Elder Law Associations Announce Support for Older American Act

Advisor One reported his week on a push by a variety of national legal associations to support the “Older Americans Act of 2011.” The Older Americans Act (OAA) was first passed over 45 years ago, in 1965, to support seniors nationwide with a range of community planning and social services. The Administration on Aging was established as part of the legislation. Many New York elder law attorneys have joined in the advocacy effort to reauthorize the bill. In fact, just this week the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAEL) announced their support for the measure. NAEL is a professional association of elder law attorneys that work with the elderly and those with special needs.

Over the years many advocates have come to appreciate the important role that the OAA plays in the lives of vulnerable seniors throughout the country. However, the law was set to expire in 2011. That is why Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont proposed legislation which would reauthorize the Act. It is difficult t get anything passed through the gridlocked Congress these days. However, that has not stopped those supporting these important efforts from trying to get it through the system. Many elder law advocates believe that the reauthorization effort is actually gaining steam.

A separate bill–the Older American Act Amendments of 2012–would make a few important changes to the original measure. For one thing, it calls for a revision of the ‘Experimental Price Index for the Elderly.” This initiative would change the index so that it more accurately reflects the costs which impact seniors at this stage in their lives. Other changes include altering the definition of “economic security” as it applies to determinations for housing, transportation, and long-term care assistance. A Meals on Wheels program would also be established along with a senior center community planning grant program.

The President of NAELA recently issued a ringing endorsement of these measures. He explained, “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. […] It’s a win for everyone.”

Besides NAELA, the bill is also supported by the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA adopted a policy a year and a half ago noting their support for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. In issuing that policy the ABA explained that elder justice needed to be a concern of all Americans. It was noted that the delivery of legal services to the elderly community remains too low, and all measures which would enhance that availability should be promoted.

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