Supporters of the Older Americans Act urged to advocate for reauthorization

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

As the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for Southwestern Ohio, Council on Aging joins the National and Ohio Associations of Areas Agencies on Aging in urging supporters of the Older Americans Act (OAA) to contact their US Representatives and Senators to remind them how important the OAA is to seniors in their communities.

Originally signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 14, 1965, the federal Older Americans Act created the Administration on Aging and laid the foundation of our country`s aging network. Ohio`s aging network includes: Ohio Department of Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers, service providers and others.  The OAA authorized grants to states for community planning and services programs, as well as for research, demonstration and training projects in the field of aging.

Older Americans Act
The Older Americans Act provides funding to area senior centers, through Council on Aging, to offer wellness programs and other services to older adults. 

The OAA has had strong bipartisan support for years, but it expired 2011 and has not been reauthorized. The act is currently stalled in the Senate and the House of Representatives will not act until the Senate does.

Why is reauthorization imporant?

The Older American Act funds critical services that keep older adults healthy and independent—services like meals, job training, senior centers, caregiver support, transportation, health promotion, benefits enrollment, and more. 

Today, more than 23 million older Americans are economically insecure according to the National Council on Aging. Approximately 92% of older Americans have at least one chronic disease and 77% have at least two. Add record highs of older Americans who are unemployed or who are victims of abuse or financial exploitation and the need for services provided by the OAA becomes even more critical. 

The Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S. 1562), represents a bipartisan, modest, reasonable approach to reauthorizing these programs. The bill also reinforces the critical importance of OAA programs and services developed, coordinated and delivered every day by AAA and Title VI programs across the country.

There are several things you can do to help move the OAA forward:

  1. Submit an Op-Ed to your local newspaper about OAA reauthorization: Reauthorizing OAA provides a unique opportunity for bipartisan legislative success in an important election year. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) has put together a template op-ed that you can customize with local examples of the importance of OAA-supported programs. 
  2. Always invite your Representatives and Senators to see your programs at work. Reach out now to their offices to plan while lawmakers spend the entire month of August in their districts. 
  3. Reach out to your Republican Senators and ask them to co-sponsor S. 1562: Currently, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ranking Member on the Senate HELP Committee, is the only Republican co-sponsor on OAA reauthorization. Congressional staff have indicated that OAA may move more easily if there were more Republicans listed as co-sponsors. In Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown is already a co-sponsor. However, Senator Rob Portman has not yet signed on.
  4. Contact both Ohio Senators and your Representative and tell them that you strongly support OAA moving forward in 2014 and ask them to help push it along.

You may use these sample talking points about OAA reauthorization taken from the June 27 n4a Advocacy Alert

  • The Older Americans Act funds programs—such as in-home supportive services, congregate and home-delivered meals, transportation, employment services and legal assistance—that help older adults remain in the much preferred setting of their homes and communities.
  • For more than 40 years, AAAs and Title VI Native American aging programs, thanks to a base of federal funding through the OAA, have been the focal point in local communities where older adults and families receive vital information and get connected to available services.
  • For many older adults, the OAA’s home and community-based services can help prevent unnecessary hospital stays and readmissions and delay or avoid costly institutional placements, both of which save Medicare and Medicaid costs to taxpayers.

 As well as these talking points for talking to your Senator about S. 1562:

  • The Act came up for reauthorization in 2011, and there is a bipartisan bill, S. 1562, in the Senate that passed the HELP Committee but is currently stalled.
  • We urge you to support S. 1562 and encourage your HELP Committee colleagues to reach a compromise regarding the funding formula to move OAA forward to be considered by the full Senate.
  • Support these cost-effective, successful, community-based aging services that are helping seniors and caregivers every day in your district.