Instances of elder abuse occur much more often the most people realize in California and throughout the United States. Elder abuse is abhorrent, and it takes place in many forms. Unfortunately, much of the elder abuse that we know about occurs inside of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. Data available from the U.S. Department of Justice indicates that nearly 10% of seniors are abused each year in this country. However, data also shows that only approximately one out of every 23 cases of elder abuse are actually reported to authorities. In 2010, Congress passed the Elder Justice Act (EJA) as part of the larger Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Here, we want to discuss the reporting requirements under the Elder Justice Act.
Mandatory Reporting of Crimes Under the Elder Justice Act
Under the Elder Justice Act, there are various types of facilities that apply under the umbrella term of “long-term care facility.” This act applies to any long-term care facility that has received at least $10,000 in federal funds during the preceding year, and includes the following:
Skilled nursing facilities
Intermediate care facilities for mentally disabled individuals
Before the EJA was passed, federal law only required reporting of elder abuse if it pertained to acts committed within a facility, and the law then only said that individuals reported their suspicions to facility administrators and that reports were made “in accordance with state law.” The EJA now requires that any “covered individual” report any reasonable suspicion of a crime against a resident or person receiving care in a federally funded long-term care facility to law enforcement officials as well as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
For the purposes of this law, “covered individuals” refers to the following owners, operators, employees, managers, agents, and contractors of a long-term care facility. The obligation to report crimes against a resident or person in a long-term care facility is not satisfied by only informing the owner or operator of the facility.
Both the individual making the report and the facility are required to report “reasonable suspicion” of a crime against a long-term care resident to local law enforcement and HHS. However, the language is unclear as to what constitutes reasonable suspicion. In general, this is defined by understanding crimes that are illegal under local and state law, such as instances of physical elder abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, neglect, etc.
There are strict reporting timelines for nursing home employees who have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. In the event this suspicion involves serious bodily injury to a resident, the incident must be reported within two hours. For any crimes not involving serious bodily injury, the incident must be reported within 24 hours.
Penalties for Failing To Report a Crime in a Nursing Home
The EJA established fairly substantial penalties for failing to report a crime against an elderly person in a long-term care facility. Facilities can face a $300,000 fine for failure to report exasperated harm, and up to a $200,000 fine for failing to report other types of crimes. Additionally, the nursing home or long-term care facility could be excluded from federal programs and funding for failing to report crimes. If you suspect elder abuse of your loved one in a nursing home, speak with a compassionate Anaheim nursing home abuse attorney at Siegel Law as soon as possible.