Today, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) re-introduced the Senior Legal Hotline Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to boost federal funding for senior legal hotlines that help protect older Americans from scams and offer services for an array of other legal issues. An identical version of this legislation also was introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
"With thousands of Americans turning 65 every day, the need to provide accessible legal assistance to our growing senior population is one we must tackle immediately,"
said Senator Tillis. "Senior legal hotlines play a vital role in providing those services to our seniors, and this bipartisan, bicameral legislation will support these organizations so we can expand affordable legal assistance to those in need."
According to the Department of Justice, approximately one in ten
older Americans is the victim of some form of elder abuse. Elder abuse can include physical abuse, financial fraud, scams and exploitation, caregiver neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. Despite the prevalence of elder abuse, the majority of low-income seniors receive inadequate or no professional legal help for civil legal issues.
Senior legal hotlines provide older adults access to free legal information, advice and referrals on a host of topics, including health, finances, housing, income maintenance and disability. However, due to lack of resources, many hotlines are no longer operational or have scaled back their hours.
The Senior Legal Hotline Act would provide resources to:
- Ensure older adults are provided access to statewide hotlines staffed with appropriately trained attorneys, paralegals and other staff members;
- Ensure older adults are provided access to a robust network of support and referral services, including from aging organizations, other legal aid agencies and private attorneys providing pro bono legal services; and
- Allow hotlines to employ a variety of technologies, such as video conference systems, web-based platforms or e-mail to deliver legal assistance to older adults.
This bipartisan legislation is endorsed by the American Bar Association, National Association of Senior Legal Hotlines, Connecticut Legal Services, Inc. and Vermont Legal Aid, Inc.