The Elder Justice Act At 11: Its Best Years Are Ahead

It was 11 years ago today that the Elder Justice Act (EJA) became law as part of the Affordable Care Act. It has been viewed then and now as a landmark measure representing the strongest federal response to the crisis of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.   Over the past four months, this law has accelerated toward reaching its full potential. Laws only succeed when funding is provided to implement their provisions. On this anniversary, we celebrate two bills, the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed in December and the American Rescue Plan Act which was just signed into law on March 11. These two laws provide a total of $376 million for EJA programs. By contrast, over the previous 10 years, only $58 million total had been appropriated.   Both recent bills were covid-19 relief bills, meaning that the funding provided is considered emergency funding. It is unfortunate that it took a pandemic for Congress to realize the need to address elder abuse. However, it is what it is, and the important work of disseminating these funds to state adult protective services programs and long-term care ombudsman programs is now well under way. We especially look forward to seeing the tangible benefits in helping elder abuse victims and preventing future victimization.   Moving forward, we need to renew the EJA and make it more relevant to the times we are in. We are beginning internal discussions with the leadership of the Coalition which will then be followed by discussions with House and Senate staff. We enter this process buoyed by the support provided for reauthorization during the Presidential campaign of President Biden and Vice President Harris.   As we celebrate, we should also take time to pay tribute to many in Congress and two Administrations who have impacted the development, passage, and implementation of the EJA. We note that the EJA has always been bipartisan as evidenced by those acknowledged. Previous champions include former President Barack Obama, former Sens. John Breaux, Orrin Hatch and Max Baucus, and former Reps. Peter King and Rahm Emanuel. Champions currently in Congress include Sens. Charles Grassley and Ron Wyden and Reps. Richard Neal and Suzanne Bonamici.     Promoting elder justice through the prevention of elder abuse is more than a policy goal—it is a moral responsibility. We must continue this worthwhile effort.    — Bob Blancato, National Coordinator, Elder Justice Coalition