Medicare and Medicaid at 49: Keeping the Generations-Old Promise Alive

While the concept of national health insurance was developed in the early 20th century, President Harry S. Truman elevated the issue during his Administration:

“Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and to enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and to help them get that protection.”

Twenty years later, his vision was brought to life under President Lyndon B. Johnson with the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which provided millions of older Americans and low-income families with access to healthcare through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. At the time, health insurance wasn’t attainable for older Americans, especially those living in poverty, because of their age and chronic conditions. Private insurance was also out-of-range for low-income families. By providing our most vulnerable populations with health insurance access, over the decades, Medicare has become a game-changer, especially for diverse seniors. The bottom line is that: without it, many diverse elders would have to assume their healthcare expenses, accrue substantial debt, and most likely not receive the care they need. Today, 49 years later, the Medicare and Medicaid programs have continued to fulfill their promise to all of our generations, allowing seniors and families to have access to the quality healthcare they deserve and otherwise, wouldn’t be able to afford.

Medicare

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the life and solvency of Medicare has been extended with expanded benefits and savings for its beneficiaries. Since the ACA was enacted, over 8.2 million beneficiaries have saved $11.5 billion on prescription drugs, an average of $1,407 per person. The ACA is also successfully closing the “donut hole,” a gap in coverage in which beneficiaries pay the full cost of their prescriptions out-of-pocket, before catastrophic coverage for prescriptions takes effect. Beneficiaries affected by the “donut hole” will receive savings and discounts on brand-name and generic drugs that gradually increase each year until the gap is closed in 2020.

The use of preventive services among Medicare beneficiaries has also increased thanks to the ACA. The elimination of coinsurance payments and the Part B deductible for recommended preventive services, such as cancer screenings, has allowed more beneficiaries to take control of their health by preventing and monitoring health conditions as well as detect health problems in early stages.

Medicaid

Medicaid also provides health insurance for more than 4.6 million low-income older Americans, the majority of whom are concurrently enrolled in Medicare. Medicaid also covers nearly 4 million people with disabilities who are also enrolled in Medicare. This population of “dual eligibles”— those who are enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid— represents 17% all Medicaid enrollees. When the ACA was passed, states were required to expand Medicaid coverage to bring more low-income folks under the insured tent. However, the Supreme Court later ruled it voluntary, which has resulted in states “opting out” of expansion. Due to this, there are seniors whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid under the current rules, yet too low to qualify for help purchasing coverage through the Marketplace.

A Birthday Wish for Medicare and Medicaid

As advocates for diverse elders across the country, our birthday wish for Medicare and Medicaid is two-fold: for these social insurance programs to be protected for future generations, and for the states which “opted out” of Medicaid expansion to reverse their decisions. However, for this birthday wish to come true, it will require less gridlock and resistance and more consensus and bipartisanship. It will require less rhetoric and more action. It will require our communities to speak up and speak out on behalf of those who benefit from these programs, and those who could.

Today, July 30, join the millions of seniors and families Medicare and Medicaid serve each year in wishing these programs a happy birthday. And, here’s to many more!

Take Action

 

Dr. Yanira Cruz is the President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Quyen Dinh and SEARAC – Giving voice to the Southeast Asian American community and its economic security concerns

Quyen picA conversation with Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

May was AAPI Heritage Month and this year’s theme was “I Am Beyond.” It is a phrase meant to evoke the rich and complex diversity of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. What does AAPI Heritage mean to you personally and as the ED of SEARAC?

I grew up in Orange County, California, and San Jose, California, homes to two of the largest Vietnamese American communities in the nation. Growing up in these communities to me meant seeing a lot of Asian faces everyday everywhere: at school, at the grocery store, at the library, and driving down the street looking at cars passing by. So for me, every day was a celebration of Asian Americans being integrated in local communities. I didn’t know that AAPI heritage month existed. I got to live AAPI heritage month every day if what AAPI heritage means is celebration of AAPI culture and identity. Read More

LGBT seniors face AIDS, limited housing options, isolation, discrimination and more

This seven part series by Matthew S. Bajko (m.bajko@ebar.com) originally appeared in the Bay Area Reporter/New America Media. Matthew explores a range of issues facing LGBT elders including aging with AIDS, isolation, limited housing options, discrimination on many fronts and a lifetime of struggle.

