Preparing for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging in Washington, DC

whcoa1This week, the White House announced that the 2015 White House Conference on Aging will take place in Washington, DC on July 13th. The Diverse Elders Coalition has been engaging the White House every step of the way during the planning and preparation for the conference, including the use of a survey to solicit feedback from our constituents, the nomination of attendees and presenters to the five WHCOA regional forums, and even in hosting our own regional events to amplify the voices of our diverse elder communities. We’re excited to continue this work as this historic, once-in-a-decade July event approaches.

Since joining the Diverse Elders Coalition back in January, I’ve been working closely with our member organizations and the White House conference organizers to understand and highlight the needs of our communities. I’ve learned so much from the stories our diverse elders have submitted to our Diverse Elders Stories Initiative or discussed during the WHCOA regional forums and listening sessions. Even though the WHCOA event in July will be limited to only the small number of people who will receive invitations, I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of the conversation. The White House has invited people to live-stream the event and has provided viewing guides and discussion materials for you to host a viewing party in your area. We encourage our diverse elder communities to stay involved, engaged and interested in US aging policy, even long after the 2015 White House Conference on Aging is over.

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The White House has also been soliciting comments from readers on the four policy briefs that the WHCOA released during the months of April and May. The Diverse Elders Coalition submitted a formal response to the White House on May 29, 2015, commending conference organizers for their inclusion of our diverse communities in the conference activities and planning to this point and pushing them for greater recognition of and response to our unique needs going forward. You can read this response in its entirety here. As always, more work is needed to eliminate health disparities and ensure that our LGBTQ elders and elders of color can age with dignity and health, but we continue to fight tirelessly for our communities. Feel free to share your needs as a diverse elder and your hopes for future generations on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Changing Hearts and Minds with the Diverse Elders Stories Initiative

One of my favorite radio shows, This American Life, featured an episode a few weeks ago about changing people’s minds – and how difficult that task can be.  As I was listening, I was also attempting to write this blog post, so the topic felt very timely.  I turned the volume up.  The introduction to the episode noted that when people tell stories about their experiences, listeners are more likely to be persuaded, versus when a researcher or journalist or someone on the outside looking in tries to advocate for change.  As an activist, this resonated strongly with me, and it reinforced the importance and the value of our Diverse Elders Stories Initiative.

This week, we’re re-launching our storytelling project, featuring voices from our communities of color and LGBT communities.  Stories change minds.  One of the most effective ways to educate the public and build momentum for diverse older adults is to describe our lives and the elements that shaped them.  Stories tell leaders about our struggles and triumphs in ways that facts and numbers cannot do alone.  And your story can be the story that leads to change.

rephondaWe’ve been collecting stories from the elders in our communities over the past few months in anticipating of re-launching this initiative.  One of my favorite stories comes from U.S. Representative Mike Honda.  Rep. Honda is a Japanese elder who spent his early childhood in an American internment camp in California.  “As a Japanese American whose family was interned during World War II and later went on to serve in the Peace Corps in El Salvador, moving in and between different communities is not new for me,” he writes, and when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he became an outspoken advocate for many of those communities.  In addition, Rep. Honda’s granddaughter identifies as transgender, and he has been a loving, supportive grandfather and advocate for her and other LGBTQ people in the United States.

You can read Mike’s story and the other stories we’ve collected in the Diverse Elders Stories archives on our website.  Preserving and sharing the stories of our communities is one of our main goals at the Diverse Elders Coalition, and we are so honored that so many of you have chosen to raise your voices and tell your tale to us.  We’ll use these stories to better advocate and make change on behalf of the communities we serve.  Over the next few months, we’ll be highlighting some of the contributions that we’ve received.  Want to tell your story?  Share with us here.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Advocating for our Southeast Asian American veterans on Memorial Day

FaPaoLorOn Memorial Day, the United States honors millions of men and women who have served in our country’s Armed Forces, including around 1.7 million older Americans alive today who served during World War II, and over 7 million who served during the Vietnam War. For the Southeast Asian American community, Memorial Day brings both pride and pain to Southeast Asian veterans of the wars in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia – especially those who fought alongside American soldiers and the CIA to aid the American war effort. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. pursued a “Secret War” in Laos, unauthorized by and mostly unknown to Congress at the time. Relying largely on members the Royal Lao Armed Forces and Special Guerrilla Units of ethnic-majority Lao and Hmong, Mien, and other ethnic minorities of Laos, the U.S. secretly fought communist forces in Laos for over a decade.

Today, over 2.5 million Southeast Asian Americans call the United States their home, the majority of whom came to the U.S. as refugees after the wars ended in 1975 or are children of refugees. The state of Minnesota is home to around 85,000 Lao and Hmong Americans, and most have an immediate relative who served during the Secret War in Laos between 1961 and 1975. Lao and Hmong veterans in Minnesota and across the country have been advocating for many years for official recognition of their sacrifices for the U.S. during the war, forming organizations such as Lao Veterans of America and Royal Lao Veterans of America.

photo2The governor of Minnesota recently broke ground on a memorial located on the Minnesota State Capitol lawn to honor Hmong and Lao veterans who served with the Americans during the war. But these Minnesota veterans continue to push for the honor and dignity of being buried in national or state veteran cemeteries, which are reserved for American service members and honorably discharged U.S. military veterans and their families. This Memorial Day, we pause to honor ALL veterans who gave their service and their lives fighting for our country, including many of our Southeast Asian American elders.

Read Lao-American poet Bryan Thao Worra’s piece “The Last War Poem” on DEC member organization SEARAC‘s 40 & Forward blog, illustrating the horror of war and the sacrifices of many Lao and Hmong soldiers.

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Older Adults with HIV and the White House Conference on Aging

mark brennan-ing headshot July 2013by Mark Brennan-Ing, Director for Research and Evaluation at ACRIA and the ACRIA Center for HIV and Aging.

The year 2015 marks a watershed moment in the HIV epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that this year, fully half of those aging with HIV will be over the age of 50. As we reach this benchmark, preparations are underway for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA), which may represent the first WHCOA where the issue of HIV and aging will be addressed.

Two of this year’s WHCOA themes, healthy aging and long-term services/supports, are particularly germane to those aging with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The aging of this epidemic is largely due to successful anti-retroviral treatments that have extended life expectancy to those infected, including older adults, to near normal levels. However, many aging with the virus experience multiple age-related comorbidities earlier than those not infected with HIV. Managing multimorbidity and its implications (multiple prescriptions with the risk of polypharmacy, screening and treatment for multiple disease conditions, etc.) represents a challenge to healthy aging in this population.

Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging, talks with Herbie Taylor at our WHCOA Listening Session in Los Angeles

Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging, talks with Herbie Taylor at our WHCOA Listening Session in Los Angeles

Multimorbidity also has implications for long-term services and supports as many aging with HIV lack the informal social network resources that provide caregiving support. It is also important to remember that those aging with HIV face myriad issues that can impact healthy aging and long-term supports/supports, including stigma, discrimination, poverty, racism, and homophobia.

The disproportionate impact of HIV on persons of color is evident among older adults. According to the CDC, in 2010 Blacks/African Americans accounted for 46% of HIV infections among those over the age of 50 although they account for approximately 13% of the U.S. population. Older Blacks/African Americans had the highest rates of HIV in the U.S. population (41.6), followed by Hispanics (15.4), as compared to a rate of 3.9 among older Whites in 2010. Sexual minorities, namely gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, accounted for 59% of those living with HIV among older adults, yet they represent only 2-3% of the population. When these often stigmatized and marginalized identities intersect, such as among older gay African American men, the challenges of aging with HIV are magnified.

ACRIA, along with our colleagues at SAGE and the Government Relations Office of the American Psychological Association, have been meeting and providing input to WHCOA 2015 in order to insure the voices of those aging with HIV are heard. Given the state of gridlock in Congress, it is unlikely that new legislation will emerge any time soon to address WHCOA 2015 issues, including the needs of those aging with HIV. For example, we are still waiting for reauthorization of the Older Americans Act which provides vital funding for programs assisting older adults such as senior centers or nutrition programs. Consequently, our advocacy on the issues of HIV and aging have focused on non-legislative remedies to address healthy aging and long-term services and supports for this population. These include the establishment of clinical guidelines for the medical care of those aging with HIV from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and asking that the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Prevention (OHAIDP) convene a meeting with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to address the behavioral health issues, like depression, that affect older adults with HIV at three to five times what is observed in the general population.

Despite the legislative headwinds it is imperative that we continue to advance the cause of optimal aging for older adults including those with HIV. Since the theme of this year’s Older Americans Month is, “Get into the Act,” I’d encourage anyone reading this to get involved, advocate, and effect positive change to better address the needs of our growing and aging HIV-positive populations.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Get Into the Act

This year’s theme for Older Americans Month is “Get into the Act.” Although unintended, the theme made me think of how often LGBT older adults have had to “act” throughout their lives – whether it was living in the closet growing-up in a time and place when it was not acceptable to be out – or the unfortunate number who feel compelled to go back into the closet as they get older and enter places where they feel more vulnerable and don’t feel safe or comfortable being out. The bottom line, of course, is that after spending a lifetime of trying to get out of the closet, LGBT older adults have earned the right to grow older in places where they don’t need to act straight and/or cis-gender, but where they can be their authentic selves.

6a017c34619ea6970b01b7c7894ee8970bThe Older Americans Act (OAA) is turning 50 this year. It serves as the country’s leading vehicle for delivering services to older people nationwide, providing more than $2 billion annually in nutrition and social services. Since its enactment, the OAA has aimed to ensure that older people have the supports they need to age in good health and with broad community support. And what better time to look at the act and celebrate all that it has accomplished to enable all older adults, including LGBT older adults, to grow old and age with independence, dignity, and respect in their own communities.

It’s also a good time to consider that this primary vehicle for the delivery of supports and services to older adults makes no mention of LGBT older adults. Due to be reauthorized, SAGE is mindful that at some point in the near future, whether it’s through administrative change or legislative change, it’s necessary for this all-important piece of aging legislation to explicitly include LGBT older adults. This means, among other things, that through data collection, we might once and for all come to understand the degree to which aging programs and services are reaching and meeting the needs of LGBT older adults. And to the extent LGBT older adults are not being reached, by having targeting language, the aging network will need to step up to the plate and target services and supports to LGBT older adults.

The goal of the Older Americans Act, is in part, to reach those who are most vulnerable. Unfortunately, LGBT older adults all too often fit the bill. As we celebrate Older Americans Month it’s time for the Older Americans Act to ensure that LGBT older adults will no longer need to act, but can be their authentic selves, and get the services and supports they need. Interested in making your voice heard? Fill out our survey on LGBT voices that we’ll be taking to The White House in July for the White House Conference on Aging!

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Representing Diverse Elders During AAPI Heritage Month (APAHM)

May is recognized as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. From modest beginnings when President Carter signed a Joint Resolution on October 5, 1978 marking the first ten days of May as “Asian-Pacific Heritage Week,” to 1992, when the entire month of May became officially recognized as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), it has become an opportunity to lift up the experiences of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Across the country, communities, organizations, and governments at local, state, and regional levels celebrate the month in a variety of ways, including cultural performances, political discussions, and other activities.

11164657_10153228093175568_2271997763216837411_nInterestingly enough, celebrating APAHM here in Washington, DC has, in some ways, reverted back to its roots. In order to accommodate schedules for participants traveling from locations near and far, local and national partners in government, non-profit organizations, and the private sector have planned a series of events that look to cram as much of a whole month’s celebration into a week as possible. The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans has tracked many of these activities on their web site.

Having lived in Washington a long time now, I’ve seen my fair share of celebrations over the years. This year, I had the distinct pleasure of “running the gauntlet” of activities for APAHM through the lens of my work here at the Diverse Elders Coalition. Seeing how the voices and experiences of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander elders are reflected in the national slate of events has been interesting.

The week kicked off with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders 2015 Summit, which brought together over 2000 registered participants at the nation’s capital for a day-long series of panels, discussions, and cultural performances. I was honored to be invited to co-facilitate a lunch-time discussion on Aging & Seniors, along with Daphne Kwok from AARP, Everett Lo from the Social Security Administration, and Erwin Tam from Senior Corps. Our DEC partner the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging was present as well, and I was happy to have the support of my new friend and colleague, NAPCA CEO Dr. Wes Lum. WHIAAPI’s blog post captures other highlights from the day, including a video message from the President.

