Older Americans Act Reauthorized

Late last week Congress passed the long-awaited bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Older Americans Act (OAA) after the Senate passed the House-amended bill on April 7. Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amended version of S. 192, legislation that passed unanimously in the Senate in July 2015.

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is the law that since 1965 has provided a variety of essential programs and services to our most vulnerable older Americans, including Meals on Wheels, access to abuse prevention services, transportation assistance and support for family caregivers. OAA programs save taxpayers money by reducing unnecessary hospital readmissions, and help older Americans stay in their homes and communities, where they want to be.

The bill passed April 7 amends and reauthorizes the Older Americans Act (OAA), which established services and protections to Americans above the age of 60. The OAA funds caretaking, nutritional, and health services for older Americans; and for ombudsman programs to protect from abuse or negligence within these services.

The reauthorization passed unanimously in the Senate on July 16, 2015.

About the Older Americans Act:

The OAA details federal grants and programs for the support of older Americans. Its latest version was authorized in 2006 and can be found on the Administration for Community Living (ACL) website. ACL is a collaboration of Department of Health and Human Services organizations devoted to the well-being of older adults and the disabled. Some of the main policies of the OAA include: – Establishes the Administration on Aging (AoA) as an advocate for older individuals. Within the AoA are offices for caregiver services, nutrition programs, protective services, services for Native Americans, and maladministration prevention programs. The AoA is responsible for carrying out the majority of the OAA. – Authorizes funds for grants for state or community programs on aging, programs to improve health independence and longevity, and services for Native Americans. – Establishes a program to provide older individuals with community service employment opportunities. – Establishes a program to assist states in funding vulnerable elder rights protection activities.

 

Reauthorization of the act:

The Older Americans Reauthorization Act of 2015, S. 192,  authorizes continued funding until the end of 2018. It includes several amendments to the OAA.  OAA’s latest reauthorization offers new support for modernizing multipurpose senior center, highlights the importance of addressing senior’s economic needs, permanently requires health promotion and disease prevention initiatives to be evidence-based, and promotes chronic disease self-management and fall prevention.

The law also includes: stronger elder justice and legal services provisions; needed clarity for caregiver support and Aging and Disability Resource Centers; new opportunities for intergenerational shared sites, and promotes efficient and effective use of transportation services.

Legislative inertia and a general undercurrent of opposition to any government programs by some members of Congress slowed consideration of the bill , says Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM). “You need champions to break through the ‘legislative inertia’ and OAA just did not have enough,” he says.

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) along with Reps. John Kline (R-MN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) worked hard to finally get the Senate and House to pass this year’s OAA reauthorization, Adcock noted, stressing that there was no opposition to the bill when it passed the House and Senate on voice votes.

While the passed OAA reauthorization bill has many positives, its chief weakness is that it does not raise the funding authorization level enough, says Adcock. “Unfortunately, the Older Americans Act has suffered under flat funding and sequestration cuts for several years and will need significant increases in appropriations to meet the critical demands of a senior population that will nearly double by 2030, warns Adcock, noting that that an increase of 12 percent a years is needed for the next several years to raising funding to an acceptable level.