Elder Abuse and Exploitation

      Elder abuse is a crime under the laws of the state of Delaware:

“(a) Any person who knowingly or recklessly abuses, neglects, exploits or mistreats an infirm adult shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

“(b) Any person who knowingly or recklessly exploits an infirm adult by using the infirm adult's resources shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor where the value of the resources is less than $500 and a class G felony where the value of the resources is $500 or more but less than $5,000. If the value of the resources is $5,000 or more but less than $10,000, the person shall be guilty of a class E felony. If the value of the resources is $10,000 or more but less than $50,000, the person shall be guilty of a class D felony and if the value of the resources is $50,000 or more the person shall be guilty of a class C felony. Any subsequent conviction under this subsection shall be treated as a class C felony regardless of the amount of resources exploited.

“(c) Any person who knowingly or recklessly abuses, neglects, exploits or mistreats an infirm adult, and causes bodily harm, permanent disfigurement or permanent disability shall be guilty of a class D felony. Where the abuse, mistreatment or neglect results in death, such person shall be guilty of a class A felony. “

     Bottom-line this means that when an older person needs assistance with such things as grocery shopping, getting to the doctors or paying bills, it is a punishable crime to use the person’s resources improperly.  Physical mistreatment would be a crime no matter what the age of the victim, but neglect is also a crime when the person being neglected is infirm or disabled.  If you believe a dependent elder is being harmed or could be harmed through neglect or abuse or if you believe that elder is the victim of exploitation, call the police so that they may investigate.

Programs for the Victims of Crimes

Delaware’s Victim’s Compensation Assistance Program

    Delaware’s Victim’s Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP) (formerly the Violent Crimes Compensation Board), (http://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/VCAP) offers financial assistance to people who suffer physical or emotional injury as the innocent victims of violent crime.  Surviving family members of such victims may also be eligible for assistance.  Claims must be filed within one year of the incident.

     The following requirements must be met before the Board will consider the claim.

  1. A violent crime involving personal injury must have been committed in the State of Delaware;

  2. You must be innocent of the crime;

  3. Records must show reporting of the crime within 72 hours to law enforcement or an appropriate agency and cooperation with the author­ities, including through prosecution of the assailant; and

  4. You must cooperate with the VCAP and office staff throughout the investigative process.

      Total awards up to $25,000.00 may be made to cover medical, dental and mental health expenses not otherwise reimbursed, prescription eye glasses, loss of earnings not covered by other insurance, funeral and/or burial expenses, and out of pocket expenses necessary because of the crime, such as moving/relocation, temporary housing, and replacement of items seized as evidence may be made.  Total awards up to $50,000 may be made to victims determined to be totally and permanently disabled, a very high standard to meet

. Loss of personal property is not covered.

If you wish to file a claim, you may obtain a form from:

Victim’s Compensation Assistance Program,
900 N. King St., 4th Floor,
Wilmington, Delaware 19801,
302- 255-1770 or
Police agencies or the Department of Justice (800-464-4357)

      The application must be filed within one (1) year of the crime.

      After investigation of your claim, a hearing will be held if you are denied; and, you will have the opportunity to bring witnesses and to tell the VCAP about your case.  You may be represented by an attorney of your choice who may be paid by the VCAP.

     After the hearing you will receive the VCAP’s decision in writing.  If you are dissatisfied with the VCAP’s decision, you may appeal to Superior Court within 30 days of receiving the decision.

Victim/Witness Assistance Program

     The Victim/Witness Assistance Program assists victims and those who have witnessed crimes.  The Program is available through the Delaware Department of Justice, the New Castle County Police, the Delaware State Police, the Dover Police, the Wilmington Police, and Delaware Victim Services (800-VICTIM1).  The program provides information on the status of the case, explanation of court procedures and preparation for trial.  In many cases it also provides someone to accompany the victim/witness to court in serious cases.
Victims of violent crimes are also offered social service information and referral.