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For many years, I’ve been associated with NCAPA and a number of their member organizations, so I was pleased to attend their “NCAPA 2.0 Briefing and Second Annual AAPI Data Summit.” In many ways, it was a family reunion for me, re-connecting with dear friends and colleagues in the AAPI community, including the new NCAPA National Director, Mini Timmaraju, a woman I’ve had the pleasure of working on these issues with since our college days together at the University of California (Go Bears!). The presentation about the research and data projects about AAPI communities included the study by AARP about AAPIs over 50 and financial security. In response to research that fails to disaggregate different subpopulations and masks individual disparities and complexities, organizations have taken it on themselves to create research that provides a more accurate picture of the community. My work now with the DEC and our partners NAPCA and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center will surely benefit from this research.

With evening events such as the annual Gala for the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies in the mix as well, it’s been a pretty long week. I’m glad to be wrapping up this week’s events though by joining the Health Rising Leadership Fellows at the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum and talking about leadership and multi-racial/ multi-sector advocacy with some of the emerging advocates for AAPI communities around the country. Seeing these young leaders at the stage in their careers that I was when I first started this work was a neat way to bring this event full circle. There will be more activities to celebrate AAPIHM here in Washington, DC and elsewhere as the month progresses, but this week’s events will be particularly memorable for me.

 

Q&A with SSA

Social Security is important to the financial security of our diverse elder communities.  This blog post comes to us from Kirk Larson, the Public Affairs Specialist for Social Security Western Washington.  We hope it will be helpful and informative to our readers!

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Question:
What is the maximum Social Security retirement benefit?

Answer:
The maximum benefit depends on the age you retire. For example, if you retire at full retirement age in 2015, your maximum monthly benefit would be $2,663. However, if you retire at age 62 in 2015, your maximum monthly benefit would be only $2,025. If you retire at age 70 in 2015, your maximum monthly benefit would be $3,501. To get a better idea of what your benefit might be, visit our online Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire/estimator.html.

 

Question:
My same-sex partner and I recently married. Will we qualify for Social Security benefits?

Answer:
You may be eligible to apply for Social Security benefits. Many factors affect your eligibility for benefits, including how long you worked and your age. Social Security is now processing more claims in which entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship. We encourage you to apply for benefits right away, even if you aren’t sure you’re eligible. Applying now will protect you against the loss of any potential benefits. You can apply safely and securely at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline. Learn more about Social Security for same-sex couples by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.

 

Question:
I’m planning my retirement. What is the maximum Social Security benefit I might receive?

Answer:
The maximum benefit depends on the age you retire and how much you earned in your lifetime. For example, if you retire at age 62 in 2015, your maximum benefit will be $2,025. If you retire at full retirement age in 2015, your maximum benefit will be $2,663. If you retire at age 70 in 2015, your maximum benefit will be $3,501. You can estimate your benefits by using our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

 

Question:
I was hurt on the job and can’t work. How do I start my application for Social Security disability benefits?

Answer:
If you have a disability that qualifies, you can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability. There are several advantages to applying online for disability benefits. You can start your disability claim immediately. There is no need to wait for an appointment. You can apply from the convenience of your home or on any computer. And, you avoid trips to a Social Security office, saving you time and money. You can use the online application to apply for benefits if you are age 18 or older, have a medical condition that has prevented you from working or is expected to prevent you from working for at least 12 months or result in death, and reside in the United States or one of its territories or commonwealths.

 

Question:
I will rely on Medicare when I retire. Can you explain the different parts of Medicare?

Answer:
The different parts of Medicare cover your specific needs. There are four parts, all of which work in tandem to deliver healthcare services.

  • Part A (hospital insurance):  Hospital insurance helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (following a hospital stay), some home health care, and hospice care.
  • Part B (medical insurance):  Medical insurance helps pay for doctors’ services and many other medical services and supplies that hospital insurance doesn’t cover.
  • Part C (Medicare Advantage plans):  If you have Medicare Parts A and B, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan. Private companies offer Medicare Advantage plans which are approved by Medicare. These plans generally help you pay the medical costs not covered by Medicare Part A and B.
  • Part D (prescription drug coverage):  Prescription drug coverage helps pay for medications doctors prescribe for treatment.

 

Question:
How do I know if I meet the eligibility requirements to get Social Security disability benefits?

Answer:
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have worked long enough in jobs covered by Social Security (usually 10 years). You must also have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s strict definition of disability. We consider an adult disabled under our rules if he or she has a  medical condition, or combination of medical conditions, that are expected to last for at least one year or result in death, and that prevent the performance of any type of work.

If you think you may be eligible to receive disability benefits and would like to apply, you can use our online application at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Diverse Elder Communities in Los Angeles Host Town Hall with White House Conference on Aging

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 7, 2015

CONTACT:
Jenna McDavid, Diverse Elders Coalition
Ben de Guzman, Diverse Elders Coalition
info@diverseelders.org
202-347-9733 x235

Diverse Elder Communities in Los Angeles
Host Town Hall with White House Conference on Aging

Los Angeles, CA – May 7, 2015
nora01One hundred area elders, caregivers, and advocates from communities of color and LGBTQ communities gathered at the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles’ Historic Filipinotown district on Thursday to speak directly with Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) about the unique and specific aging concerns that affect diverse elders.  Through presentations from elders and a town hall format that allowed individuals to share their stories and ideas for improving their futures and the futures of their children and grandchildren, Ms. Super and other WHCOA staff heard about the need for culturally- and linguistically-competent services; the need for improved services and resources to ensure retirement security; the importance of community care and supports; and the different faces of elder abuse in diverse communities.  Local advocates hope that the White House will take the stories they heard today and craft aging policies and practices that improve the lives of elders of color and LGBTQ elders.

A planning committee made up of local and national organizations serving elders of color, LGBT elders, and their caregivers brought the event to Los Angeles, one of the nation’s most diverse cities, in order to highlight the voices of these communities that are not often heard in mainstream policy discussions around aging.  Nora Super, giving a brief presentation on the White House Conference on Aging, expressed the need to reach out to diverse constituencies and appreciated the different communities that came together in the room as a better reflection of what America looks like in 2015.

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One of the elders who gave a presentation as a participant of programs at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Herbie Taylor, talked about the impact HIV/AIDS has had for over 30 years in the gay community and the struggle for services that meet his needs.  “I am a consumer with nothing to consume,” he said, and shared stories of how he and his peers have had to deal with stigma and lack of programs serving him and his peers.

“This is what America looks like,” said Ben de Guzman, National Managing Coordinator for the Diverse Elders Coalition.  “The elders who shared their stories did so in their own languages, and not in a conference hotel but in the real community setting where they live.  Their voices, quite frankly, represent perspectives the White House needs to hear more of if they are to not only meet the needs of the ‘graying of America’ as the population gets older, but also the ‘browning of America’ as we become more racially and ethnically diverse.”

This event was generously sponsored and supported by the following organizations:

AARP
Caring Across Generations
Diverse Elders Coalition
Los Angeles LGBT Center
National Asian Pacific Center on Aging
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
National Hispanic Council on Aging
National Indian Council on Aging
Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center

More coverage of this event can be found on the Diverse Elders Coalition website: www.diverseelders.org and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/diverseelders) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/diverseelders)

For more information on the White House Conference on Aging, please visit www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov.

 

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Ensuring Diverse Voices are Heard at the White House Conference on Aging

The Diverse Elders Coalition and its partner organizations continue to engage the 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) to ensure that the voices of our diverse elder communities are heard and that meaningful, beneficial changes are made to US policy.  We have two exciting events happening this week in the western United States that will bring our constituents into contact with Nora Super, Executive Director of the WHCOA, and other White House staff.

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On Wednesday, May 6th, the National Indian Council on Aging is hosting an American Indian/Alaskan Native listening session in Norman, Oklahoma.  This session will bring together Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, caregivers, families, researchers, leaders in the field of aging, and other stakeholders from across Indian Country, offering a much-needed opportunity for those communities to provide input to the White House on the issues of most importance to older AI/AN Americans.  The event is open to the public, but pre-registration is required.  Click here to fill out the registration form and add your voice to those helping to frame the issues, foster discussion, and facilitate a vision for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.

On Thursday, May 7th, a similar event will be held in Los Angeles, CA, inviting local elders from the communities served by the Diverse Elders Coalition to participate in a listening session with Nora Super and other WHCOA staff.  Hosted by the historic Pilipino Workers Center and supported and sponsored by nearly a dozen local and national aging organizations, this unique event will allow us to amplify the voices of our community members and ensure that our needs do not go unmet by the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.  Elders and caregivers will be given a chance to share their stories, ideas, and requests with WHCOA organizers in a town hall-type format.  This event is by invitation only, but if you cannot attend in person, we invite you to fill out our White House Conference on Aging survey and share YOUR story with WHCOA organizers and policymakers.

We are excited about the flurry of activity around the WHCOA this week and look forward to continued engagement with the White House and its aging policymakers as we approach the main White House Conference on Aging in Washington, DC later this year.  Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more updates and ways to get involved.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Los Angeles Town Hall to Discuss the 2015 White House Conference on Aging

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 4, 2015

CONTACT:
Jenna McDavid, Diverse Elders Coalition
Ben de Guzman, Diverse Elders Coalition
info@diverseelders.org
202-347-9733 x235

Diverse Elder Communities in Los Angeles
Hosting Town Hall to Discuss the 2015 White House Conference on Aging

Los Angeles, CA – May 7, 2015

WHAT: In order to ensure that the voices of communities of color and LGBTQ communities in Los Angeles are represented at this year’s White House Conference on Aging, the Diverse Elders Coalition is joining local and national organizations to put on a Town Hall in Los Angeles with Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House Conference and Aging. At this event, elders of color, LGBT elders, advocates, and community leaders will join Ms. Super and other invited policymakers and public officials, including LA City Councilmember Mitch O’ Farrell, a gay man and an enrolled member of the Wyandotte Native American tribe representing the Historic Filipinotown district where the event will be held.

WHEN: May 7, 2015 from 12:00 PM until 2:30 PM

WHERE: Pilipino Workers Center, 153 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

WHY: The White House Conference on Aging is held once every ten years and is a once in a decade opportunity to focus national attention on the need of our nation’s elder population.  The DEC, its member organizations and other advocates serving elders of color, LGBT elders, and their caregivers have been engaging the White House Conference on Aging this year to bring our communities’ voices forward. This Town Hall brings together elders, caregivers, and advocates from Los Angeles to speak with White House Conference organizers about the specific and unique needs of our communities as they relate to the four areas of interest for the conference: Healthy Aging, Long-Term Services and Supports, Elder Justice, and Economic Security.

Elders living in communities of color and LGBTQ communities often have unique needs often ignored in mainstream policy discussions around aging, including culturally and linguistically competent care, access to services, housing, discrimination that is compounded by ageism, and a range of health disparities.  By inviting local elders to speak directly to White House representatives about these unique issues, we are ensuring that our voices are heard, considered, and honored as aging policies and practices are put into place for the years ahead.

This event is sponsored and supported by:

AARP
Caring Across Generations
Diverse Elders Coalition
Los Angeles LGBT Center
National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA)
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (NCAPACD)
National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)
National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA)
Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (PWC)
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

To learn more about the Diverse Elders Coalition, please visit www.diverseelders.org.  For more information on the White House Conference on aging, see www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov.

This event is by invitation only, but we invite all of our diverse elder communities to share their stories with us through our White House Conference on Aging survey: 

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May: A Month to Celebrate

May has been an important month for me for almost my entire professional career doing policy work in Washington, DC. As Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM), it has served as an opportunity to focus on the communities I’ve served, lift up issues such as immigration, cultural and linguistic competence, and address anti-Asian violence and racial discrimination. From its modest beginnings in 1977 when it was just the first week of May, to 1992 when it became officially designated for the entire month, it was chosen initially to recognize both the completion of the transcontinental railroad and the role Chinese laborers played there as well as the arrival of the first cohort of Japanese immigrants.

