As Veteran’s Day approaches, people across the U.S. will reflect on the sacrifices made by men and women who served their country. But while we cherish veterans and revere them for their bravery, many of them are facing a new enemy—elder abuse. Elder abuse is an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. The definition of an older adult is determined at the state level, but most include adults above the age of 60 and those with disabilities.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, national studies find that over 10% of older adults are victims of elder abuse annually, and a growing number of military veterans fall into this category. Fifteen percent of the over-60 population are veterans, and according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), there are over 11 million veterans in the older adult category. These men and women are prime targets for elder abuse, specifically elder financial exploitation, or elder fraud.
Elder fraud occurs when a person misuses or takes the assets of a vulnerable adult for their benefit and:
- Without the explicit knowledge or consent of the individual
- In a manner that deprives the individual of vital financial resources for personal needs
- Using deception, false pretenses, coercion, harassment, duress, and threats to do so
These crimes often significantly impact veterans’ quality of life. The loss of financial stability at an older age is not easily recovered and can even cause a premature end of life.
Elder abuse is an underreported crime for a number of reasons including shame, embarrassment, protection of family members, or lack of mental capacity to report. While the prevalence and characteristics of elder abuse in the veteran population are not known, it is likely that this population is at elevated risk based on the following factors: