Victims of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation may be entitled to police protection and victim assistance and compensation under federal and state laws. Many victims are unaware of their rights and do not benefit from the critical services and resources that they're entitled to. Elder justice advocates can help by learning more about these rights, the circumstance in which they apply, and how to exercise them.
Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)
Federal and state laws establish the rights of crime victims. The federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) provides help through the Crime Victims Fund, which comes from criminal fees, forfeitures, special assessments, and donations. The fund supports services to address the following needs: (1) immediate health and safety, (2) mental health assistance and support groups, (3) respite care and services for victims with disabilities, (4) credit counselling and advocacy or other special services, (5) restitution advocacy, (6) public presentations, and (7) the use of advanced technologies. Funds can also be used for training programs and publications.
This is accomplished through two primary programs:
- Victim Compensation is provided to (or for) individual victims for counselling, medical bills, and other crime-related expenses.
- Victim Assistance funds provide grants to community- based programs. States determine how VOCA funds are allocated and establish their own eligibility requirements but must follow federal regulations to receive federal funds.
In California, victims rights are protected under Marsy’s Law, which was enacted in 2008 as the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act. Agencies with primary responsibility for providing services and resources to victims are:
- The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services provides grants to counties for Victim/Witness Assistance Centers, which are typically . based in district attorneys' (DA’s) offices and provide services like court accompaniment and assistance applying for compensation. Every five years, CAL OES oversees a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) process to fund the Centers, elder abuse multidisciplinary teams, and a wide range of legal, emergency, and social services. Non-profit, community-based and Tribal organizations can apply. Under VOCA requirements, 10% of funds must be allocated to unserved/underserved victims.
- California's Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) is administered by the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB), which is located within the Government Operations Agency. VCGCB receives both state and federal funds.
- This AARP report, Many Victims Struggle With Mental Health in Scams’ Aftermath, spells out the health toll financial crimes take on older victims. It details the mounting number of older victims scammed each year and the resulting shame and self-blame that lead victims into crisis, including suicide, and the value of supports for victim recovery.
- CalOES' 2022 Joint Legislative Budget Committee Report. In this annual report, CALOES details elders served under its grants for elder abuse victims in FY 20-21. Key findings include:
- Funds went to 24 programs in FY 20-21, serving 19,393 elder abuse victims
- Out of 75,000 victims served by VOCA grant-funded County Victim Services, 19,000 were victims of elder abuse
- Elder victims are referenced as possible clients of VOCA Family Justice (FJ) subgrantees, with no data to show the number or types of services offered.
- VOCA Legal Training (LT) grantees received prosecutorial training on elder abuse only when it pertained to domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault.
- What is the Crime Victims Fund? This three-minute video describes the source of funds for state victim assistance and compensation programs.
- VOCA programs by state This map, created by the Office for Victims of Crime, provides information about each state's VOCA programs.
- Victims of Crime Act Crime Victim Fund: Briefing Background. Produced by the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators.
- Thinking Outside the Box: Obtaining VOCA Funding to Serve Victims of Elder Abuse. American Bar Association, Commission on Law and Aging.
- What APS Needs to Know About Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Funding. Adult Protective Services Technical Assistance Resource Center.
Resources for Serving Financial Crime Victims
- Created by the National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) in partnership with the Council of State Governments and others, these resources provide guidance for attorneys and advocates on accessing restitution for clients. The resources cover the process and laws governing restitution, what's required for a restitution order to be issued, the relationship between restitution and civil damages, and more. Available in the NCVLI's Victim Law Library, the resources include Restitution Law & Practice Guide for Legal Practitioners, Restitution Law & Practice: An Overview, and a Restitution Law Assessment Tool, to help practitioners identify ways to improve their own state restitution laws.
- Recovering from Elder Financial Exploitation: A Framework for Policy and Research
A report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that describes stages of recovery from elder financial exploitation and addresses why some older adults are more likely to get their money back.
- Blame and Shame in the Context of Financial Fraud
A 2022 report from the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation that focuses on “victim-blaming” of financial fraud victims and its impact. It is intended to be a catalyst for a cultural shift to change how victims of financial fraud are treated.
- Federal Register Provisions on the use of VOCA Assistance and Compensation funds for financial crime victims:
- VOCA Assistance: Federal Register provisions allowing funding for financial crime victim assistance
- VOCA Compensation: Federal Register provisions allowing funding for financial crime victim programs (if approved at the state level), designating financial crime victims as an underserved victim group, and defining financial counselling. Several states now allow this funding.
- Making VOCA Assistance for Elderly and Dependent Adult Victims of Financial Abuse – California’s Experience: Power point presentation by Carol Sewell, CCoA and CEJC.
- Office for Victims of Crime Resources:
- National Center for Victims of Crime Resources:
- Taking Action: An Advocate's Guide to Assisting Victims of Financial Fraud
- White Paper on Financial Abuse.
- Elder Abuse — Insight into the Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA) and Legal Aid Support. Webinar by Justice in Aging explains what legal aid programs need to understand when applying for VOCA funding to support elder justice work.
- Victim Compensation Policy and White-Collar Crime Public Preferences in a National Willingness to Pay Survey. Study using survey data from a nationally representative sampel to explore public support for taxpayer funded victim compensation programs for financial fraud, consumer fraud, identify theft, and burglary.