May is also the month when Memorial Day commemorates those soldiers who have fallen in the line of battle and given, in President Lincoln’s words, “the last full measure of devotion.”  The Filipino World War II veterans I worked for remembered their fallen comrades even as they continued to fight a different struggle — for the simple dignity of recognition from the government under whose flag they fought. I’ve recently become involved with the Filipino Word War II Veterans Recognition and Education Project to ensure that as they age, their legacy and contribution to our country is not forgotten.

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At the Diverse Elders Coalition, we celebrate May as Older Americans Month. I’ve appreciated the time I’ve spent here learning from elders of color and LGBT elders about the challenges they face and the resilience they’ve shown in the face of adversity. Established in 1963 as a result of discussions between President John F. Kennedy and what is now the Alliance for Retired Americans, Older Americans Month recognizes the contributions of older persons. This May, we will mark the month in a number of ways, including:

  • Diverse Elders Story Initiative: Lifting up real experiences from elders of color and LGBT elders and connecting them to the issues we care about;
  • White House Conference on Aging: Providing updates on the White House Conference on Aging and our work to increase the role our communities play in this once in a decade opportunity; and
  • Connecting Our Communities: Using social media to make the vital connections between the constituencies our members serve; highlighting common work with common cause and how we are all working for a more inclusive discussion on policies that work for ALL older people.

APAICS Gala w NQAPIA

Announcing our work for this month on May 1, I also recognize May Day and the international solidarity workers across the globe celebrate today. Indeed, it was older workers in the labor movement that helped create Older Americans Month as the National Council of Senior Citizens.

I welcome you to follow us all month at our blog here, or our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. We will be making some exciting announcements and look forward to making more announcements about positive changes for the communities we serve!

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

40 & Forward: Southeast Asian Americans Rooted & Rising

Diem and Ivy

April 30th marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the U.S. war in Vietnam. Between 1965 and 1975, the war took the lives of over 58,000 Americans and at least 1,000,000 Vietnamese. Without Congressional approval, the U.S. also secretly dropped the equivalent of a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years on the small country of Laos, and carpeted northern and eastern Cambodia with ordnance over the course of the war. In Cambodia, the end of the Vietnam War marked the beginning of the terror of the Khmer Rouge genocide, which killed approximately 1.7 million Cambodians – over 20% of the country’s population.

These crises created a mass exodus of refugees into Thailand and onto the open sea to Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia. This was the largest humanitarian and refugee crises the world had seen and lasted over two decades. Over 1.3 million of these refugees were eventually resettled in the U.S. – the largest reception of refugees in U.S. history.

Today, 2.5 million Southeast Asian Americans (SEAAs) trace their heritage to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Those who survived the war and fled to the United States drew from a deep resilience to build new lives in this country. SEAAs blazed trails to start small businesses, lead community-based organizations, and serve in public office, while remaining rooted in the strength of their shared history and struggle.

But the wars, bombings, and genocide left deep wounds as well. Today, SEAA elders still suffer disproportionately from mental health issues related to trauma, and culturally and linguistically appropriate services remain inadequate. In a study conducted with Cambodian American older adults in Long Beach between 2003 and 2005, 90% reported having a family or friend murdered, 70% reported being exposed to violence after resettlement in the U.S., and 62% showed symptoms of PTSD.

On April 27th, SEARAC held our first “40 & Forward: Southeast Asian Americans Rooted & Rising” event to commemorate our community’s shared history and to celebrate our strength and resilience. The program included a Vietnamese American poet, Ngô Văn Diệm, who shared his memories of the day Saigon fell to North Vietnamese forces, as American soldiers abandoned the city, in the form of poetry. You can listen to Diệm reading his haunting poem here, followed by his daughter Ivy reading an English translation. DEC National Managing Coordinator, Ben de Guzman, has been a longtime supporter of SEARAC and he was on hand to help celebrate our work on behalf of Southeast Asian American elders.

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

 

Why Marriage Equality Matters for LGBT Older Adults

This post originally appeared on the SAGE Blog.

6a017c34619ea6970b01b7c77f1fad970b-800wiMany don’t know that same-sex spouses in non-marriage states still don’t qualify for all the same federal benefits that their different sex counterparts enjoy, simply because they are married to someone of the same sex.  This is an issue that comes up in the context of Social Security, Veterans Administration, and some Medicare benefits.   And it is all the more important for LGBT older adults who face pronounced poverty and lack of access to culturally competent healthcare.

This topic is one that our Executive Director, Michael Adams, examines in detail with his latest op-ed Why Marriage Equality Matters for Older Americans.“Marriage has proven highly effective for improving the lives of many older people,” and given the unique issues our LGBT older adult population face, marriage “could be even more beneficial for older same-sex couples than it has been for older straight couples.”

Adams writes:
“Incredibly, two years after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act’s prohibition on federal recognition of same-sex marriages, some married same-sex couples are still being denied federal benefits especially important to older adults.  This is because some federal agencies use the “place of domicile” rule to determine whether a couple is considered married.  As a result, bereaved widows like Kathy continue to be denied Social Security survivors’ benefits because the state in which they live does not recognize their marriage.”

With this in mind, SAGE is proud to endorse a bill, the ‘‘Social Security and Medicare Parity Act of 2015,’’ being introduced this week by Representative Mark Takano (D. CA), which would provide equal spousal and survivor benefits, create more flexible marriage tenure requirements, and require the Social Security Administration to engage in more outreach to LGBT older adults so that they are made aware of new or increased benefits.

In addition, SAGE, with the assistance of Jack Nadler as the lead lawyer from the firm Squire Patton Boggs, recently filed an amicus brief related to Obergefell v. Hodges. This historic case will be heard next week and allows the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether the U.S. Constitution requires every U.S. state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and to recognize marriages of same-sex couples lawfully performed in any other state. SAGE filed the brief with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Justice in Aging, National Hispanic Council on Aging, and the American Society on Aging. To learn more about the brief and our four major arguments, click here.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

The Time for the FAMILY Act is Now

This post originally appeared on the NHCOA blog.

Every day, 11% of our workforce shows to up work hoping to not get sick. 

These workers probably also hope their children, parents, and dependents don’t get sick as well. That is the daily reality of American workers who do not have access to paid sick or family leave.

For many parents, having a job and having a family are mutually exclusive. If they need to take care of a family member or themselves, they could lose wages, face disciplinary action, or even worse, get fired. All Americans, including diverse Americans, want to have strong families— be there for their children and parents when they need them most. They also want to have the resources and support to be successful in their jobs. However, many often find themselves forcing to choose one over the other because the alternative doesn’t solve their need. Millions of workers who are covered by theFamily and Medical Leave Act don’t take it, or use it sparingly— despite the job protection safeguards— mostly because it is still unpaid leave, wages that working parents simply can’t afford to lose.

Such decisions weaken our country, and wreak havoc among diverse families who tend to live in intergenerational households and rely on informal caregiving to take care of each other.

On election night last year, several paid sick leave initiatives were ushered in with ample margins in the state of Massachusetts, and the cities of Oakland, CA, Montclair, NJ and Trenton, NJ. While these were significant wins, there are still millions of workers in other states who deserve the same access. The good news is we can change this though through the FAMILY Act, also known as the Healthy Families Act. The bill creates a national paid family and medical leave program, which was recently re-introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CN). The bill is based on already successful and effective state paid leave laws and would reduce economic inequality and improve economic opportunities for all Americans, while simultaneously help hardworking women and men meet their caregiving needs.

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The FAMILY Act is a game changer for Latinos and other diverse communities.

  • According to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, an additional 5.6 million Latino workers would have access to paid sick leave under the Healthy Families Act, equating to a 78% employee coverage increase.
  • Paid sick and family leave helps to increase worker productivity, promote preventive care, and decrease the spread of contagious illnesses and diseases, which in turn has a positive effect on the economy.

The FAMILY Act has gotten off to a slow start, but together we can change this. 

The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, as well as the Committees on House Administration, and Oversight and Government Reform, and needs to be voted on so it can then have a chance at a vote on the House and Senate floors. The only way action will be taken to move the Healthy Families Act and make it a reality for all working Americans is by speaking up and taking action. The best way to encourage the committee to act is by emailing and calling the Committee on Education and the Workforce, as well as reaching out to its members individually so they know that diverse communities want and need this important piece of legislation.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Raising Awareness and Eliminating Health Disparities for National Minority Cancer Awareness Week

When I’ve given trainings to healthcare and social services providers about cancer in the LGBTQ communities, I always find it interesting to ask the audience, “Does it matter who a breast lump spent Valentine’s Day with?”  Or, “Does it matter what country the lump’s grandparents were born in?”  Most participants say, overwhelmingly, no, a lump is a lump is a lump: we should treat patients the same irrespective of their racial and ethnic backgrounds or their sexual orientation.  But as we’ve learned this National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, cancer affects different populations differently, and minority groups in the United States continue to bear a greater cancer burden.

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Much of this difference is due to factors like poverty and lack of access to prevention/detection services and high-quality treatment, according to reports produced by the American Cancer Society. For instance, African Americans and Hispanics in the US have higher poverty rates than whites and are less likely to have health insurance, making it harder for them to get the care they need.  LGBTQ people may be affected by homophobia and transphobia in the doctor’s office or may not have anyone to talk to about the different ways their cancer survivorship is affected by their LGBTQ identities.

At the Diverse Elders Coalition, we are inspired by the work being done to bring awareness to health disparities and promote healthy living amongst our diverse communities.  In addition to the National LGBT Cancer Network’s support groups that we highlighted last week, I wanted to share with you some of the local and national programs that are raising up and supporting the experiences of minority populations facing a cancer diagnosis.

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  • The Sisters Network, Inc. offers free mammograms, medical-related lodging, office visits and prosthesis to eligible Black breast cancer survivors through their Breast Cancer Assistance Program.
  • The Native American Cancer Research Corporation is an American Indian, community based, non-profit organization that works to enroll Native Americans in cancer studies and provides community support to Natives facing a cancer diagnosis.
  • The Asian Pacific Islander National Cancer Survivorship Network (APINCSN) offers an incredible archive of survivor stories called their Videos of Hope, celebrating cancer survivorship in the AAPI communities. They also offer webinars for healthcare providers and a resource directory for AAPI survivors.
  • Latinas Contra Cancer (LCC) was founded to address the void in culturally and linguistically sensitive programs that meet the health care needs of Latinos around issues of cancer. They offer Spanish-language cancer support groups, provide culturally and linguistically competent patient navigators, and host the National Latino Cancer Summit.

The U.S. HHS Office of Minority Health website is also a great general resource for understanding and eliminating health disparities facing our communities, including cancer.  So if someone asks you whether it matters where a lump grew up or who it goes to bed with at night, remember: Yes.  Not all cancer is created equal, and our diverse elder communities may have different needs when it comes to survivorship.  If you have a story about you or a loved one surviving cancer, please tell us about it!  We use our robust diverse elders story archive to advocate on behalf of our communities and eliminate the health disparities we face.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

National Healthcare Decisions Day: Are You Ready?

April 16th marks the 8th annual National Healthcare Decisions Day, a commemoration that exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and healthcare providers about the importance of advance care planning.  NHDD organizers encourage all adults – regardless of age or health – to have end-of-life talks with their family members and medical providers and set up their advance directives.

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The NHDD website offers a number of free resources for healthcare planning, as well as opportunities in all fifty states to connect with local organizers and participate in an NHDD event.  We encourage our constituents and coalition members to check out the site, as all adults can benefit from thinking about what their healthcare choices would be if they are unable to speak for themselves.  As our friends at Compassion and Choices remind us, “To receive the care you desire if you are seriously injured or dying, it is vital to discuss your healthcare wishes with your physicians and loved ones while you are healthy.”

In a 2003 article, “Advance Care Planning: Preferences for Care at the End of Life,” the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found the following:

  • Less than 50 percent of the severely or terminally ill patients studied had an advance directive in their medical record.
  • Only 12 percent of patients with an advance directive had received input from their physician in its development.
  • Between 65 and 76 percent of physicians whose patients had an advance directive were not aware that it existed.

32139264Additional research suggests that while advance directives and discussions are rare among all populations, advance care planning has been particularly inadequately discussed and developed for non-white and/or non-English-speaking populations.  As we advocate for culturally competent healthcare and services for our diverse elder coalition members and their constituents, we hope that advance planning will be a part of the discussion – and the solution.