Trauma of AIDS Epidemic Impacts Aging Survivors

SAN FRANCISCO–The nightmares terrorized San Francisco resident Tez Anderson for years. He would dream he was buried deep underground and wake in the middle of the night feeling panicked.

Photo: Author and AIDS activist Sean Strub, left, with Let’s Kick ASS (AIDS Survivor Syndrome) co-founder Tez Anderson. (Rick Gerharter/Bay Area Reporter)

Photo: Author and AIDS activist Sean Strub, left, with Let’s Kick ASS (AIDS Survivor Syndrome) co-founder Tez Anderson. (Rick Gerharter/Bay Area Reporter)

“It felt like I was in a lot of danger. It was not so much about death, it was more that I was in peril,” recalled Anderson, who is 55. Read More

AGING INTO POVERTY: Economic Insecurity among Older Adults of Color & LGBT Elders

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Join us for a Webinar on May 7

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Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/203341944

By most economic measures older adults of color and LGBT elders are aging into poverty. Recent research highlights that over 90% of older African American and Latino elders are financially vulnerable and will be unable to support themselves over the course of their lifetime. Elders of color report greater difficulty in affording necessities, such as food, health care, and housing, than the general population. Read More

Fund more Alzheimer’s studies, a high black risk (Black History Month)

In honor of Black History Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to black aging during February. A new story will be shared every Wednesday, with additional posts shared throughout the month. Be sure to visit diverseelders.org regularly during the month of February.

This article by Lewis W. Diuguid (ldiuguid@kcstar.com) originally appeared in The Kansas City Star

Since my mother died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, I always wondered as I attended fundraisers and events for caregivers why so many African Americans filled the rooms.

A recent study by John Hopkins University helps explain it. It shows that older African Americans are two to three times more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease compared with whites. That’s a new Black History Month concern for young African Americans and their elders whom new generations depend on for wisdom and advice. Read More

The Road Less Traveled: Medicare and the Medicare Savings Programs as a Potential Solution for the Underinsured Immigrant

Every year, the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) receives over 9,500 phone calls through a national, toll-free, Asian language Helpline from limited and non-English speaking seniors needing help understanding benefit programs for which many are eligible but unable to access.

Mrs. Pang and Mrs. Taduran (not their real names) represent thousands of immigrant seniors in the United States, who are legal permanent residents but have little or no work history in this country and go without adequate healthcare because they cannot access affordable insurance. Many are eligible for Medicare or Medicare Savings Programs but are unaware of their eligibility. Read More

Webinar Recording: Why the Affordable Care Act Matters to Diverse Older People

The health coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will affect you, your loved ones and your communities. The Diverse Elders Coalition represents millions of diverse older people age 50+ who are among those affected: they include the Health Insurance Marketplace, the Medicaid expansion, new benefits for elders 65+ on Medicare, and a range of protections that make health care more accessible for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people and older people of color. The number of uninsured older adults age 50-64 continues to rise—from 3.7 million in 2000 to 8.9 million in 2010. In addition, people of color make up more than half of uninsured people in the U.S.— and research shows that people of color, across the age span, face significant disparities in physical and mental health. Additionally, many people of color delay care because of potential medical costs and out of fear of discrimination or cultural incompetence from medical providers. This webinar highlights both national and state-specific examples on what is being done to ensure that older people know about the changes that are taking place under the ACA and how it affects them.

Speakers: Yanira Cruz, President and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging; Michael Adams, Executive Director, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). Special thanks to our co-sponsors, The John A. Hartford Foundation and The California Wellness Foundation.

Original Webinar date: Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

Watch it at http://www.screencast.com/t/yzeTQbgEze2.

Caught in the Deportation Machine: Elders, Family Separation, and Immigration Reform

This year, the Obama administration will surpass the 2 million mark – this is, it will have deported 2 million people since 2008, more than any other administration in history. The largest numbers of people being deported are those without legal status, but many Green card holders are also among the 2 million deportees. Since 1998, over 13,000 Southeast Asians (from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) have been deported, including many Green card holders who arrived in the U.S. decades ago as refugees fleeing war and genocide. The majority of those deported are under the age of 35, but many elders also get caught in the deportation machine. Even more elders who remain in the U.S. suffer emotionally and financially when their adult children are taken away.

Despite official Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance that agents should not “expend detention resources” on those who are elderly, many immigrant elders are detained and deported. According to information gathered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, the Immigrant Defense Project, and Families for Freedom, between 2005 and 2010 the New York City ICE Field Office apprehended 1,275 noncitizens over the age of 55, and of these, at least 141 were subject to mandatory detention. Seniors struggle more than most in detention – they are more likely to be Limited English Proficient, and are more likely to suffer from health problems and dementia.

Huyen Thi Nguyen, an elderly Vietnamese woman, was detained in an immigration detention center for 16 months after serving her sentence for cash-for-food stamp fraud. She continues to fight her deportation, while suffering from mild dementia. Claudette Hubbard escaped LGBT violence in Jamaica in 1973 and became a U.S. Green card holder. She has been detained by ICE for over two years because of a 20-year-old conviction from a drug charge, even though she has fully rehabilitated and is mother and grandmother to U.S. citizens.

Claudette Hubbard with her U.S. citizen daughter and granddaughters

Claudette Hubbard with her U.S. citizen daughter and granddaughters

Read More

Our Issues Entwine: LGBTQ Aging and Economic Justice

MY IMMIGRANT MOTHER sits silently in a room the size of a small kitchen. Earlier this year, she survived multiple failures of the heart, kidneys, and limbs over the course of six weeks. She is seventy-three, uses a wheelchair, and for the first time in her life is surrounded by white people who do not speak Spanish, in the only nearby nursing home my parents can afford. In turn, my father drives through the days confronted by three omnipresent realities: hour-long daily visits with my mother, a night shift to keep him mentally and financially afloat, and a mailbox flooded with health care bills, insurance disputes and the complexity of navigating Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. When I speak of health reform, queer rights, or racial and economic justice, he gazes at me solemnly. He survived a lifetime of racial discrimination, fought in two wars and lived through the ensuing decades with a cacophony in his psyche. At seventy-eight, nearly blind and deaf, he will hear nothing of systems and reform. More often than not, these days we sit in silence.

This silence haunts me as an advocate who works at the intersection of aging and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights. The aging and LGBTQ advocacy fields often propose policy solutions that are too narrow to address the complexity of how all marginalized people — including heterosexual people of color such as my parents, members of the LGBTQ community, and more — experience the process of aging. We need social transformations that address the intersecting forms of oppression that older people face — and that can make sense of the chaos and silence that shroud my parents. This has become especially clear to me through my work as the director of a national policy program devoted to improving the health and well-being of LGBTQ older people.

A closer look at the lives of aging LGBTQ people reveals how deeply identity politics and class politics are entangled. Here, an older protester rallies for marriage equality in Pasadena, California.

A closer look at the lives of aging LGBTQ people reveals how deeply identity politics and class politics are entangled. Here, an older protester rallies for marriage equality in Pasadena, California.

For the full essay, which originally appeared in Tikkun Magazine click here

Not All Asians Are the Same: Diversity within the AAPI Older Adult Population

When our nation talks about Asian Americans, it often groups together people from different cultures and those who speak different languages. Someone from China faces different challenges than a refugee from Cambodia, yet research typically wouldn’t show this. As a group, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are the fastest growing population in the United States. Despite the large and rapidly growing population, research and data on AAPI elders is limited and often presented in aggregate (i.e. grouped together). Aggregate data belies the diversity and the challenges faced within the AAPI older adult population.

The National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) recently published five reports that paint a fuller and more accurate picture of the challenges many APPI older adults face. The reports divide the population into three groups (aged 55 & older, aged 55-64, and aged 65 & older) and highlight the language, economic, and employment characteristics of AAPI elders. NAPCA used publically available sources from various government agencies, and disaggregated (or separated) the data to better depict the realities of the AAPI older adult population (55+). See an example below.

