Elder Abuse and Older Veterans

The prevalence of elder abuse is alarmingly high for older veterans.  The types of abuse that older veterans experience include a higher risk of self neglect, caregiver dependence, and exposure to financial scams that specifically target veterans and their service.  In order to assist and protect veterans it is important to know how and why they are particularly vulnerable to elder abuse.

Heightened Risk Factors

Veterans are often at higher risk for elder abuse due to a greater prevalence of behavioral health issues; physical disabilities; substance misuse; and social isolation than the general population. Veterans who are physically disabled or emotionally traumatized may have an increased vulnerability to abuse, especially by people they trust such as family members or caregivers who take advantage of these limitations.  In addition, there is an increasing number of scams which are targeted specifically at veterans.

Self Neglect

Many older veterans are vulnerable to self neglect.  This occurs when behavioral health issues or physical disabilities or substance misuse makes it hard for a veteran to take care of their needs and can put their home, health, safety, or benefits at risk.  This often leads to housing insecurity or homelessness.  A recent study found that:

*  39 percent of homeless veterans are 51–61 years compared with 19 percent of homeless non-veterans

*  9 percent of homeless veterans are 62 years and older compared with 4 percent of homeless non-veterans

*  Veterans are fifty percent more likely to become homeless compared to all Americans and the risk is even greater among veterans living in poverty and poor veterans of color [1]

Financial Exploitation

Sadly, there are financial scams that specifically target older veterans. These scams threaten the health, safety, and financial freedom of thousands of older veterans across the country.  A 2017 AARP Fraud Watch Network study found that more than twice as many veterans as non-veterans lost money to scammers during the past five years. Some of the scams were aimed specifically at programs and charities geared to veterans.  Two such scams include:

* The “VA” Scam –  Scammers pose as officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs to collect personal or financial information, including credit card numbers. In one recent ruse that requested those numbers, potential victims were told that the VA was “changing its processes for dispensing prescription medications.”

* “Veteran’s Benefits” Scam – This scam targets older veterans and their families by promising to assist them with qualifying for veterans benefits such as Aid and Attendance through the sale of unsuitable financial products.  Veterans are promised that they can get additional VA benefits if they invest in certain products or are offered an insubstantial amount of cash if they turn over future benefits.   These scams jeopardize the financial wellbeing of older veterans every day.  The men and women who have served to protect and defend our country deserve much better.







[1] https://endhomelessness.org/resource/veteran-homelessness/

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