HD13 - Adult Financial Exploitation in Virginia: Collaborative Approaches to Address the Issue

Executive Summary:
Adult financial exploitation is difficult to detect, investigate, and stop from happening again. Its effects are devastating to victims and their family members. Witnessing the damage it causes weighs heavily on the response system of Adult Protective Services (APS) workers, law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and judges. Combatting the problem requires collaboration from a diverse group of professionals, community partners and the public.

The safety and financial security of older adults was a focus of the 2016 Virginia Governor’s Conference on Aging as well as an ongoing concern to state legislators. During the 2016 Session, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill (HB) 676. The legislation, sponsored by Delegate Christopher Peace, required the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to study adult financial exploitation in the Commonwealth. The DARS Commissioner, James A. Rothrock, was asked to convene a workgroup of stakeholders to:

• Determine the cost of financial exploitation of adults in the Commonwealth; and

• Develop recommendations for improving the ability of financial institutions to identify financial exploitation, the process by which financial institutions report suspected financial exploitation of adults and interactions between financial institutions and local adult protective services units investigating reports of suspected financial exploitation of adults.

The workgroup met four times between July and October 2016. Members discussed opportunities to improve the interactions between APS and financial institutions staff and ways to strengthen the investigations of reports of adult financial exploitation. The workgroup also reviewed state fiscal year (SFY) 2015 data on substantiated financial exploitation cases obtained from the state APS database. The analysis of these records revealed victims lost an estimated total of $28,226,512 during the fiscal year.

The workgroup’s report highlights eight recommendations including changes to certain definitions in the Code of Virginia, improving training for APS workers, and developing educational materials for financial institutions. A few of the recommendations do not require legislative action and can be accomplished through collaborative efforts of state and local APS staff and a variety of other stakeholders. Commissioner Rothrock also encouraged workgroup members to build on the momentum of the previous four months and form a statewide coalition to help Virginia remain vigilant in preventing and responding to adult financial exploitation.