During last week’s White House Conference on Aging regional forum in Seattle, we were inspired by Rep. Jim McDermott’s impassioned plea to participants to talk about advance directives and end-of-life care.  His TED Talk, “Don’t Take Death Lying Down,” offers further inspiration and motivation for developing a national movement around advance directives.  Rep. McDermott even introduced legislation in 2009 to allow individual taxpayers a credit for 30% of the cost of legal fees associated with establishing an advance directive for themselves.  His passion is contagious, and we hope that our readers, friends, community members and colleagues will consider starting this important discussion with their families today.

What are your end-of-life plans?  Have you made any?  What were the challenges you faced while you worked with your family and your medical providers to create your plans?  Tell us your story here.

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Support Groups for Survivors: Commemorating National Minority Cancer Awareness Week

headshotThis post was written by Liz Margolies, LCSW, Executive Director of the National LGBT Cancer Network.

In 2013, the National LGBT Cancer Network and LGBT HealthLink surveyed over 300 LGBTQ-identified cancer survivors and found that, overwhelmingly, our communities needed LGBTQ-targeted support.  Mainstream, “straight-identified” cancer support groups too often left our people’s cancer experiences shut out of the dialogue.  LGBTQ survivors also told us that doctors were not open enough to our needs and sometimes were overtly hostile.  Cancer support groups by and for LGBTQ members were the number one request made by survivors who participated in our survey.

So, in 2014, the National LGBT Cancer Network decided to do something about it.  With funding and support from the New York State Department of Health, we launched our Support Groups for Survivors, a series of free online support groups for LGBTQ people with cancer, available 24 hours a day.  Since that initial pilot group, we have had multiple groups for lesbian and bisexual women, gay and bisexual men, and transgender people, all of whom have experienced a cancer diagnosis and came to us looking for the support of their communities.

Transgender cancer survivor and friend of the National LGBT Cancer Network Jay Kallio

Transgender cancer survivor and friend of the National LGBT Cancer Network Jay Kallio

As a moderator of these forums, I have been struck by the voices and the experiences of the LGBTQ elders who come to the group. They arrive scared, anxious, and lonely, but many quickly find “virtual” friends with whom they laugh, cry, and share their feelings openly on a daily basis.  Some have previously attended other mainstream support groups and found them lacking. As one survivor wrote, “I’m always the sole lesbian [in my other support groups]. I’m just more comfortable in an LGBT setting.”

Not only did our group members share LGBTQ-specific issues with each other, but everything that mattered to them poured out once they felt they were safe to express themselves. For example, one survivor shared the loss of her beloved step-father with the group and the weeks of pain and grief she has been experiencing as a result.  Multiple group members reached out to her in a variety of ways.  “I don’t know the ‘right’ words to say to help ease your pain,” responded one member.  “Just that I care. I care about how you feel, what you’re going through, and how you’re doing day by day.”

Many of the LGBTQ elders who have joined the groups have commented on how lonely and isolating the experience of having cancer has been for them.  Some do not have partners; others do not have living family with whom they are in communication.  Still others are isolated as a function of illness, disability, and geographic distance.  We like to think that the online nature of our groups allows people to reach out 24/7 to other LGBTQ survivors around the country and not feel so alone, both physically and in the experience of being LGBTQ cancer survivors.  One interaction between group members was particularly striking:

“In so many ways cancer has destroyed my life… I haven’t always felt this way.  Sometimes I feel I can fight, but lately so much is getting the better of me. It might be best for me to sit out some of this round of postings as I have no real positives to give to anyone at this time. I am barely keeping me going right now… I don’t feel I have a lot to give to you ladies right now. Cancer has taken so much from me.”

Then, this was posted in response:

“I don’t think one needs to be positive to post! For me, this is a journal of sorts, a place to express your feelings, whatever they may be a the moment, and just knowing someone else is out there, whether there’s a reply or not, might just offer a glimmer of hope. We’re all in this in our own ways. We feel what we feel. It’s OK. So please don’t stop for that reason.”

Liz and the National LGBT Cancer Network presenting a groundbreaking partnership for LGBTQ healthcare with New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation

Liz and the National LGBT Cancer Network presenting a groundbreaking partnership for LGBTQ healthcare with New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation

In honor of National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, we hope that more services like our Support Groups for Survivors will be developed to better meet the needs of other underserved populations.  If you or someone you know needs LGBTQ cancer support, please visit our website at www.cancer-network.org.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Dr. Wesley Lum Selected as New NAPCA CEO & President

The National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) is one of the five Diverse Elders Coalition members.  NAPCA recently selected a new CEO, Dr. Wesley Lum.  Below is the announcement from NAPCA about Dr. Lum’s appointment.  We at the DEC are looking forward to working with Dr. Lum to continue to make positive change for AAPI elders.

After an extensive nationwide search, the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) Board of Directors has selected Dr. Wesley Lum to be the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer effective April 1.

“We’re very excited to have someone with Dr. Lum’s impressive credentials to lead NAPCA,” said David Cohen, chairman of NAPCA’s Board of Directors. “He has the vision and talent to continue to make NAPCA highly successful and effective in its mission to serve Asian American and Pacific Islander elders.”

Dr. Lum brings with him 20 years of experience in the field of aging, health, social services, policy, and advocacy. He most recently served as the Director of the Hawaii Executive Office on Aging, appointed by then-Governor Neil Abercrombie. He has extensive leadership experience, having served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD), the Hawaii Pacific Gerontological Society, and the Hawaii Public Health Association.

He is a recipient of several awards, including from the Hawaii Senate for Outstanding Advocate for Hawaii’s Elders and Family Caregivers, and the Hawaii State Legislature for Outstanding Leadership in Creating Programs and Restructuring Services and Policies to More Effectively Serve the Kupuna of Hawaii. Dr. Lum is widely published on topics relating to caregiving and factors impacting quality of life among AAPI older adults.

Cohen, selected earlier this month as NAPCA’s first Board Chairman of Pacific Islander descent, also thanked outgoing President and CEO Christine Takada. “We’re grateful for all she did to lead NAPCA through a very challenging transition period.”

NAPCA is the leading advocacy and service organization committed to the dignity, well-being, and quality of life of Asian American and Pacific Islander elders as they age.

See the original announcement here: http://napca.org/press-releases/

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Health Action NM Releases Health Coverage Resource for Native Americans

This blog written by HANM staff member Colin Baillio originally appeared on the Health Action New Mexico website

In collaboration with the National Indian Council on Aging and the Diverse Elders Coalition, Health Action New Mexico has released a resource to help explain how the Affordable Care Act affects Native Americans between the ages 50 and 64.  “There is still a great deal of work to be done to raise awareness among tribal communities and urban Indians about new coverage options available through the new health reform law,” said Barbara Webber, Executive Director of Health Action NM.  “Our hope is that this fact sheet will be helpful for Native Americans who need health services that can’t be provided by the Indian Health Service.”

Nationally, about one of three Native Americans and Alaskan Indians lack health coverage, according to a 2013 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  The only other recourse is to use the Indian Health Service (IHS), which provides primary care for members of Federally Recognized Tribes.  But with severely limited capacity for specialty services and consistent underfunding from the federal government, IHS is often unable to meet the health care needs of the population it serves.  Many tribal members are acutely aware of the link between the lack of access to care and the lower-than-average life expectancy among Native American populations.

New coverage expansions provide benefits for tribal communities and urban Indians that can extend crucial health care services to populations in need.  The Medicaid Expansion provides free health coverage to Americans making under $15,655 per year ($1,305 per month) as an individual.  The New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange is a marketplace where those making above that amount can shop for a private health coverage plan, with financial assistance available to help make coverage affordable.  Native Americans are eligible for premium discounts if they make below about $46,680 per year as individuals ($3,890 per month) and face no out-of-pocket costs if, as an individual, they make below $35,310 per year ($2,943 per month).

Native Americans ages 50-64 stand to gain from these new benefits, especially if they live with chronic conditions that require routine treatment.  Health Action NM’s new resource acknowledges that being able to manage a condition with a doctor is crucial to the health of older adults, which is why IHS and health coverage can lead to a synergy between primary and specialty care providers.  “We made sure to explain how new coverage options can be used in addition to IHS services,” according to Barbara Webber.

With the release of this fact sheet, Health Action NM seeks to make this information available in its most accessible form. “We held an incredible group discussion with members of tribes throughout the state to ensure that this fact sheet is useful for Native Americans in New Mexico,” said Joe Martinez, Outreach Coordinator for Health Action NM. “That discussion will be the basis for future collaborations with Native Americans who want to see their communities thrive.”

Click here to view the fact sheet.

Please contact Health Action NM if you would like copies of the fact sheet for your community:

Health Action New Mexico
3700 Osuna Rd NE, Ste 504, Albuquerque, NM  87109
(505) 322-2152
info@healthactionnm.org
www.HealthActionNM.org

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Reflections from the WHCOA 2015 Seattle Regional Forum

On April 2, the White House Conference on Aging hosted its third in a series of five Regional Forums in Seattle, WA at the Bell Harbor International Center. With our member organization the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging a hop, skip, and a jump away in downtown Seattle, and a diverse elder population in the city and region that includes significant tribal populations, the Diverse Elders Coalition identified this Regional Forum as a key opportunity to lift up the profile of its member groups and the constituencies we all serve.

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Approximately 200 people attended the Forum, which opened up with presentations from high profile speakers. King County Executive Dow Constantine welcomed the participants to the city, and Senator Patty Murray received a standing ovation as she took the stage to talk about her work at the federal level to maintain services for aging populations. Congressmembers Jim McDermott and Suzan DelBene addressed the audience, and U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez gave both a comprehensive breakdown of the legal and policy landscape of caregivers and workers in the aging space as well as stirring personal reflections of what it means to ensure older Americans are able to live with dignity and continue to contribute to the public good. Jo Ann Jenkins, the CEO of AARP, co-sponsor of the White House Conference on Aging, noted that “We are a generation of makers and doers who have a desire to celebrate discovery over decline.”

UntitledIn the afternoon, participants joined four different breakout groups corresponding with the four areas of focus for WHCOA — Healthy Aging, Retirement Security, Long-Term Services and Supports, and Elder Justice. Our own Jenna McDavid joined the Long-Term Services and Support breakout, and I was able to take part in the Elder Justice breakout. In smaller group discussions, I talked about how our work focused on the different ways in which the discriminations that our constituencies face — whether it’s racism, xenophobia, homophobia, or other types of bigotry — intersect with age to create unique “strains” of elder abuse that are not sufficiently addressed by current policies and initiatives. I was asked by WHCOA staff and planning partners to take the overall recommendations put forth by our breakout group to the larger audience during the final wrap-up. NICOA board member Cyndi Nation was one of the audience members, and Lora Church, a NICOA partner in Albuquerque gave a native address to the audience during the open discussion portion and connected it to a stirring reminder to keep the focus on the elders we serve and the need to respect them and to respect aging more generally.

Nora Super, WHCOA Executive Director, and Kathy Greenlee, Administrator for the Administration for Community Living, took the opportunity to observe Seattle’s aging community up close and recognize its diversity by visiting with the city’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In collaboration with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), WHCOA and ACL staff visited with the seniors at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, one of the region’s largest multi-service agency. Many of these seniors are involved with the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, and their new CEO, Dr. Wesley Lum, joined ACRS staff and other local AAPI advocates in a more policy and solutions oriented discussion with the WHCOA and ACL team. Having worked with ACRS for over fifteen years, including five years at an organiztion led by the sister of ACRS Executive Director Diane Narasaki, it was rewarding to see Seattle’s AAPI community give the White House specific and substantive feedback on the implications its work has on the real lives of Seattlites who don’t often get to be heard.

