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New law helps seniors keep their savings

With all the negativity and political sniping coming out of Washington, D.C., here's a bit of good news — a new law was passed that will help seniors from getting robbed of their lifetime savings.

The bipartisan legislation was authored by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and John Cornyn, R-Texas. The Court-Appointed Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act is designed to protect seniors from neglect and financial exploitation. It was signed into law by President Trump last Wednesday.

The law strengthens oversight and accountability for guardians and conservators.

"Helping to protect seniors is a matter of both decency and dignity," Klobuchar noted in an email. "They deserve to live happy, healthy lives free from fear of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by their guardians."

"The last thing senior citizens should have to worry about is being taken advantage of by the very people appointed to care for them," Cornyn said. "This law will provide stronger accountability for legal guardians so we can better protect our nation's elders from abuse and fraud."

The legislation is part of the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act and makes courts eligible for an already existing program designed to protect seniors. Under the program, state courts will be able to apply for funding to assess the handling of proceedings relating to guardians and conservators, and then make the necessary improvements to their practices.

For example, the courts could conduct background checks on potential guardians and conservators, or implement an electronic filing system to better monitor and audit conservatorships and guardianships.

The financial exploitation of seniors is a growing problem that needs to be addressed.

A 2015 report estimated that older Americans lose $36.5 billion each year because of financial scams and abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 500,000 elder Americans suffer from financial elder abuse annually — and that includes only those who report it.

There are also clear signs that the problem is getting worse. Three in 10 state securities regulators say they have noticed an uptick over the past year in cases and complaints involving senior financial fraud and exploitation, according to a new survey from the North American Securities Administrators Association.

Seniors are a lucrative target for scammers and greedy family members to prey upon, and there will be more potential victims in the future. It's projected that those 65 and older will make up 20 percent of the population by 2050.

The Klobuchar-Cornyn legislation may only be a small step for now, but it's refreshing to see federal lawmakers from both parties working together to address a problem that affects a significant segment of Americans.

(Alexandria Echo Press editorials represent the opinion of the Echo Press Editorial Board, which includes Jeff Beach, Editor; Jody Hanson, Publisher; and Al Edenloff, News/Opinion Editor)

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