said Rep. Cartwright. “Senior legal hotlines can be lifelines for older adults who need legal advice or assistance when they’re targeted by these dishonest schemes. But after a difficult year, a lot of these support centers have had to close their doors or reduce hours of operation. This legislation provides support for senior legal hotlines so they can continue offering the assistance that older Americans deserve.”
“With thousands of Americans turning 65 every day, the need to provide accessible legal assistance to our growing senior population is one we must tackle immediately,” said Senator Tillis. “Senior legal hotlines play a vital role in providing those services to our seniors, and this bipartisan, bicameral legislation will support these organizations so we can expand affordable legal assistance to those in need.”
“For many older adults, access to senior legal hotlines is the only available resource to help them address legal challenges. Many senior-serving organizations have had to shut down their hotlines or reduce their capacity for lack of funding, pushing legal help further out of reach for many seniors. This legislation would authorize dedicated funding for legal hotlines to ensure that organizations can broaden their network of services and continue to provide quality, accessible legal help to seniors who are not otherwise able to seek a remedy for their legal challenges,” said Senator Casey.
According to the Department of Justice, around one in ten older Americans is the victim of some form of elder abuse. Elder abuse can include physical abuse, financial fraud, scams and exploitation, caregiver neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. Despite the prevalence of elder abuse, the majority of low-income seniors receive inadequate or no professional legal help for civil legal issues.
Senior legal hotlines provide older adults access to free legal information, advice and referrals on a host of topics, including health, finances, housing, income maintenance and disability. However, due to lack of resources, many hotlines are no longer operational or have scaled back their hours.
The Senior Legal Hotline Act would provide resources to:
• Ensure older adults are provided access to statewide hotlines staffed with appropriately trained attorneys, paralegals and other staff members;
• Ensure older adults are provided access to a robust network of support and referral services, including from aging organizations, other legal aid agencies and private attorneys providing pro bono legal services; and
• Allow hotlines to employ a variety of technologies, such as video conference systems, web-based platforms or e-mail to deliver legal assistance to older adults.
This bipartisan legislation is endorsed by the American Bar Association, National Association of Senior Legal Hotlines, Connecticut Legal Services, Inc. and Vermont Legal Aid, Inc.
Additional co-sponsors in the U.S. House are Reps. Jahana Hayes (D-CT-05), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At-Large), Vern Buchanan (R-FL-13), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Susan Wild (D-PA-07) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA-08).
Text of the legislation can be viewed HERE.