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Diane Narasaki also served as a speaker at the WHCOA Regional Forum, and her points on Healthy Aging resonated with many of the points we have put forward in our DEC Principles of Inclusion and Engagement for the White House Conference on Aging in order to address the unique and often severe hardships diverse elders face. But echoing other calls during the Forum to reframe aging from more strengths-based perspectives instead of through deficit models, she closed by saying, “I believe that every challenge is an opportunity, and together, we can create systems to support healthy aging.” It’s that spirit that we bring with us as we engage the White House and our member organizations’ local constituencies in Cleveland and Boston for upcoming WHCOA Regional Forums. Keep track of that work on our blog, or on social media via Facebook and Twitter.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Supporting and Advocating for Immigrant Elders on Cesar Chavez Day

FL120576133315March 31st is Cesar Chavez Day, a commemoration of the life of labor activist and civil rights pioneer Cesar Chavez. Chavez cofounded the National Farm Workers Association with Dolores Huerta and worked tirelessly throughout his life to encourage Mexican Americans and other Latin@s to vote, to protect the rights of workers, and to protest the use of pesticides on our food supply. Many people commemorate Cesar Chavez day by giving back to their communities through volunteer work and service.

The impact of immigration reform on the labor conditions and practices that Cesar Chavez spent his life protesting cannot be overstated. According to the AFL-CIO labor union, immigrant workers face the highest rates of wage theft, sexual harassment, and death and injury on the job. Employers can use the threat of deportation as a weapon to keep workers from asserting their rights or enforcing labor standards. And when family members are deported, the impact can be devastating on the remaining family members, who lose income, caregivers, and the closeness of their loved ones.

Since our inception in 2010, the Diverse Elders Coalition has advocated for immigration reform that supports elders and families. Our story archive is full of stories from elders who suffered from the impact of deportation, like that of Claudette, an LGBTQ mother and grandmother who escaped violence in Jamaica only to be detained by ICE. Older immigrants and diverse elders are more vulnerable, isolated and face greater barriers to accessing services than the general older adult population. As such, immigration reform presents a key opportunity to strengthen our programs and policies to better support older immigrants.

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As we remember the life of Cesar Chavez, it is important also to look ahead to immigration reform policies that impact diverse elders now and in the years to come. We use the stories of our community members to advocate for older Americans, including in the fight for immigration reform. Do you have an immigration story to tell? Submit it here.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

The 2015 Aging in America Conference: First Time Experiences and Diverse Perspectives

The 2015 Aging in America Conference wraps up today in Chicago, IL. This week has provided a unique opportunity for the Diverse Elders Coalition and its members to share their work and connect with thousands of other participants from around the country working on issues of concern for elders. As a first time attendee, I was particularly impressed with (and maybe a bit overwhelmed by) the size and scope of the conference.

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My conference badge- “First Time Attendee!”

 

I kicked off the conference on the first day with a morning session talking about HIV/AIDS as part of an inter-generational dialogue entitled “Being Gay Ain’t What it Used to Be” with my colleague and friend, Aaron Tax, from Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). Drawing on both personal experience, as well as DEC’s Policy Brief on HIV/AIDS, the session became a fascinating discussion about the historical scope and current impacts of the epidemic.

The DEC held a face-to-face meeting to take advantage of all five members being part of the conference — perhaps the largest of its kind in the aging advocacy community. Our Symposium, “The Moment Is Now: Improving the Health and Wellness of Diverse Older Adults,” was a great venue for me to join DEC principals on stage for a session where we were able to share with audience members the unique strengths in our constituencies and how they address the challenges and disparities facing our communities.

DEC member groups were involved in a number of sessions throughout the conference, and we promoted the wealth of offerings on our blog and via social media. Just two examples:

  • The National Indian Council on Aging had a poster in the main exhibit area that provided information about American Indian and Alaska Native elders;
NICOA's Poster was on exhibit- this is the "portable version."

NICOA’s Poster was on exhibit- this is the “portable version.”

 

  • SAGE’s Michael Adams participated in a workshop with Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging. In his comments, he talked about DEC member organizations, their work on the issues the WHCOA is addressing, and our Principles of Inclusion and Engagement
SAGE's Michael Adams speaking on a panel with the White House Conference on Aging's Nora Super

SAGE’s Michael Adams speaking on a panel with the White House Conference on Aging’s Nora Super

 

Our partner, the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, was able to not only announce their workshop offerings, but also the hiring of their new CEO, Dr. Wesley Lum.

I’m looking forward to working with Dr. Lum, NAPCA, and the rest of our DEC partners on the issues we work on in collaboration, with a renewed perspective of our place in the aging advocacy world.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

LGBT Health Awareness Week: It’s Time To Come Together

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March 23-27 marks National LGBT Health Awareness Week, and we at the Diverse Elders Coalition are excited to raise awareness about the issues facing the LGBTQ communities, especially LGBT older people.  The National Coalition for LGBT Health created National LGBT Health Awareness Week in 2003 to promote increased health awareness and outcomes in the LGBT community and promote the need for greater cultural competency in the healthcare system. This year’s theme is “Time to Come Together: Trust, Transparency, Truth.”

Throughout the Week, the Coalition brings together national and state LGBT organizations, health centers, health departments, universities, health organizations, clinical and behavioral health providers, and LGBT individuals and allies to raise awareness of LGBT health equity focusing on the issues of trust, transparency, and truth.

  • It’s Time to Come Together across settings and disciplines to participate in discussions about LGBT health disparities, and advocate and educate on critical healthcare gaps and needs of LGBT individuals.
  • It’s time to building more TRUST that our providers and the healthcare system are sensitive to and addressing our personal identities and health needs.
  • It’s time for TRANSPARENCY in our healthcare systems to be more open and honest about services and costs to help ensure greater access to healthcare. We must advocate for authentic and complete data collection of sexual orientation and gender identity to reflect reality.
  • It’s time to tell the TRUTH. We must be honest about our sexual orientation, gender identity, and health needs with our providers and the healthcare system overall.

For more information on how LGBT elders are supported by the Diverse Elders Coaltion, visit our LGBT Elders page.  If you want to promote LGBT Health Awareness Week or get involved, please visit www.healthhiv.org.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

National Native HIV/ AIDS Awareness Day: New Mexico’s Take

March 20th – the first day of spring – marks the 9th annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a national mobilization effort designed to encourage Natives (American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians) across the United States and Territorial Areas to get educated, get tested, get involved in prevention, and get treated for HIV and AIDS. The Diverse Elders Coalition is commemorating this important day by offering resources to our constituents and encouraging everyone to get tested and #GetCovered. Remember that American Indians and Alaskan Natives can enroll in Marketplace coverage under the ACA at any time of year – no need to wait for a designated enrollment period.

NICOA and DEC celebrating National Native HIV/ AIDS Awareness Day with event organizers at the University of New Mexico

NICOA and DEC celebrating National Native HIV/ AIDS Awareness Day with event organizers at the University of New Mexico

 

Native Americans are 0.9 percent of the U.S. population, yet they account for 6 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases. The number of Native Americans diagnosed with HIV jumped over 900 percent from 1990 to 2001 – and those statistics may be conservative given the very real possibilities of inadequate reporting, lack of testing, and misclassification. (For more statistics and information, check out Mary Kate Dennis’ important article, “Risk and Protective Factors for HIV/AIDS in Native Americans: Implications for Preventive Intervention,” published in 2009.). The Diverse Elders Coalition has created an original policy brief, “Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health and Wellness of Older Adults with HIV,” designed to address the needs of communities of color and LGBT older adults with HIV. AIDS.gov also offers a variety of resources and events commemorating NNHAAD, including free testing sites and information on how Native people can sign up for health care under the ACA.

Additionally, the National Indian Council on Aging, a Diverse Elders Coalition member organization, advocates tirelessly for American Indian and Alaskan Native elders, especially around issues of healthcare and disease prevention. As a non-Native ally who has supported Native communities and people living with HIV/ AIDS in other communities, I was honored to be invited to join NICOA Executive Director Randella Bluehouse and Project Coordinator Rebecca Morgan at an event celebrating National Native HIV/ AIDS Awareness Day at the University of New Mexico sponsored by First Nations Community Healthsource that included cultural performances, health education about HIV/ AIDS, and a powerful panel of speakers who talked about their experiences. One Navajo woman who is 58 and has been living with the disease for more than 10 years talked about the particular challenges she’s faced in her community, but also shared her resilience and the support network that keeps her going.

Panel on HIV/ AIDS in Native communities

Panel on HIV/ AIDS in Native communities

 

Randella Bluehouse will be attending the Aging in America 2015 Conference next week along with other NICOA staff and representatives to discuss caregiving for AI/AN elders. We hope you will consider joining us and sitting in on some of these unique and vital presentations. It’s not too late to register, and scholarship and volunteer opportunities are still available! You can see a complete list of NICOA sessions – as well as the sessions in which there will be representatives from all five Diverse Elders Coalition member organizations – on our ASA 2015 flyer.

A Response to “It’s Never Too Late To Make a Change”

This blog post was written by SAGE‘s Executive Director, Michael Adams, as a response to “It’s Never Too Late To Make a Change,” a New York Times article focusing on transgender aging and originally appeared on the SAGE Blog

As “It’s Never Too Late To Make a Change,” New York Times, March 8, 2015, demonstrates, more and more transgender people are making the decision to embrace their gender identity later in life. As the New York Times points out, the pull to live your life as who you truly are runs deep at every stage of life. The stories shared by the Times are powerful profiles of grit, hope and liberation. The story not yet told is that, just as society plays a huge role in making the lives of transgender elders more difficult, there is tremendous opportunity and need to reform social policies so they stop discriminating against older people who are trans and start honoring and supporting them for who they are.

TransagingAs a major policy report issued in 2012 by Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) documents, transgender older people face profound challenges and experience striking disparities in health care needs and access, employment, housing and much more. Improving The Lives of Transgender Older Adults, explains how transgender older people frequently encounter a health care system and national aging network that are ill-prepared to provide culturally competent care and services that affirm their gender identities and expressions.

Improving the Lives of Transgender Older Adults doesn’t just settle on describing the problems.  Through 60 specific recommendations, the report provides a concrete and specific roadmap to policymakers and practitioners in the public and private sectors – highlighting what changes can and must be made.  The recommendations include steps to make services in the publicly-funded aging network more trans-inclusive, ways to improve health care, steps to end violence and abuse, strategies for equal opportunity in employment and housing, and steps to improve economic security among transgender older people.

Fortunately, we are starting to make some progress.  For example, as the New York Times article points out, SAGE is providing support groups for older transgender people.  And some progress is being made at the state and federal level on vitally important issues like insurance coverage and identity documents.  But much more remains to be done to implement the SAGE/NCTE blueprint and give transgender older people the equity and support they deserve.

Let’s hope that the powerful spotlight that the New York Times has shined on transgender pioneers stepping out in the third chapter of their lives will inspire policymakers and practitioners to play their part to make this world a welcoming one for people of all gender identities and ages.  The SAGE/NCTE report makes it clear that we know what needs to be done.  Let’s get on with the business of doing it.

SELMA: 50 Years Later

This blog originally appeared on The National Black Justice Coalition’s blog.

We Honor Our Past & Embrace Our Present Movements for Justice
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At podium: Harry Belfonte, Folk Trio Peter, Paul and Mary
To the left of the podium: Bayard Rustin, A. Phillip Randolph, John Lewis, Coretta Scott King
Location: Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery, AL (March 25,1965)
Photo Credit: Ray Ariatti | Photo Courtesy: Walter Naegle

On March 7, 2015, President Obama lead the nation and world in commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. The horrific events of “Bloody Sunday” and the courageous movement work of countless individuals risking and giving their lives propelled the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. This legislative victory in the Civil Rights Movement was a vital part of progress that increased the participation of Black voters in American elections and the number of Black elected officials on all levels of government.

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Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin participate in Selma to Montgomery March Activities in 1965
Photo Credit: © Stephen Somerstein
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) remembers the dark, yet triumphant events of 1965 in America, and recognizes that this rich Black history is essential to guiding the modern movement for justice in America and abroad. As the nation’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, NBJC envisions a world where all people are fully-empowered to participate safely, openly and honestly in family, faith and community, regardless of race, class, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The Civil Rights Movement called all people of good will to action to pursue justice on behalf of Black Americans and grant full enfranchisement for all people in the American democracy.

“I was only 15 years old when Bayard Rustin organized the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, DC. It was only two years later when I witnessed the television pictures of the marchers from Selma to Montgomery putting their lives on the line to advance voting rights,” says Mandy Carter, NBJC co-founder and Bayard Rustin 2013 Commemoration Project  National Coordinator. “A critical part of our current justice movement must be to ensure that the contributions of Black LGBT and same-gender loving (SGL) people like Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Marsha P. Johnson, Aaron Henry, and countless others in the fight for Black liberation in this nation are preserved and uplifted as Black American History.”