Delaware Department of Justice
New Castle County: 302-577-8500
Statewide: 800-870-1790

Elderly Victim Service

    The Delaware Center for Justice has an Elderly Victim Service that assists crime victims aged 50 and over, who have experienced any of a variety of crimes.  The Center’s Project Target specializes in assisting victims of domestic violence.  If you or someone you know is 50 years of age or older and is the victim of one or more of a variety of crimes, you may contact the Elderly Victim Service’s Project Target Coordinator at 302-658-7174, Ext. 12, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Senior Victim Advocate Program

       The Senior Victim Advocate Program is a volunteer advocate program that guides older victims through the criminal justice process and provides support. For more information contact the Delaware Department of Justice at 302-577-8600, or visit the following web site: www.state.de.us/attgen. The Delaware Department of Justice also formed the Senior Protection Initiative in 2008.  Led by Deputy Attorney General Marsha White, the Initiative works to educate the elderly about how to avoid becoming a victim, and law enforcement personnel about how to detect abuse and neglect and exploitation so that investigations and prosecutions will be more effective.  Elder abuse, neglect or exploitation may be reported to the Attorney General’s office at (800) 220-5424 or to DSAAPD at (800) 223-9074 or by calling 911.

Age and Disability Discrimination in Employment

       If you are aged 40 or older and/or suffer from one or more physical or psychological impairments, both Delaware and federal law may provide you with protections against discrimination in employment based on your age and/or disability.  Such discrimination can involve an employer’s decision not to hire you or your employer’s decision to discharge you from your job.  It may also involve such matters as pay, fringe benefits and/or other conditions of your employment, including severe harassment based on your age or disability.  With respect to disabilities, illegal discrimination may also occur if the employer is not willing to make reasonable accommodations to your working conditions so that you can do your job safely and effectively.   In order to make a claim of age or disability discrimination against an employer, the claim (also commonly referred to as a “charge of discrimination”) must be filed initially with a governmental agency given the responsibility of investigating these types of claims.  In Delaware, the Office of Labor Law Enforcement of the State Department of Labor is often the best choice for filing a charge of discrimination.  If you believe that you may have been the victim of employment-related age or disability discrimination, you should contact the Office of Labor Law Enforcement directly for instructions on how to file a charge of discrimination.  For those living in New Castle County, the Department of Labor can be reached at 302-761-8200.  For those living in Kent and Sussex Counties, the Department of Labor can be reached at 302-422-1134.  Additional information is available on the Office of Labor Law website: http://dia.delawareworks.com/labor-law/. The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also performs this investigation function, although its nearest offices are in Philadelphia and Baltimore.  You do not need to file a charge of discrimination with both the state and federal agencies in order to pursue a claim of discrimination.  Representatives of either agency can explain to you how the two agencies work together in allocating their resources in investigating these types of complaint.

       When trying to decide whether to pursue a claim of age or disability discrimination in employment, it is important to keep in mind at least two additional considerations.  First, the time period in which you can make such a claim (also referred to as a statute of limitations) is usually much shorter than the time periods when a person can bring other types of lawsuits with which you may be familiar.  Therefore, you should not delay in contacting the Department of Labor (or the EEOC or a private attorney) if you believe you may have been the victim of age or disability discrimination in employment.   Second, the filing of a charge of discrimination with the Department of Labor (or the EEOC) is a prerequisite that must be complied with before you will be given a “right to sue.”  In other words, the charge of discrimination is not itself a lawsuit, but rather, an administrative requirement that must be fulfilled in order to be allowed to file a lawsuit alleging age or disability discrimination in employment. 

      Upon filing the charge of discrimination, trained investigators with the Department of Labor (or the EEOC) will ultimately be assigned to investigate your claim. While you are waiting to hear from that investigator, or even before you contact either of these governmental agencies to file a charge of discrimination, you may wish to consult with a private attorney who specializes in these kinds of cases. The names of attorneys who specialize in this kind of work (Labor and Employment Law) are available in telephone directories and on the internet, on such sites as www.lawyers.com.  You may also consider contacting the Lawyer Referral Service in New Castle County (302-478-8850) or in Kent and Sussex Counties (800-773-0606) for the names of attorneys in Delaware who may be able to assist you.