In 2014, the Veterans’ Affairs hospitals scandal swept the national news. In these investigations, it was revealed that VA Hospitals have been providing inadequate service to veterans for a long time. Many former servicemen are asked to wait months or even years to see a doctor or have a procedure done, and these delays were costing some veterans their lives. Even the veterans who were able to see a doctor were being treated in facilities that were understaffed and low on resources, and as a result they received substandard care and suffered from abuse and neglect.
Senior citizens who are also veterans are at risk of elder abuse just like other elderly populations. Though our government has programs to help and support them, those programs currently are inadequate and are actually contributing to the elder abuse.
Like other elderly populations, veterans are targeted because those who commit elder abuse believe they can more easily take advantage of someone who is old, possibly ill, and possibly suffering from degenerative mental diseases like dementia. More so than the average elderly population, a high percentage of veterans suffer from serious injuries and disorders. In addition, some veterans suffer from combat-related injuries and disorders such as PTSD. This makes them more attractive targets and more susceptible to different types of abuse.
Another reason why veterans are targeted is because they have expanded access to government benefits due to their status as veterans. This makes them more attractive to those who would exploit them financially because they represent a greater source of income and wealth than other senior citizens.
Similar to other senior citizens, veterans are vulnerable to abuse in nursing homes. Because nursing homes are often understaffed and underfunded, they lack the resources to properly care for their patients. Veterans at nursing homes may suffer from abuse and neglect such as physical abuse and emotional abuse. With the recent VA hospital scandal, it has also become apparent that veterans are also vulnerable to abuse in their federally provided hospitals and related facilities.
The other form of abuse that veterans are highly susceptible to is financial abuse. Studies show that 25% of the time financial abuse of veterans is committed by family members. This is similar to the general elderly population. Family members usually have the most knowledge of a veteran’s financial resources and also have easy access to the veteran and his finances.
However, financial abuse of veterans also occurs outside of the family. There are many investment planners and scam artists who try to take advantage of veterans and their government benefits. These people sometimes get into contact with veterans at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and VA hospitals. They often tell veterans that if they invest most of their money into trusts and annuities, then they will be eligible for larger veterans’ pensions and benefits. However, this is not always the case, and veterans are sometimes convinced to make poor investment decisions that affect their eligibility for pensions and Medicare.
Veterans also face elder abuse in nursing homes. Some nursing homes lack the amount of medical staff necessary to effectively care for all their residents, and this includes their veteran populations. Because veterans are more likely to suffer from PTSD and other behavioral disorders, they are at greater risk of being restrained physically and chemically by nursing home staff. The use of restraints can be very harmful to a patient, and studies show that these measures do not decrease the risk of falls and other injuries.
“Elder Abuse and Neglect Among Veterans in Greater Los Angeles: Prevalence, Types, and Intervention Outcomes.” PubMed.gov. USA.gov, n.d. Web. 25 Feb 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16803784>.
“Help Veterans Protect Themselves from Scams and financial Abuse.” Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse & Neglect. University of California, n.d. Web. 25 Feb 2014. <http://www.centeronelder