FAST of VT Conference in South Royalton Highlights Impacts of Elder Financial Abuse
I actually had a real-life, honest-to-goodness, life-changing epiphany after a full day in this inaugural Tri-State Conference on Elder Abuse and Exploitation organized by FAST of VT. It took an entire day of listening to fistfuls of high-level elected officials speak about the dire need to help and protect our elderly from financial abuse and exploitation, scams, and other forms of abuse and exploitation at the hands of family and friends for me to see the light.
My epiphany? At day’s end, I realized that taking advantage of the elderly is as much about youth abuse and exploitation as it is elder abuse. Why? Because when money is taken illegally from an elderly family member, other younger family members will never benefit from what could have or should have been theirs. This extends to children, grandchildren, even great grandchildren, nephews, nieces, etc.
Main has done its research homework. Tens of millions of dollars are taken from that State's elderly each year. (my conference notes)
Further, when a State of Maine researcher presents information suggesting that as much as $451 million over 7 years was taken illegally from Maine adults over the age of 75, you can see how these numbers add up.
And, when you consider that monies taken from elderly family members are invisible and therefore not taxed, we really see the extent of this problem. If a very conservative average marginal tax rate of 10% is used, then as much as $45.1 million dollars could have been collected by the State of Maine between the period 2009 and 2016. Maine's a small state, but if we multiply its tax "lost" by 50 for all 50 states, that totals $2.25 billion over 7 years, or around $322 million per year. Of course, the annual tax “loss” number would be far higher given that most states are larger than Maine and would likely have far larger tax losses of this nature. Budget hawks and policy wonks take note — this is a significant tax revenue stream foregone.
There are bright lights on the horizon. First, this conference happened and will continue to happen annually. Victoria (Tori) Lloyd of FAST of Vermont will see to that. Tori, of Norwich and Strafford, VT, recently founded FAST of VT (FAST is the acronym for Financial Abuse Specialist Team). It’s the VT State-based arm of the larger national FAST non-profit that addresses issues of financial elder abuse and exploitation.
Representatives from (l to r) VT Sen. Patrick Lahey, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch's offices took the stage to amplify the importance of elder financial abuse issues as part of their offices' core agendas.
Then, there are the very capable event speakers and attendees.
I was particularly impressed by Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan. Not only did he “get it,” but his office is actively taking steps to get the word out to Vermonters that elder financial abuse is real, it’s widespread, it hits close to home, and it impacts adversely people of all ages within the State. He spoke of food security, health care, and housing for the elderly as easily as taking in a breath of fresh, pure Green Mountain air, using effective storytelling and his own family members as characters to make his points. The case he made was potent, and given his position as AG, his are words to listen to carefully. After his presentation, Donovan told me, “Dignity and respect for our elderly are the emerging issues we’ll be dealing with in the next ten years in Vermont.” After all, Vermont’s population over the age of sixty-five is now at 30%, and it will grow to 40% within the next several years. Anyone running for elected office should take note, especially because these are the people who vote.
This may be one of the next BIG national political platform issues. After all, it deals with safety and personal liberties, and it may well spearhead a "Make America Safe Again" movement that sticks. Making inroads into elderly financial abuse will not only help our cherished elderly from being exploited, but it could also help fund (through tax revenues otherwise not reported/received) other programs focused on our security such as in our schools, how we address gun safety, in our health care systems for at-risk populations, and even with drug abuse and prevention programs. There's a great deal of ground to cover but, most of all, dealing with and putting an end to elder financial abuse will make us all feel safer in our families, our homes, and our communities. And that will be a precursor to how we feel about being safe in our nation.
I'm thrilled. We've started a national conversation so close to home at Vermont Law School. Elderly financial abuse has come out of the closet and into the light of day. If you or a family member have concerns about an elderly member of your family and the possibility of financial abuse, or other forms of exploitation taking place, it’s time to raise your hand and be heard. While it’s never easy to confront a family member, the best interests of the person who has reared, raised, and cared for you is the top priority. Our elderly family and community members should be cherished and, as Attorney General Donovan emphasized several times, they must be treated with “dignity and respect” for the people they were, the people they are, and the people they expect us to be.
Without them, we’d be little more than mere dreams in a field of Green Mountain wildflowers.
Plans are already in the works for next year's Tri-State Conference. Contact Tori Lloyd at FAST of VT for information at: email@example.com.
Dave Celone writes for the dailyuv.com under the moniker Poetic Licence. Tune in to his posts and sign up (for free) to get them as they’re posted by Clicking Here or visiting this link: http://dailyuv.us11.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=3b0a3ea19ca8d7b499b2203de&id=8d286dabb7.