Percent Below Poverty Level

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-2010 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates

Demystifying the “Model Minority” Stereotype Read More

Attention Diverse Elders: Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period Starts Today!

Medicare’s Open Enrollment period is October 15 – December 7. This is when ALL people with Medicare can change their Medicare health plan and prescription drug coverage for 2014. You can find information on 2014 plans by visiting the Medicare Plan Finder. People with Medicare can call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov to learn all about Medicare. If a person is satisfied that their current plan will meet their needs for next year, they don’t need to do anything.

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) knows well that large numbers of older people of color and LGBT elders nationwide face financial difficulties, making Medicare critically important to their health and economic well-being. Did you know? 46% of Latinos, 43% of Asians, 52% of African Americans over the age of 55 and 92% of American Indians and Alaska Natives are covered by Medicare (based on different studies); and according to a national health study of LGBT older people, almost all (97%) had some form of healthcare insurance coverage, primarily through Medicare. Without Medicare, many older people of color and LGBT elders would be required to pay for health expenses on their own, accrue enormous debts, and likely not receive the health care they need. The Affordable Care Act has further strengthened this vital program.

HOW DOES THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT AFFECT MEDICARE?

Your Medicare coverage is protected. Medicare isn’t part of the Health Insurance Marketplace established by ACA, so you don’t have to replace your Medicare coverage with Marketplace coverage. No matter how you get Medicare, whether through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan, you’ll still have the same benefits and security you have now. You don’t need to do anything with the Marketplace during Open Enrollment. Read More

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

September 18 marks the annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, a day to shine a spotlight on HIV/AIDS and its impact on the aging body. The Diverse Elders Coalition and our member organizations know well that this disease greatly affects our nation’s older people. In fact, adults 50 years of age and older make up the fastest growing population with HIV, and by 2015, more than half of Americans living with HIV/AIDS will be over 50.

While individuals with HIV/AIDS are living longer lives, older adults have more than three other (usually chronic) health conditions in addition to HIV versus their age peers without HIV. As a result, they have a host of health and services needs that neither HIV nor aging services providers are fully prepared to meet. Yet older adults have rarely been targeted in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns. As a result, many do not realize that their behaviors can put them at risk for HIV infection. Additionally, health care providers may mistakenly assume that older patients are no longer engaged in high risk behaviors, and therefore do no initiate conversation about the importance of using protection and getting tested regularly.

This is why representatives from our member organizations SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and NHCOA (National Hispanic Council on Aging) are at Capitol Hill today for a briefing, reception and hearing to highlight the needs and challenges of older adults with and at risk for HIV. You can follow what happened and get live updates by following @nhcoa and @sageusa on Twitter. Read More

ACA: A Big Help to HIV+ Older Adults

There are only 41 days left until open enrollment begins under the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA’s”) Health Insurance Marketplace. Starting October 1st individuals can enroll in insurance plans for coverage beginning on January 1, 2014. The Marketplace brings a range of options to HIV+ people for high quality insurance at lower costs.

How the Marketplace Works GIF
All private health insurance plans offered in the Marketplace will offer the same set of essential health benefits. These benefits include areas of significant importance to HIV+ people such as prescription drugs, lab services and chronic disease management. Without the ACA, private insurance options have varied widely from limited or no coverage in some states to very expensive comprehensive coverage in other states. For example, in New York where there are no exclusions for pre-existing conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease or being HIV+, individual HMO coverage with a major insurer currently costs $1,409 per month. This price point can be extremely unaffordable for many HIV+ older adults. As the ACA is implemented in January 2014, “gold” level coverage from the same insurer will cost $688 per month. That’s $721 less a month or $8,652 more a year in an HIV+ older person’s pocket. For HIV+ older people, the Health Insurance Marketplace is yet another major benefit of the Affordable Care Act. Read More

The Coalition that Changed the Aging Narrative

Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. Follow him on Twitter.

