U.S. Senators Call for Reauthorization of Older Americans Act

1194225_77587845_04062012.jpgAt a press conference on March 28, 2012, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA), legislation that provides support for American elders. The terms “elder” and “older person” here refer to people aged 65 or older. Fourteen other senators joined Sanders in calling for reauthorization, including Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski. Sanders introduced a bill reauthorizing the OAA on January 26, titled the “Older Americans Act Amendments of 2012.” The bill currently has no cosponsors and is pending in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Congress originally enacted the OAA in 1965 as the first federal effort to provide services to older Americans on a wide scale. The law created a National Aging Network consisting of the federal Administration on Aging (AOA) within the Department of Health and Human Services and state- and local-level agencies. The Network funds various community services that that benefit older adults, including nutrition and health support, caregiver support, and legal assistance. Many programs focus on older populations in underserved rural areas and on promoting job skills and community engagement among older people.

Amendments to the OAA in 1992 authorized the creation of an office within the AOA to address issues relating to elder abuse, or “vulnerable elder rights protection.” This led to the establishment of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) as a permanent office. The NCEA, first formed in 1988, serves as a national resource center for information on elder abuse. It conducts research and compiles statistics, and it provides education on recognizing signs of abuse and preventing abuse. It works with organizations at the state and local level that work on elder rights issues to help people work to prevent elder abuse and neglect by nursing homes, caregivers, and family members.

Senator Sanders’ bill reauthorizing the OAA includes several additions and modifications to the existing law. Perhaps most importantly for nursing home residents, the bill would provide additional support for the AOA’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. The Ombudsman Program supports programs in all fifty states that advocate for the rights and interests of nursing home residents. Ombudsmen review complaints of nursing home residents regarding issues like poor food or care quality, poor administrative services, and conflicts between residents. Serious issues of abuse and neglect may call for the assistance of an elder abuse attorney, but the federal and state ombudsmen offer a valuable support network for nursing home residents.

Sanders’ office reports that up to twenty percent of older Americans live on an average annual income of $7,500. To address the issue of affordability of food, housing, medical care, and other necessary expenses, the OAA reauthorization would institute improvements in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ methods for calculating inflation, enabling the Bureau to more accurately consider elders’ real expenses when determining benefits like Social Security. The bill would also provide additional assistance for community senior centers, meal programs, and job assistance programs.

The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen defend the rights of people injured due to abuse by nursing home staff or residents and help them obtain compensation for their damages. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Proposed Maryland Legislation Would Increase Criminal Penalties for Elder Abuse, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, March 16, 2012
Proposed Bill Would Require Notification of Nursing Home Residents on Sex Offender Registry, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, January 9, 2012
October is Long-term Care Residents’ Rights Month in Maryland and around the Country, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Happy oldman 1’ by mokra on stock.xchng.

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