US Government Accountability Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has undertaken two studies on adult guardianship, producing these landmark reports:

  • Guardianship: Collaboration Needed to Protect Incapacitated Elderly People (2004).  The study made findings on variations in guardian oversight, lack of guardianship data, problems with interstate guardianship, and lack of coordination between state courts handling guardianship, federal representative payment programs.
  • Guardianships: Cases of Financial Exploitation, Neglect, and Abuse of Seniors (2010).   The study identified “hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and DC between 1990 and 2010.”  In 20 selected cases, the GAO found that “guardians stole or otherwise improperly obtained $5.4 million in assets from 158 incapacitated victims.” The GAO investigation also found that selected courts and guardianship certification programs failed to adequately screen potential guardians.  The GAO “could not determine whether allegations of abuse by guardians are widespread.”
  • Incapacitated Adults: Oversight of Federal Fiduciaries and Court-Appointed Guardians Needs Improvement (2011). The study states that monitoring court-appointed guardians’ performance can prevent financial exploitation of incapacitated adults and stop it when it occurs. Adopting promising monitoring practices could help courts improve monitoring. However, many courts have limited resources, so they may be reluctant to invest in practices that have not been proven feasible or effective. The federal government has an opportunity to lead in this area by supporting evaluation of the feasibility, cost, and effectiveness of promising monitoring practices.