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The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, a professional association of attorneys dedicated to improving the quality of legal services provided to the elderly and people with special needs, announced on Monday their support for Sen. Bernie Sanders’, I-Vt., bill to reauthorize the Older Americans Act.
The Older Americans Act was initially passed in 1965 to provide support for the elderly through community planning and social services. The law established the administration on Aging. In 2006, it was reauthorized and set to expire in 2011.
On Jan. 26, Sanders introduced S. 2037, the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2012. One of the major initiatives proposed in the bill is to revise the Experimental Price Index for the Elderly to better reflect future cost of living adjustments that impact people 62 or older.
Additionally, the bill would clarify the definition of “economic security” when used to determine income needs for housing, health care, transportation, food, long-term care, and other basic needs. The bill also authorizes improvements to the Meals on Wheels program and creates a pilot program and community planning grant program for senior centers.
“NAELA has been a long-time supporter of the OAA. It’s a win for everyone,” NAELA President Edwin Boyer said in a statement. “Programs supported by the OAA help seniors live independently in their homes, while preventing taxpayers from having to pay for more expensive nursing homes, hospitals, and other health care services.”
Sanders is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. On Dec. 15, several industry groups wrote to Sanders in support of the Act, including the American Bar Association, the Alliance for Retired Americans and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, wrote that “there is simply not enough money allocated for OAA programs to meet the needs of our growing elderly population.”
”By helping seniors stay as independent as possible in their homes and communities, these programs also save federal and state government resources from being spent on sometimes unnecessary and often much more expensive care in hospitals and nursing homes,” he wrote.
The Alliance for Retired Americans also stressed the gap between demand and services OAA funding is able to provide. “For years, OAA funding has not kept pace with inflation or the growing population of individuals eligible for services, yet demand by at-risk older adults in need of supportive services has risen and will only continue to rise with the growth in the aging population,” Barbara Easterling, president of the Alliance wrote.
The American Bar Association noted that it adopted a policy in August 2010 that supported the reauthorization of the OAA and put priority on elder justice and the delivery of legal services.
“While the draft bill does not contain all the elements enumerated in our August 2010 policy, it goes a long way toward creating a high-quality, coordinated legal services delivery system in each state that meets the needs of older persons most in need,” according to the ABA’s letter to Sanders.