U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., continued to focus on guardianship issues this week, pairing up again with U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-SC, on the “Senior Guardianship Social Security Protection Act” which “directs state courts to notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) when a court-appointed guardian is removed for-cause, in order to block them from collecting Social Security benefits on behalf of the individual they have abused.”
Crist’s office laid out some of the details on the proposal this week.
“This legislation was introduced following investigative reports revealing unscrupulous guardians who drain the assets of seniors in their care. The bill contains a new provision that would direct the Social Security Administration to report to Congress on the number of Social Security payments that are being diverted to non-family members as representative payees in order to help determine the number of Americans under guardianship – a statistic currently unknown,” Crist’s office noted.
“If a guardian or conservator commits fraud or abuse against a senior or person with a disability, they should not be able to continue collecting those Social Security benefits,” said Crist. “Unfortunately, under the current system, Social Security and state courts that oversee guardianships and conservatorships aren’t talking to one another. Our legislation would get everyone on the same page. This way, when a court finds that someone has been using guardianship to abuse a senior, the abuser won’t get to keep collecting the senior’s Social Security. As we did with the FREE Act and the Guardians Aren’t Above Prosecution Act, the Senior Guardianship Social Security Protection Act is yet another commonsense step to protect seniors from unnecessary and abusive guardianships.”
Back in November, Crist introduced the “Guardians Aren’t Above Prosecution (GAAP) Act,” saying it “fills a gap in the guardianship prosecutorial system by clarifying that those who are designated as a guardian or conservator are still subject to criminal consequences for abusive or fraudulent behavior.”
The congressman’s office insisted that there are not enough legal protections for Americans with guardians.
“This legislation shines a light on the lack of judicial action commonly taken against bad actors who abuse and defraud vulnerable persons within a guardianship or conservatorship, and spurs prosecution against those bad actors,” Crist’s office noted.
Crist’s bill has the support of attorneys working with Britney Spears in the #FreeBritney effort and the Center for Estate Administration Reform (CEAR).
Last month, Mace announced she would be the main Republican co-sponsor of that bill.
Crist has been working with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., on the “Guardianship Accountability Act.”
Soto introduced the bill back in October with Crist and U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., as co-sponsors.
The bill “supports the approximately 1.3 million adults, mostly seniors and people with disabilities, who are currently under the care of guardians by enacting protections from the risks of abuse or neglect” and “implements further oversight and enacts data collection measures to hold guardians accountable in response to reports indicating an increasing number of fraud cases and financial exploitation from guardians towards vulnerable populations.”