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My Turn: Legislation added protections for elderly

Last modified: 10/26/2014 3:05:27 AM
Mark Connolly did an excellent job of explaining the ever-growing problem of elder financial exploitation (Monitor Forum, Oct. 17).

On a national level, approximately $2.9 billion per year is stolen from seniors. And as the elder population continues to increase, this figure will only increase.

In New Hampshire, the elder population is expected to double by 2025 and, as Connolly states, trends could result in one-third of our state, or 500,000 New Hampshire citizens, being over the age of 65 by 2030.

While New Hampshire does have mandatory reporting laws regarding the suspected abuse and exploitation of elders and special certifications for elderly financial professionals, these provisions have not been sufficient to adequately protect our state’s older adults.

Unfortunately, neither the Monitor nor Connolly mentioned that this past year the New Hampshire Legislature took a giant step toward correcting this problem.

In January, in partnership with the Merrimack County Coordinated Response Team, I introduced House Bill 1555, a law to strengthen our state’s ability to respond to financial exploitation of elderly, disabled and impaired adults.

The bill garnered strong support from a broad range of stakeholders, including Gov. Maggie Hassan, a bipartisan group of legislators, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, AARP-NH, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, the New Hampshire Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the New Hampshire Bankers Association.

The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, gives law enforcement officers and prosecutors clear guidance on the various acts that constitute the crime of financial exploitation and will support their efforts to successfully investigate and prosecute offenders.

Some of the key aspects of the bill include:

∎ Making it a crime for fiduciaries who, for their own profit or advantage, deprive or take real or personal property of an elderly, disabled or impaired adult for the benefit of someone other than the adult.

∎ Making it a crime for a person through the use of undue influence, harassment, duress, force, compulsion of coercion to acquire possession or control of an interest in real or personal property of an elderly, disabled or impaired adult.

∎ Imposing criminal penalties on offenders who know or reasonably should have known that the victim is an elderly, disabled or impaired adult.

∎ Giving law enforcement concurrent jurisdiction with BEAS to investigate reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of incapacitated adults.

∎ Broadening protection against financial exploitation beyond “incapacitated” adults.

House Bill 1555 sends a strong and much-needed message to potential exploiters that New Hampshire will not tolerate this type of mistreatment of our state’s most vulnerable citizens, including our seniors.

I am proud to have sponsored this important legislation and helped secure its passage by the Legislature.

(Katherine Rogers is a state representative from Concord.)


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