At NBJC, we celebrate and work to bring voice to the millions of individuals that live at the intersection of race, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation in our nation. The continued challenges, innovative movement building, and vast hope that exists in Black America today, particularly in Black LGBTQ/SGL communities, is the narrative NBJC will always provide space for and bring voice to on the national level. When the voices of the most marginalized in our communities are heard and defended, our nation will draw closer to the “more perfect union” the U.S. Constitution guarantees. This requires persistent action by Congress and across all levels of government to enact laws and policies like the  Voting Rights Amendment Act that expand equality. The future of our nation depends on our collective ability to make this vital imperative a reality in 2015 and beyond.

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“I know you are asking today, ‘How long will it take?’ Somebody’s asking, ‘How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?’ Somebody’s asking, ‘When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?’ Somebody’s asking, ‘When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, and truth bear it?’ I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because ‘truth crushed to earth will rise again.’ How long? Not long, because ‘no lie can live forever.'”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
March 25, 1965
Alabama State Capitol (Montgomery, AL)

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Special ACA Enrollment Period for 2015 Tax Season

The following is a press release from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  For more information on how health reform and the ACA have impacted our diverse elder communities, click here.

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CMS Announces Special Enrollment Period for Tax Season

Eligible consumers have from March 15 through April 30 to enroll in coverage

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today a special enrollment period (SEP) for individuals and families who did not have health coverage in 2014 and are subject to the fee or “shared responsibility payment” when they file their 2014 taxes in states which use the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces (FFM). This special enrollment period will allow those individuals and families who were unaware or didn’t understand the implications of this new requirement to enroll in 2015 health insurance coverage through the FFM.

For those who were unaware or didn’t understand the implications of the fee for not enrolling in coverage, CMS will provide consumers with an opportunity to purchase health insurance coverage from March 15 to April 30.  If consumers do not purchase coverage for 2015 during this special enrollment period, they may have to pay a fee when they file their 2015 income taxes.

Those eligible for this special enrollment period live in states with a Federally-facilitated Marketplace and:

  • Currently are not enrolled in coverage through the FFM for 2015,
  • Attest that when they filed their 2014 tax return they paid the fee for not having health coverage in 2014, and
  • Attest that they first became aware of, or understood the implications of, the Shared Responsibility Payment after the end of open enrollment (February 15, 2015) in connection with preparing their 2014 taxes.

The special enrollment period announced today will begin on March 15, 2015 and end at 11:59 pm E.S.T. on April 30, 2015.  If a consumer enrolls in coverage before the 15th of the month, coverage will be effective on the first day of the following month.

This year’s tax season is the first time individuals and families will be asked to provide basic information regarding their health coverage on their tax returns.  Individuals who could not afford coverage or met other conditions may be eligible to receive an exemption for 2014. To help consumers who did not have insurance last year determine if they qualify for an exemption, CMS also launched a health coverage tax exemption tool today on HealthCare.gov and CuidadodeSalud.gov.

“We recognize that this is the first tax filing season where consumers may have to pay a fee or claim an exemption for not having health insurance coverage,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.  “Our priority is to make sure consumers understand the new requirement to enroll in health coverage and to provide those who were not aware or did not understand the requirement with an opportunity to enroll in affordable coverage this year.”

Most taxpayers, about three quarters, will only need to check a box when they file their taxes to indicate that they had health coverage in 2014 through their employer, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans care or other qualified health coverage that qualifies as “minimum essential coverage.”  The remaining taxpayers – about one-quarter – will take different steps. It is expected that 10 to 20 percent of taxpayers who were uninsured for all or part of 2014 will qualify for an exemption from the requirement to have coverage. A much smaller fraction of taxpayers, an estimated 2 to 4 percent, will pay a fee because they made a choice to not obtain coverage and are not eligible for an exemption.

Americans who do not qualify for an exemption and went without health coverage in 2014 will have to pay a fee – $95 per adult or 1 percent of their income, whichever is greater – when they file their taxes this year.  The fee increases to $325 per adult or 2% of income for 2015.  Individuals taking advantage of this special enrollment period will still owe a fee for the months they were uninsured and did not receive an exemption in 2014 and 2015.  This special enrollment period is designed to allow such individuals the opportunity to get covered for the remainder of the year and avoid additional fees for 2015.

The Administration is committed to providing the information and tools tax filers need to understand the new requirements. Part of this outreach effort involves coordinating efforts with nonprofit organizations and tax preparers who provide resources to consumers and offer on the ground support. If consumers have questions about their taxes, need to download forms, or want to learn more about the fee for not having insurance, they can find information and resources at www.HealthCare.gov/Taxes or www.IRS.gov. Consumers can also call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596.  Consumers who need assistance filing their taxes can visit IRS.gov/VITA or IRS.gov/freefile

Consumers seeking to take advantage of the special enrollment period can find out if they are eligible by visiting https://www.healthcare.gov/get-coverage Consumers can find local help at: Localhelp.healthcare.gov or call the Federally-facilitated Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. Assistance is available in 150 languages. The call is free.

For more information about Health Insurance Marketplaces, visit: www.healthcare.gov/marketplace

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

HIV and Aging at the 2015 ASA Conference

The Diverse Elders Coalition and its five coalition member organizations will all be represented at this year’s Aging in America Conference.  In the weeks leading up to the conference, we will be sharing blog posts from coalition members who are presenting or attending ASA, and what it means to them.  This week’s post comes from Aaron Tax, JD, Director of Federal Government Relations at SAGE.

 

In approximately one week, I will be heading to the American Society on Aging convention in Chicago to present on, among other things, HIV/aging, along with HIV and aging experts Mark Brennan-Ing, Richard Gollance, Ron Swanda, and Ben de Guzman of the Diverse Elders Coalition. The presentation is entitled “Being Gay Ain’t What It Used To Be” – and this panel won’t be your typical panel.

This presentation came from conversations where we realized that there is a disconnect between many LGBT older adults who were pioneering gay activists and many younger LGBT folks who have little if no appreciation for what this generation survived and accomplished. Some older adults feel disrespected or misunderstood even when that’s not the intention of the younger generation. As a result, we felt that it would be important to address intergenerational cultural competency among LGBT folks.

We’ll cover Stonewall and how open we are about being gay and how we feel with ourselves; the impact of HIV on our life now and in the past; and our professional identities — what motivates us to do the kind of work that we do. I encourage you to attend! ASA, Monday, March 23, 2015, 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM. Water Tower (West Tower, Bronze Level).

For a guide to all of the Diverse Elders Coalition members’ presentations at ASA, click here.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Speaking Up on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

This post originally appeared on the National Hispanic Council on Aging blog.

nwghaad-logo-ribbonCurrently, about one in four people living with HIV in the United States are women ages 13 and older.  Of these, roughly half of the women living with HIV are in care, and only 4 in 10 have the virus under control

 

On March 10, we observe an annual nationwide event called National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to talk, and raise awareness about, the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls throughout the country, especially older women who face increasing risk of HIV.

While many milestones have been achieved in terms of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment, there are still too many women in the U.S. who are affected by the disease. They are mothers, sisters, teammates, colleagues, caregivers, and friends. There are also many women who don’t have HIV or AIDS, but carry the burden of the disease as a caregiver and provider for a loved one.

We need to shed light on their stories and experiences so we can reduce the stigma and encourage our communities and families to take action, whether it’s getting informed, getting tested, or spreading the word to others.

Use your social networks to get involved

  • Share this video with advice from Latina older adults:
  •  Post a picture wearing red with the hashtag #Redon10
  • Tweet about National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with the hashtag #NWGHAAD

 

Additional Resources

CDC’s One Conversation campaign (English)

CDC’s One Conversation campaign (Spanish)

HIV Among Women fact sheet (CDC)

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day fact sheet (English)

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day fact sheet (Spanish)

NWGHAAD website (Spanish)

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

White House Conference on Aging: This Time it’s Personal

The last time the White House Conference on Aging happened, back in 2005, I was personally in a major life transition: I had just taken a new job, moved across the country, and was too busy planning my new life in Los Angeles as a young 30-something to think about the Washington, DC I was leaving behind, much less be concerned with the “aging communities” that I was probably too self-absorbed to care about at the time.

Ten years later, as the White House Conference on Aging gears up for its once-in-a-decade incarnation this summer, my life has changed dramatically in many ways. With my parents in retirement age and me well into my forties, I am much more mindful of the issues being raised by this important event and how they affect my family and me. The WHCOA focuses on four policy topics – Healthy Aging, Retirement Security, Long-Term Services and Supports, and Elder Justice – and my personal lens on the work being done by the Diverse Elders Coalition in those areas is informed by my own experiences in gearing up for the unique needs my family has as Filipino Americans who are looking to age with grace and dignity.

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As much as my life has changed in the past ten years, much also remains the same. My career trajectory has always focused on social justice with a particular emphasis on serving my biological and chosen families in Asian American/Pacific Islander and LGBT communities. The work that the DEC is doing now to engage the White House Conference on Aging continues in that vein and includes other constituencies as well. We have highlighted this work in one of our previous blog posts, as we continue to push for the following:

  • Increased Inclusion: This year’s White House Conference on Aging will be the culmination of five Regional Forums in Tampa, FL; Phoenix, AZ; Seattle, WA; Cleveland, OH; and Boston, MA. We have called on the White House to improve their ability to reach out to, include, and engage the communities our member organizations serve through our “Strategies to Promote Inclusion and Engagement.” The document is available online here.
  • Intentional Engagement: We have been working with the White House directly as well as the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, the leading coalition of national aging advocacy groups that is a partner on the White House Conference on Aging, to recommend voices from our community to take part in the Regional Forums and the July Conference.
  • Specific Feedback: We are gathering recommendations from our member groups and from their constituencies on what the White House can do to make direct improvements in the lives of the communities we serve. From detailed policy analysis to real life stories and experiences from our constituents, we are giving the White House Conference on Aging clear guidance on the changes needed for our communities. We welcome your feedback as well- take a quick survey and share your thoughts with us here.

Knowing that the conversations we are having with the White House Conference on Aging can have real life consequences for my family and me makes this work all the more important. Can you add your voice to ours and let the White House Conference on Aging know what our communities need?

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Collecting Stories from Our Communities: The Diverse Elders Stories Initiative

Some of our greatest tools to make positive change on behalf of our constituents are stories from older adults, their loved ones, advocates and community members that illustrate the struggles and triumphs of aging as people of color or LGBTQ people. We share these stories with the public on our blog and through social media to raise awareness of the issues that affect diverse elders. Your stories also allow us to show policymakers the faces behind their proposed policies and programs. With your stories, we are able to advocate for the needs of diverse elders more effectively.

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We are currently seeking stories from members of our communities and hope you will take a few minutes to share your story with us. We are looking for stories that are personal, emotional and show the strength of our communities despite great adversity. While we encourage all submissions, we are currently most interested in hearing stories about the following topics:

– Living with HIV/AIDS
– Obtaining healthcare through the Affordable Care Act
– Social Security and its impact on you and your family
– Economic and financial security for Older Americans

Perhaps you have a story about getting insurance coverage through the ACA Marketplace? Or a story about caring for an aging family member living with HIV/AIDS? Whatever your experience may be, let us know your aging story today.

Over the past few years, we’ve heard hundreds of stories that have touched our hearts. There’s Dion, a retired schoolteacher who shared with us his experiences as a gay Chinese-American. Or the touching story from Bao about his grandfather learning to be independent in America despite language and cultural differences. And we’ve heard from Claudette, who escaped violence in Jamaica and earned her US Green card, only to face years of detention in a US immigration facility.

Won’t you add your story to our archives to help us change the world for diverse older adults? You can fill out a brief form on our website to share your story, or email us at info@diverseelders.org. Feel free to include personal photos, videos, or other media. We will never sell or share the personal information you provide to any unaffiliated organization without your permission.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

 

Tell your State Senators to Reauthorize the Older Americans Act

This blog originally appeared on the National Hispanic Council on Aging’s blog.