In December 2010, I took part in a first-time meeting of national aging organizations working with older people of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders.

Over time, this group would form a coalition focused on federal policy reform—the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC)—but what resonated in those initial meetings was a belief that we needed to sort through our individual interests, find multiple points of commonality, and employ a joint advocacy agenda that would profoundly change older people for generations to come.

We knew that a coalition approach was tactically smart; it leveraged our organizational resources and challenged the single-issue orthodoxy that too often shapes the dominant policy rhetoric. This approach also acknowledged our overlapping missions, growing demographics (and societal burdens), and multiple identities. We recognized that our communities shared many of the same political opponents and allies. And our aspirations for joy throughout the lifespan were in many ways similar. We believed that we could both unify and transcend our identity-based politics. Read More

Financial Literacy for Elders

When it comes to financial fraud and scams, elders are particularly vulnerable targets. In fact, USA Today reported that while people 60 and older make up 15 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 30 percent of fraud victims.

It’s such a problem that the FDIC and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month launched “Money Smart for Older Adults,” a literacy curriculum for elders with tips on how to prevent identity theft and other common scams and how to prepare financially for life events. This blog post from NerdWallet has financial literacy tips aimed at seniors. Many other tools targeting seniors abound on the internet.

SEARAC Financial Literacy for Elders Breakout Session

SEARAC Financial Literacy for Elders
Breakout Session

But as I considered the tips and tools offered, it was hard for me to imagine a senior from the refugee and immigrant communities that the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) serves using these tools. In addition to the many reasons that already make elders easy targets for financial fraud and scams, many immigrant and refugee elders are even more vulnerable because of their lack of English proficiency. Southeast Asian American (Cambodian, Lao, and Vietnamese) elders also come from societies where they often don’t trust government or financial institutions because of long histories of war and political instability in those countries. Read More

LGBT Elders: Poverty’s Challenges Worsen With Age

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At 81, George Stewart has been a longtime advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people in New York City. He’s a former Army clerk and U.S. Air Force court reporter, and last summer he was selected by the White House as one of six Champions of Change nationwide for LGBT Pride Month. Yet behind his active civic life and national profile lies another reality: George Stewart is low income, and as with millions of older people, he relies on federal assistance to supplement his income and on local services for community support. For many low-income LGBT older people, public assistance and support networks interlock as lifelines — ameliorating poverty, reducing isolation and helping to manage the slew of challenges that come with getting older. Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of poverty among elders in this country, including LGBT elders, these realities are rarely brought to light. Read More

A Gay Son and His Dad: “Why I am an Aging Advocate”

How my dad supported his gay son

There was a time in my life, around 11 years old, when I often skipped school because I was being bullied and harassed. It was obvious to my classmates that I was “different” and they targeted me because of it.  At lunch, there was a boys table and a girls table, but I was relegated to the “other” table.

I hated waking up for school. Sometimes I would put my head over the toaster to create a “fever” and ask my mother if I could stay home. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t.  Those days that it didn’t, I would put on my uniform, grab my lunch and deliberately slam the front door to our apartment. The loud noise signified to my parents that I was on my way to school.

What I really did was tip toe back to my bedroom and hide in the closet. Inside, I would carefully listen for my family to leave for the day. Once they were gone, I would breathe a huge sigh of relief as it meant I could turn on the TV and relax—I was free from my bullies!

One Monday, the school administration called my mother to inquire why I hadn’t been attending. It just so happened my father was home that day and my mother demanded that he check to see if I was there.  As he called my name, my heart was pounding and I put my hand over my mouth to hide my breath as I hid in the closet. Read More

The Re-launch is here!

Two weeks ago, we announced that we would be re-launching the Diverse Elders Coalition Blog.  Read here to find out more.

We are thrilled that this day has finally come. As we previously promised, in addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we will have exciting guest bloggers.  We will also display our content in a variety of different ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.) And much more! Have a suggestion? Contact us.

