Monday, January 30, 2012

Older Americans Act reauthorization bill introduced in Senate

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a bill on 1/26/12 to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA). The bill, S. 2037, is the first bill in either house of Congress proposing reauthorization this cycle. The Act is typically reauthorized for 5 years, then the reauthorization process begins, which sometimes takes several years.

The Older Americans Act is the organic legislation that creates the nation's aging network of services including home-delivered and congregate meals, county senior centers, in-home supportive services, long-term care ombudsman programs, abuse prevention programs, caregiver support, transportation, community service employment, Alzheimers support services, and legal services (West Virginia Senior Legal Aid is an Older Americans Act supported program). It was first passed in 1965 and has been reauthorized and amended numerous times to adjust to the changing needs of Americans age 60 and over.

Senator Sanders' bill proposes several changes to our current aging services system. Some of the changes include:

  • how economic security is defined for seniors, including improving the accuracy of the calculation of inflation and the related cost-of-living increases in Social Security and Medicare out-of-pocket drug costs
  • consolidating nutrition programs, imposing a new formula on how they may be administered, and increasing overall funding for nutrition (though this may result in reduced funding for some current nutrition services)
  • allowing state units on aging to bypass area agencies on aging and contract directly for some services including preventive health and legal services
  • centralizing control over more aspects of the long-term care ombudsman program away from the regional programs and to the state unit on aging
  • creating a Livable Communities grant program and national support center for assessment and planning
  • requiring legal assistance be delivered through an integrated legal assistance delivery system
  • redefining "greatest economic need" under the act as 200% of the federal poverty line rather than the current 185%

As the reauthorization process begins in Congress we encourage seniors and their advocates to provide input to their Senators and Congress members about what is important in senior services.


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