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The Older Americans Act is the single most important piece of legislation for older Americans that supports senior centers, long-term care programs, transportation services and other essential assistance services for older adults. Yet, the OAA, which was last reauthorized in 2006, was up for reauthorization in 2011. Since 2011, NHCOA has advocated tirelessly for the OAA reauthorization as many of its key programs underfunded and misaligned with the changing demographics.

Given the growth and diversification of the U.S. aging population, the OAA needs to be reauthorized to reflect our current reality, as well as meet the needs of our most vulnerable seniors across the country.

This past November, several members of NHCOA’s Hispanic Aging Network travelled from different corners of the country to attend the NHCOA Capitol Hill briefing and advocate on behalf of the Hispanic older adults they serve on a daily basis. These leaders shared their personal stories and a petition signed by more than 5,000 people asking the Senate to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (S.192). Thanks to their efforts and those of advocates, family members, caregivers, and seniors across the country, S. 192 is expected to be discussed on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

Now more than ever we need to send the U.S. Senate a clear, united message to reauthorize the Act, which is why we are asking for 5 minutes of your time to make two phone calls. Act Now. Call both your state senators.

Dial 1-888-277-8686 and follow the prompts to be connected to your state Senator. Once you are connected you can leave the following message for each of your senators:

I understand the Senate will be discussing the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act in a few weeks. I urge Senator [YOUR SENATOR’S LAST NAME] to reauthorize the bill so that it is updated to better serve the needs of diverse older Americans. Thank you for your consideration.

Spread the word. (Pase la Voz.)

We also ask that you forward this message to all your friends, family members, and colleagues. The more people who call, the more attention the Older Americans Act will get from our lawmakers.

Thank you for using your voice to advocate for older Americans across the country!

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Advocating for Diverse Elders at the 2015 Aging in America Conference

The Diverse Elders Coalition will be representing our constituents and communities at the 2015 Aging in America Conference, held March 23-27 at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, IL. This annual event is open to the public and brings together colleagues and leaders from around the nation, allowing participants to learn from world-changing leaders in the field of aging and grow their skills, knowledge and impact in order to bring better services and products to the aging population.

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All five of the Diverse Elders Coalition member organizations are represented in multiple panels throughout the conference, including our symposium: The Moment Is Now: Improving the Health and Wellness of Diverse Older Adults. This panel focuses on communities of color and LGBT people, two rapidly growing portions of the U.S. aging population, who face a range of linguistic, cultural, health and economic security issues. Speakers including Michael Adams, MA, JD, Executive Director of SAGE; Randella Bluehouse, Executive Director of NICOA; Yanira Cruz, DrPH, President & CEO of NHCOA; Quyen Dinh, MPP, Executive Director of SEARAC; and Ben de Guzman, National Managing Coordinator of the DEC will discuss how national aging leaders can address these large-scale challenges.

We hope you will consider joining us at ASA this year. Registration is open now, and opportunities to volunteer or receive travel and registration reimbursement are available. A full list of all sessions featuring our Diverse Elders Coalition member organizations can be found here.

The importance of representing our diverse elder communities at conferences like ASA cannot be overstated. Historically, our input has been rarely sought by aging experts, and policies and programs are developed without understanding our communities’ diverse and unique needs. We are excited to bring the voices of our constituents to ASA, the White House Conference on Aging, and others, to help ensure that our communities are served by policymakers and healthcare providers. If you would like to share your story and help us advocate for your community, please click here.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Around the Country in 180 Days: The White House Conference on Aging Regional Forums

The 2015 White House Conference on Aging is slated to be held later this year in Washington, D.C., but in the months leading up to the big event, multiple regional forums are being held around the United States, bringing together “a community of older Americans, advocates, caregivers, experts, and local leaders who are committed to working to address the changing landscape of aging.” These forums are intended as an opportunity for local leaders to provide input and ideas for the conference and to begin the much-needed dialogue on the many issues facing older Americans, like economic security, health and independence, long-term care, and preventing elder abuse.

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Co-sponsored by AARP and co-planned with the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), the forums are open only to invitees, but events will be webcast live around the country for anyone who wishes to listen in. The most recent regional forum was held on February 19th in Tampa, FL, and a webcast link can be found here. Subsequent forums will be held in Phoenix, AZ (March 31st); Seattle, WA (April 2nd); Cleveland, OH (April 27th); and finally, Boston, MA (May 28th). The conference web site also includes tools to help plan your own local “viewing session.”

The Diverse Elders Coalition has engaged the White House Conference on Aging and the regional forums in a variety of ways. We are committed to ensuring that the voices of our diverse constituents are represented in each region and are connecting the White House to our constituents. Additionally, in anticipation of both the regional forums and the White House Conference on Aging, we have prepared a set of Principles of Inclusion and Engagement, which we are sharing with WHCOA leaders and organizers. In our experience, these practices reflect lessons learned in how to ensure that those who are often the most disenfranchised can best claim their seat at the table.

There is more work to be done, and we will be ramping up our efforts throughout the regional forums and the months leading up to the conference in D.C. In the meantime, stay tuned to our blog and our Facebook and Twitter pages to hear more about our efforts surrounding the 2015 WHCOA and what you can do to get involved.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

SAGEWorks: Supporting Our Elders in the Workforce

As we round the corner on Black History Month, I am encouraged to take the heritage and history we’ve all been reminded of over these past few weeks and use it to create a better world today for our Black elders. You may have seen the hashtag #BlackFutureMonth being used on social media as a reclamation of Black History Month and an affirmation of our commitment to equality, equity, and an end to injustice. In that spirit, I am such a fan of the SAGEWorks program. This national employment support program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people age 40 and older expands participants’ job hunting skills and career options, and connects employers to diverse high-caliber candidates. SAGEWorks makes sure that LGBT people of ALL races have access to tools and resources to succeed in the workforce.

sheilaI recently read an interview with SAGEWorks NYC participant Sheila Slaughter, a 51-year-old bisexual New Jersey resident who has a robust work history in the nonprofit sector with runaway homeless youth and substance abuse prevention. She is also a blogger who writes about fashion, art, feminism, and the experiences of Black women like her and other women of color. Sheila mentioned in her interview that despite extensive education and work history, the job search process has been angst-filled and isolating. “40-plusers entering the job market can encounter culture shock—so much has changed,” she writes. “SAGEWorks helps to ease the transition.”

SAGEWorks and other employment support and preparedness programs are especially important for our Black elders who face numerous challenges as they search for work. The unemployment rates in the U.S. are always at least 60% higher for Black people than for white people – and at times since these statistics were first reported in 1972, it has been greater than double. Additionally, while age discrimination is technically illegal in the United States, evidence is rampant that age discrimination still persists. Employers show extreme reluctance to hire new employees over 40 – according to AARP, one in five workers between 45 and 74 say they have been turned down for a job because of age. And if an older worker manages to land a job, one in 10 say they were passed up for a promotion, laid off, or denied access to career development because of their age. Factor racial bias into this and it can be an extremely uphill battle for our Black elders to find and keep meaningful employment.

As we work to translate Black History Month to #BlackFutureMonth, I am grateful to SAGE for their efforts to support and prepare older people of color and LGBT elders for success in the workforce – so that they, too, can have promising futures.

Do you have a story about finding employment? Have you participated in SAGEWorks or another employment support program? Tell us here!

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Ward 8 and Washington, DC Celebrate MLK, Jr. Day

by Darryl Walker
Board Member, Mary’s House for Older Adults, Inc.

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It is fascinating to watch the demographic changes that have transpired in Washington, DC since World War II. Seventy years ago, our Nation’s Capital was predominantly White. Blacks lived in most of Northeast except the Brookland area, in Northwest around Florida Avenue and U Street, in all of Foggy Bottom, and in Southwest Washington. Neighborhoods west of 16th Street NW were red-lined where Blacks could not rent apartments nor buy property. The Anacostia neighborhood, which includes Ward 8, was totally White, as was Anacostia High School.

Following the 1954 public school desegregation ruling by the Supreme Court, White flight began in earnest. This demographic shift of Whites to the Maryland and Virginia suburbs continued until the vast majority of residents in Washington, DC were Black and Latino by the latter decades of the twentieth century.

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So, the 2015 MLK parade in Ward 8 not only celebrated the accomplishments of a civil rights icon, it epitomized the myriad of demographic changes that continue in the District of Columbia. While the majority of the participants and onlookers were African-American, there was a noticeable number of Whites participating and intermixing with Ward 8 residents. This diversity was further reflected by the participation of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and by Mary’s House for Older Adults (an LGBT friendly residence slated to open later this year in Ward 7). The reactions of onlookers to LGBT participants in the parade were both enthusiastic and affirmative. Near the end of the parade route was a contingency of Arab Muslims who were also warmly received.

Ward 8 remains one of the DC neighborhoods that has challenges resulting from decades of poverty and lack of private investment. The recently inaugurated Mayor Murial Bowser was in the official viewing stand waving to everyone. Her presence indicated a recognition and hands on response by her administration to the plight of this and other neighborhoods in Washington, DC seeking economic parity with Northwest and Southwest. The MLK parade exemplified the hope of Ward 8 residents for an inclusive and productive neighborhood that reflects the dream of Rev. Martin Luther King.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACA Enrollment: 2014 Tax Reconciliation

As we have been encouraging our DEC constituents to #SignUpB4TimesUp and obtain health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, we also wanted to make you aware of some ACA tax implications that are new for this year.  Please read on for messages from our friends at Community Catalyst about tax reconciliation, as well as a note from HealthCare.gov about 1095-A tax forms.

This year, for the first time, the Affordable Care Act will affect the tax-filing process for consumers – both those with insurance and those who are still uninsured. Consumers must either verify that they met the requirement to have health insurance in 2014 or claim an exemption, as well as report any amount of financial assistance received to help pay for their plan. In addition, those receiving a tax credit will determine through their tax return any over- or underpayment they may have received, and either make a repayment or receive a refund – a process called “reconciliation.”

Materials for Consumers

Additionally, consumers who signed up for coverage through the Marketplace last year should have received a statement in the mail in February from the Marketplace called a Form 1095-A. This statement includes important information you need in order to complete and file your tax return.  One piece of information included in the 1095-A is the premium amount for the “second lowest cost Silver plan” in their area. This premium amount represents the benchmark plan we use to determine the amount of premium tax credit they were eligible to receive.

About 20 percent of the tax filers who had Federally-facilitated Marketplace coverage in 2014 and used tax credits to lower their premium costs – about 800,000 people – will soon receive an updated Form 1095-A because the original version they were issued listed an incorrect benchmark plan premium amount.

Marketplace consumers concerned about the status of their 1095-A forms should take the following actions:

  1. You can find out if you are affected by logging in to your account at HealthCare.gov. You will see a notice message that will let you know if your form was or was not affected. A majority of tax filers with Marketplace coverage through HealthCare.gov that received a 1095-A– about 80 percent – will find that their form was not affected by this issue and will be able to file their taxes with their current form.
  2. Wait to file if your form was affected. It’s best to wait to file your tax return until you receive your corrected 1095-A Form from the Marketplaces. New forms are being sent from the Marketplace beginning in early March. When your corrected form is ready, we’ll also send a message to your Marketplace account on HealthCare.gov.
  3. If you need to file now, use our tool. If you can’t wait, and want to find the correct amount of the second lowest cost Silver plan that applied to your household in 2014, you have 2 options: 1) You can use this tool to find that amount, or 2) You can call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) and they can help.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Health Equity In Focus: Outreach and Education Come First in Bhutanese Refugee Community

This blog originally appeared at Community Catalyst.

by Birendra Dhakal, Bhutanese Association of Georgia and Emily Polak, Community Catalyst

Nearly a year ago, a new partnership was formed to promote outreach and enrollment opportunities for the Bhutanese community in Georgia. With help from the Diverse Elders Coalition, the Bhutanese Association of Georgia (BAG) and Georgians for a Healthy Future (GHF) collaborated to support the senior Bhutanese refugees living in Clarkston, Georgia to enroll in health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

I caught up with Birendra Dhakal of the BAG to learn more about the partnership, and how consumers responded to the various trainings to support them in enrolling in health insurance, either through the Marketplace or in Georgia’s Medicaid program, depending upon a consumer’s financial eligibility and immigration status.

