Obenshain Statement on Passage of Elder Abuse Prevention Bill

February 25, 2022

RICHMOND – Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) released the following statement following the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 124.

“I’m happy to report that my SB 124 passed the House of Delegates unanimously yesterday afternoon and is headed to Governor Youngkin’s desk for his signature. It’s a travesty that financial abuse of our elderly is more and more prevalent every year. Protecting this vulnerable population has long been a priority of mine and this bill is one more step in holding bad actors accountable for financially exploiting an incapacitated adult.”

SB 124 creates a new criminal offense for people who misuse a power of attorney to exploit the person who they were supposed to be helping and protecting.  When someone gives a power of attorney to another, he or she is entrusting that person with a position of trust and great responsibility. The opportunity for abuse is significant and when that happens, there should be an additional charge for the breach of trust, above and beyond that which applies to simple theft.

The federal government estimates that the costs of financial fraud against seniors exceed $2 billion annually. According to a recent elder needs survey, nearly one in five Americans aged 65 and older have been victims of elder financial abuse. The survey claims that over $36 billion is lost each year to financial exploitation, criminal fraud and caregiver abuse. 90 percent of perpetrators of fraud are known to their victims.

The closer the tie between perpetrator and victim, the greater the damage. A detailed study of elder financial abuse in Utah found that the amount stolen by people who knew their victim averaged $116,000 — nearly triple the haul taken by strangers. Criminals within the family got even more: $148,000. And the thieves who stole the most money — $262,000, on average — were the victims’ children.

Obenshain concluded, “Facts matter and the reality is that this combination of vulnerability and financial means puts elders in enhanced danger of exploitation. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the House of Delegates and the Senate for their support of this bill. I look forward to this becoming Virginia law so that we can continue to tamp down on elder abuse in our society.”

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate.  The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He serves on the Senate Judiciary; Commerce & Labor; Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and Transportation Committees.