You can bookmark this page or subscribe to our RSS feed to stay updated. Check back on Wednesday to read our latest post, courtesy of National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). Until then, enjoy some highlights from the blog’s history:

1) Watch Our Story

2) The Unique Needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander Elders

3) 10 Considerations for Working with the Diversity of Older LGBT Latinos

We are Re-launching On March 18!

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) was founded in 2010, and in July 2012 we launched our official website, which also serves as a news and commentary blog on the social, political and economic issues affecting the growing yet vulnerable demographic of elders who are Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT).In the last eight months, we have put out numerous posts on the issues that affect our communities and the creative ideas and best practices to address them. In the summer of 2012, we also released Securing Our Future: Advancing Economic Security for Diverse Elders, a resource that describes the issues facing elders of color and LGBT elders, who together will represent a majority of older adults in the United States by 2050.

In this time, we have received some wonderful comments on our work, as well as helpful feedback from our readers (all of you) on how to improve the site to better meet your needs—and we listened to you. Members of the Diverse Elders Coalition came together and crafted an exciting plan for moving forward by implementing many of your ideas, which you’ll see starting with our blog re-launch on March 18.  Here are some of the improvements to look forward to:

  • In addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we have some exciting guest bloggers scheduled!
  • Content displayed in a variety of ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.)
  • More news and original content from coalition members
  • And more!

 

As we look forward to March 18, please like us (and tell a friend!) on Facebook to stay updated on the events surrounding the launch and the latest news affecting diverse elders. If you have any questions about DEC or would like to submit an idea for a blog post, please contact us.

See you on the 18th!

To learn more about DEC members, click here.

LGBT Older Americans Cannot Afford to Go Over the Fiscal Cliff

The following is a guest post by George Stewart, SAGE constituent.

Not long ago, the Washington Post reprinted a letter signed by a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) millionaires asking Congress to come to a resolution on the “fiscal cliff” by preventing across-the-board spending cuts to federal programs, preserving tax cuts for the middle class and allowing tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire.  As heartened as I was to see some LGBT voices in the public debate on economic issues, I wondered how many people know how the impending spending cuts will impact a vast majority of LGBT older people throughout the country—people like me.

I have spent much of my life looking for where I fit in, while striving to serve my country and my community. I’ve witnessed intolerance in my life, as well as positive change. In the 1950s, I was a black soldier in a segregated Army unit stationed in the South. I found a lot of camaraderie with the soldiers in my unit, but we always felt that we had to go above and beyond—if another outfit shined the tops of their shoes, we’d shine the bottom of ours. I was stationed last in Louisiana, where one of my most vivid memories is being singled out by a policeman because he thought I was sitting too close to a white woman in a public park. When my enlistment ended in Louisiana, I decided that I would move to New York City.  I hoped my move would lead to better things—an opportunity to be an individual in a big city, instead of being viewed as just a black man inappropriately sitting down next to a white woman. Read More

Rest in Peace, Senator Daniel K. Inouye

On December 17, 2012, Senator Daniel Inouye, the most senior ranking member of Congress, passed away at the age of 88. Senator Inouye has represented the state of Hawaii in the House and Senate for over five decades, since Hawaii’s statehood in 1959.

Senator Inouye’s story is at once distinctly All-American, yet also speaks to the struggle of civil rights for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other communities of color in this country. As Japanese Americans across the country were viewed with hostility and interned in camps throughout World War II, Senator Inouye made the decision to fight for the country that viewed him with suspicion as the perpetual other. He joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a special battalion consisting completely of Japanese Americans – which later became the most highly decorated infantry regiment in the history of the United States Army. Read More

What the Fiscal Cliff Means for Elder Programs

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

Everywhere you turn these days, it seems that you can’t get away from talk of the “fiscal cliff.” As advocates for elders, we too, are concerned with the impending austerity measures and how, if triggered, they will impact funding for programs for our elder generations.

