April 11, 2016 - 1:00pm
OVS marks National Crime Victims’ Rights Week by raising awareness of elder abuse
For Immediate Release: 4/11/2016
Janine Kava | [email protected] | (518) 457-8828
Press Office, Office of Victim Services
The New York State Office of Victim Services today marked National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, bringing together state and local officials, victim advocates and law enforcement professionals to raise awareness of elder abuse, which affects one in 10 individuals who are 60 or older. The crime frequently goes unreported, however, often because the abuser is a family member or caregiver.
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week began yesterday and runs through Saturday, April 16. Each year to mark the week in New York State, the Office of Victim Services identifies a specific population to raise awareness about services provided by the agency and victim assistance programs it funds across the state. The national theme for the week is Serving Victims, Building Trust, Restoring Hope.
Office of Victim Service Director Elizabeth Cronin said, “This year’s theme is especially relevant in addressing the serious issue of elder abuse. We must increase awareness about the abuse of our older adults, educate the public about the signs and symptoms and provide the necessary resources both for the victims and those who seek to help them. Older adults are most often abused or mistreated by their family or caregivers and are reluctant or unable to report the abuse. It is our goal to help reassure seniors that they are not alone and that help is available.”
State and local officials, victims’ advocates, service providers and law enforcement professionals convened in Albany to hear Philip Marshall’s personal story. His grandmother, New York City philanthropist Brooke Astor, was the victim of elder abuse by her son, Philip’s father, after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“To be complacent about elder justice is to be complicit in elder abuse,” Mr. Marshall said. “Efforts by the Office of Victim Services provide one more reason for victims, and anyone else, to report abuse — knowing that help is available. Ten years ago, I was desperately trying to help my grandmother, but I did not know what to do and who to turn to. I now know there are many resources available to elders and loved ones to help report and respond to abuse.”
Mrs. Astor’s case made national headlines in 2006, when Mr. Marshall petitioned for guardianship of his grandmother as a result of his father’s actions. Anthony Marshall and one of Mrs. Astor’s attorneys were ultimately convicted of fraud and other charges after trial in Manhattan in 2009, two years after Mrs. Astor died at age 105.
Mr. Marshall, who teaches and practices in the field of historic preservation, became an advocate as a result of that experience, and speaks nationally to raise awareness of elder abuse and elder justice. This is the first time he has spoken publicly in New York State about his experience. Visit www.beyondbrooke.org for more information.
The Office of Victim Services (www.ovs.ny.gov) is partnering with the state Office for the Aging (www.aging.ny.gov) to distribute information cards detailing OVS services and warning signs of elder abuse to individuals and providers across the state. Ms. Cronin also has been meeting with programs that serve older adults to make them aware of how the agency can assist individuals who have been victimized, especially the important role advocates can play in connecting victims with services and supporting them during criminal proceedings.
A quarter of all claims deemed eligible for assistance from the Office of Victim Services from 2013 through 2015 involved victims who were 60 or older: a total of 7,147 of the 28,403 claims accepted by the agency. The agency has three types of claims: personal injury, death, and essential personal property.
State Office for the Aging Director Corinda Crossdale said, “Abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation take a toll on older adults mentally, physically, and economically, and research shows that all forms of elder abuse are on the rise. We applaud Governor Cuomo and the Office of Victim Services for providing the opportunity to not only shed light on this critical issue, but also providing a venue for people to learn more about abuse and neglect impacting older New Yorkers. Everyone should learn the warning signs of elder abuse, as well as what can be done to prevent it and how to report it to Adult Protective Services if they suspect abuse is occurring.”
Ms. Crossdale also spoke at the event, highlighting New York’s Elder Abuse Prevention Interventions initiative, which has resulted in the creation of enhanced multidisciplinary teams – one in New York City and the other in the Finger Lakes – to provide improved and effective collaboration and specialized responses to better address financial exploitation and elder abuse. Partnering with the state Office for the Aging on that initiative are the New York City Elder Abuse Center at Weill Cornell Medical College, Lifespan of Greater Rochester, the Monroe County Office for the Aging, and the state Office of Children and Family Services.
Acting Commissioner Sheila J. Poole of the state Office of Children and Family Services, said, “Financial exploitation is one of the most prevalent forms of elder abuse, affecting too many New Yorkers and costing victims more than $1.5 billion a year, by conservative estimates. Yet, only one in 44 cases is reported to authorities. It is vitally important that we raise awareness of these crimes and other forms of elder abuse among families, members of the financial community and other stakeholders so we can prevent the devastation that results from them.”
The Office of Victim Services provides a safety net for crime victims and/or their family members who have been victimized through no fault of their own and have no other means of assistance. The agency is a payer of last resort: all other sources of assistance, such as medical or automobile insurance and workers compensation, must be exhausted before the agency can pay a victim or their family members for any out-of-pocket losses related to the crime.
In 2015, the Office of Victim Services provided nearly $20 million in compensation to crime victims and family members, assisting those individuals with everything from payment of medical and dental bills, funeral and moving expenses, and compensation for lost wages and support. That figure includes claims awarded and paid for the first time last year and claims awarded in prior years – for ongoing medical bills, as an example – that continued to be paid in 2015. New York is the only state in the nation that has no limit on the reimbursement to crime victims or their family members for medical bills or counseling, which means eligible individuals can receive help as long as they need it.
Funding for crime victims’ compensation and the cost of the agency’s day-to-day operations comes entirely from the fines, mandatory surcharges and crime victim assistance fees that certain offenders must pay following conviction in New York State or federal courts. Those fines and fees also fund nearly all of the approximately $43 million provided to 224 victim assistance programs across the state.
Under state and federal law, individuals eligible for assistance must be innocent victims of crime. The Office of Victim Services can reduce an award or deny a claim if it determines that a victim’s conduct contributed to their injuries.
For more information about services offered by the agency, including eligibility guidelines and a list of victim assistance programs that provide direct help, such as counseling and crisis intervention, advocacy and legal assistance, to crime victims across all 62 counties in New York, visit www.ovs.ny.gov or call 1-800-247-8035.