There’s no getting around the fact that if sequestration is allowed to go into effect in January, the resulting non-defense discretionary cuts in FY 2013 will put programs at risk that currently maintain older adults’ independence, health, and well-being. The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), of which SEARAC is a member, has put together a very helpful issue brief on how sequestration would hurt programs that are authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA). By the numbers, these are some highlights of how the cuts would affect elder programs (at 8 percent sequestration): Read More

Leaves That Pay

As policy makers gather to discuss the impending fiscal cliff, they will consider many ways to reduce budget deficits and the national debt. This discussion includes the future of health care. Rather than cutting benefits, one of the best ways to lower health care costs is to invest in workers’ health through policies that allow them to take paid time off in event of an illness or to look after a loved one who is sick.

That is why NHCOA has been working across states to raise awareness and empower Latino workers and older adults to advocate for leaves that pay laws at the local and state level. Leaves that pay policies are the best way to ensure that workers don’t have to choose between their family and their job. Job security and steady wages are crucial for the Hispanic community as many workers are also caregivers and heads of households. Read More

Interview with Chum Awi from the Chin community in Burma

SEARAC provides technical assistance to a number of Burmese and Bhutanese community organizations in the US to build strong, local ethnic community-based organizations and faith-based organizations. For this blog post, we interviewed Chum Awi, a key leader and elder in the Chin community, an ethnic minority from Burma. Chum is based out of Lewisville, Texas and works with the Chin Community of Lewisville. Read More

Latino Seniors Describe their Needs

This summer, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) has been traveling to key regions of the country to host its Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meetings.  These meetings allow NHCOA to hear the needs and perspectives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers and also to empower them to become more civically engaged.

Newspaper articles print grim economic statistics, but in order to learn the true human cost of these numbers, we must listen to real individuals and hear their background and perspective. This information is key in aligning daily needs with meaningful policy solutions. Three common themes we picked up at the Dallas and Miami regional meetings were: (1) Hispanic older adults are still recovering from the economic downturn of 2008, (2) they are uneasy about the future, and (3) despite their fears and concerns, they are eager to be a part of the solution.

Read More

Reflections on Social Security from a Young Person

Earlier this summer, I participated in the National Academy of Social Insurance’s seminar for young people, “Demystfying Social Security.” It was a great experience to engage with summer interns and learn from other young people on the Social Security program, and it’s reaffirmed my deep appreciation for Social Security as a key tenet of the our social safety net.

Social Security is so often thought of as a program for the elderly and those who are retired. But as a young person who hopes to be able to retire one day, I am struck by the broad impact of the program to reach nearly every American at every age, every income level, able-bodied as well as differently-abled. More than 6.5 million American children receive family income from Social Security. Specifically, more than 1 million children are kept out of poverty from Social Security benefits. And, unfortunately, a 20-year-old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching the normal retirement age, making Social Security Disability Income an important asset.

Much of the negative press around Social Security has accused the program of running out of money, paying out poor returns, and being an overall poor investment. In actuality, Social Security is incredibly stable. Social Security is fully financed until 2033, and even if Congress takes no action, Social Security will still be able to pay about 85% of obligations until 2086. If the future still seems uncertain, refer to Social Security’s track record: it has never missed a payment since its inception in 1935, and has consistently paid out benefits on time and in full. Social Security has outlasted wartime turmoil, Wall Street booms and busts, and political fluctuations. But most importantly, Social Security is insurance that has been there to support individual Americans through our personal life events.

Read More

Empowering Diverse Older Americans to Become Civically Engaged

“[NHCOA is] multiplying leadership through us. If these thirty some people trained today can reach at least two people, in one or two weeks we will double. And, in few more weeks, they will train others and we will multiply again, and so forth.” – Maria Teresa Guzman, Empowerment and Civic Engagement Trainings (ECET)  

When civic engagement comes to mind, we may think of youth mobilization and empowerment. Although engaging our younger generations is crucial, it is equally as important to empower older voters. Yet as the growth of the older American population quickly outpaces that of youth, we see certain segments of this population becoming increasingly isolated.

That is why we need to ensure the voice of older Americans—especially diverse elders— is elevated at the decision-making table when it comes to public policies that can dramatically impact their lives.

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) is conducting its signature Empowerment and Civic Engagement Trainings (ECET) throughout key regions of the country to energize, mobilize, and empower Hispanic older adults, families, and caregivers to be their own best advocates.

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