Two women stand in front of a group.

The first training took place nearly a year ago in Clarkston with about 25 members of the Association’s Citizenship class, as well as an additional number of Bhutanese community members. The training provided basic information on Georgia’s insurance marketplace, as well as a discussion about eligibility and requirements for enrollment. The Navigator conducting the training also walked attendees through HealthCare.gov, and despite the glitches that plagued last year’s open enrollment, provided reassurance to attendees that they should keep trying to enroll, with the tip to try enrollment in the evening as the website would likely be less busy. This past November, BAG and GHF conducted a similar ACA awareness training for 25 Bhutanese seniors, offering information about the need for health insurance, reenrollment procedures and assistance enrolling, should it be required. BAG translated materials about health insurance into Bhutanese as well, ensuring that the material’s translation was not only linguistically correct but also culturally relevant.

For the Bhutanese community, Birendra shared that outreach is generally done by word of mouth with a bilingual approach often proving important: Nepali is the preferred language to reach most, though English communication has worked to a lesser degree for some families. Additionally, children in Bhutanese families play an important role in interpretation and in navigating the internet for enrollment opportunities. BAG also noted that enrollment programs were most successful when held on weekends for working adults, while weekday events were particularly successful for elders from the community, so long as transportation to enrollment sites was provided.

Initially when the ACA became law, Bhutanese refugees in Georgia were euphoric. As refugees, they are eligible to receive Medicaid during the first eight months of their arrival. Following this, however, Birendra shared that they are “at the mercy of their employer” or must seek out assistance from non-profit hospitals—like Grady Hospital in Atlanta—who charge them based on income.

At this point, many people from Georgia’s Bhutanese community with citizenship are caught in the coverage gap, as they work in low paying jobs making them ineligible for tax credits because of income limitation. Additionally, even if some families are eligible to receive tax credits, Birendra commented that they “have the notion that health insurance is not something they foresee as a need as they feel that even if they are ill they will go to Grady Hospital.” It’s resulted in limited participation in enrollment within the Bhutanese community. As a result, enrollment has been largely limited to families with eligible incomes who know health insurance to be necessary.

Additionally, there’s been another barrier that BAG and GHF have been working to surmount: for many Bhutanese immigrants, there is a different perception about medical costs. Medical bankruptcy is nowhere near as prevalent in their home nation, making it more challenging to convey the significance of insurance coverage here in the United States. Despite these challenges, we tip our hats to the work that BAG and GHF are doing to provide information to the Bhutanese community, and are inspired by the partnership they’ve created, which is a direct impact of the ACA.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Helping our communities to #SignUpB4TimesUp — even after time is up

Did you have difficulty enrolling in health care coverage prior to the February 15th deadline? The following message from the HealthCare.Gov Blog may be able to help you #SignUpB4TimesUp — even after time is up.

This blog originally appeared on healthcare.gov.

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Open Enrollment is over – We can still help you get covered

Open enrollment is over. But if you were trying to enroll on February 15 and couldn’t finish, you may still be able to get coverage.

We know many of you worked hard to enroll in a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Despite your best efforts, you may not have been able to complete your application and select a plan.

If that happened to you, don’t worry – you may still be able to get covered in 2015 if one of these applies to you:

  1. You tried to enroll in health coverage by February 15, but you didn’t complete your enrollment because of longer than normal wait times at the Marketplace Call Center on February 13, 14 and 15.
  2. You tried, but weren’t able to enroll in health coverage by February 15 because of a technical issue on HealthCare.gov, such as being unable to submit your application because verification sources were down.

To finish your enrollment, you must attest that one of the statements above is true. This opportunity will only be available until February 22, 2015. You should enroll in coverage as soon as you can. To complete your application, log in to your Marketplace account on HealthCare.gov, or contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to complete your enrollment over the phone.

Note: This opportunity is intended to help you enroll for 2015 for the first time. If you are already enrolled in a plan through the Marketplace, you can’t switch to a different plan now unless you have recently experienced a life change that grants a Special Enrollment Period. Learn more about reporting life changes and Special Enrollment Periods.

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Celebrating NCBA’s 45th Anniversary

The following statement comes from The National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc., one of the country’s oldest organizations dedicated to aging issues.  NCBA was founded in 1970 to ensure that the particular concerns of elderly minorities would be addressed in the then-upcoming 1971 White House Conference on Aging.  Since then, NCBA has helped protect and improve the quality of life for elderly populations, making certain that legislators, policy makers, philanthropists, advocacy groups, service organizations, thought leaders and the public at-large include minority seniors in their programs, policy- and law-making, and giving.

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As NCBA celebrates its 45th anniversary and continues to advance its mission of advocating for low-income African American seniors in the areas of affordable housing, employment and health and wellness, it is important that our nation remember the promises and difficulties confronting minority seniors. 
 
IMG_0937Minority seniors are the largest and fastest growing segment of the United States, and in light of this, NCBA believes it is increasingly important for policymakers at the national, state, and local levels to delve into the challenges confronting them.  “African American seniors are the fabric of our nation.  Their contributions are endless and lend to the richness of this nation.  It is vital that we keep their well-being, health, and socioeconomic status at the forefront,” said Karyne Jones, NCBA President and CEO.  
 
In this 45th anniversary year, NCBA continues to be inspired by the passion and dedication we see in aging practitioners, researchers, program directors, policymakers, funders, advocates, and others all working on behalf of seniors and their families—each determined to further understand where older adults are today and what is needed to bring them into a better tomorrow.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

DEC Member Spotlight: Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)

Part of an occasional series of blog posts that focus on a particular member of the Diverse Elders Coalition and their work.

One of the best parts about working at the Diverse Elders Coalition is that I get to work with not just one team, but also with the five teams of the DEC members. This past week, I have had the pleasure of working closely with the staff at Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) at two major events: the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change and at a special LGBT Elder Housing Summit hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement.

20150205_215214Creating Change is one of the largest LGBT social justice conferences in the country and took place February 4-8 in Denver, CO. Held annually by the National LGBTQ Task Force, the conference attracts thousands of participants, and registration reportedly reached 4,000 this year. During the conference, SAGE hosts a day-long Elder Institute and a track of programs and workshops, and the organization also sponsors the annual SAGE Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues.

I was pleased to support the Elder Institute by co-facilitating a lunchtime roundtable discussion on the White House Conference on Aging with SAGE’s Director of Federal Governmental Relations, Aaron Tax.  Aaron and I also presented on a panel discussing HIV/AIDS in elder populations. Later in the conference, SAGE’s Executive Director Michael Adams presented the SAGE Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) for introducing the LGBT Elder Americans Act, a bill to increase federal supports for LGBT older people through the Older Americans Act.

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On Tuesday, the SAGE team headed from Denver, CO to Washington, DC, where they joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights for the White House National LGBT Elder Housing Summit. SAGE staff, local partners, and other advocates, academics, and leaders in the community discussed a variety of issues related to housing for LGBT elders, including policy, research, and community perspectives. A special listening session with the White House Conference on Aging offered participants an opportunity to provide feedback to White House Conference on Aging Executive Director Nora Super, and Kathy Greenlee, Administrator of the Administration for Community Living. Ms. Super and Administrator Greenlee gave a shoutout to the Diverse Elders Coalition in expressing their commitment to ensuring as broad a range of voices from different elder populations is included, and provided a number of ways for people to get involved. The DEC has been hard at work with the White House to make sure that all our constituencies of our member groups are engaged.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition

 

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Looking Out for Each Other

Throughout my time in healthcare education and advocacy, particularly when working with LGBT people and people of color, I have heard so many heartbreaking stories about HIV/AIDS. Living in fear, losing friends and family, lack of information about and access to care – the specter of this disease looms large, particularly over those underserved communities. I remember watching Marlon Riggs’ “Ethnic Notions” in college and then being devastated to learn that we had lost this powerful and talented voice to the AIDS epidemic.  This disease has taken far too many of our friends, family members, heroes, and compatriots.

I am very grateful, then, for the annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7th, which puts the spotlight on supporting those in the Black community living with HIV/AIDS and preventing new cases from occurring. This year, the theme for the day is “I am My Brother’s Keeper,” invoking the metaphor of mutual support we provide to those we look out for in our families — a notion which also informs President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper Initiative” to support young Black men and other men of color.

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The numbers are chilling. By the end of 2008, an estimated 260,800 Blacks with an AIDS diagnosis had died in the US since the disease first struck in 1981. At some point in their lifetimes, 1 in 16 Black men will be diagnosed with HIV infection, as will 1 in 32 Black women. There are striking disparities, too: the AIDS diagnosis rate for Black men (103.6) was the highest of any group, followed by Latino men (45.5), and Black women (38.1). By comparison, the rate among white men was 8.7. The rate of new infections is also highest among Blacks and was 7 times greater than the rate among whites in 2006.

What does that mean for our diverse elders? Research estimates predict that 50 percent of people with HIV in the U.S. will be age 50 and older by 2015—and by 2020, more than 70 percent of Americans with HIV are expected to 50 and older. Recognizing that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has disproportionately affected communities of color and LGBT people since its beginning, the Diverse Elders Coalition recently released an original policy brief, Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health and Wellness of Older Adults with HIV, which you can download, read, and share.

blackhivaidsawareness_a250pxWe are similarly encouraging older Black Americans with HIV/AIDS – and everyone – to #SignUpB4TimesUp and get covered by the ACA. In 2014, its first year of providing new coverage, the ACA has seen dramatic positive results, with more than 9 million fewer uninsured, including many with HIV. The second round of enrollment for health care coverage in the Marketplace under the ACA is active until February 15. Until that deadline, new participants can get covered, and people currently receiving coverage can make adjustments to their health care plans.

You can also find a National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day event in your community to attend or volunteer. Hundreds of sites around the country are offering free testing, film screenings, panel discussions, and other opportunities to commemorate those Black Americans we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS and acknowledge those working tirelessly to end this epidemic. This February 7th, and every day, remember: we are our brothers’ (and sisters’!) keepers.

 

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Tailored to Their Needs: Housing for ALL Our Elders

Housing is a critical need for elders across the board. On one hand, economic insecurity is an issue facing many LGBT elders and elders in communities of color. The Diverse Elders Coalition’s document, “Securing Our Future” [PDF] discusses what this issue looks like for diverse elder communities and includes policy recommendations. For these communities, senior housing often provides a low-cost alternative that can mean the difference between having a home or being on the street.

At the same time, senior housing settings provide the ability to create spaces and living arrangements that can better meet the cultural needs of specific communities. For groups that are linguistically isolated because of limited English proficiency, or for LGBT elders who would otherwise have to go back in the closet in other kinds of housing options, housing communities can be set up to meet their specific, and often very urgent, needs.

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Two new housing initiatives that launched this past week are now able to provide unique community and living spaces that are specifically tailored to the needs of constituencies served by the Diverse Elders Coalition. In Los Angeles’ Koreatown, the new LDK Senior Apartments opened its doors to a vibrant community of low-income Korean American elders, with programs that provide access to healthcare, in-language services, and cultural and community social activities. The ribbon cutting ceremony brought a number of local elected officials to witness the opening, including Mark Ridley Thomas, Herb Wesson, Tom LaBonge, and John Choi. Three non-profit partners directly grounded in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community served as key partners in creating the LDK Senior Apartments. At the local level, the Korean Resource Center served as a critical liaison to the Korean American community and the Little Tokyo Service Center brought its years of expertise in housing and community development to bear. At the national level, the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium provided support in earlier stages of the project and is an organization that works with DEC national partners Southeast Asia Resource Action Center and the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging.

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Across the country in New York City, DEC partner Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders launched a new National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative with a nationally-broadcast press conference that brought local luminaries to New York. Kicking off the event was Edie Windsor, longtime advocate for LGBT elders who rose to national prominence as the plaintiff in the 2013 Supreme Court Case that ruled key sections of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, helping provide marriage equality and equal access to a range of federal programs for married same-sex couples. A panel discussion laid out the five priorities of the new national initiative, which include:

  1. Building LGBT elder housing and sharing SAGE’s expertise from such projects;
  2. Training existing housing facilities to provide housing in an LGBT-welcoming, non-discriminatory manner;
  3. Changing public policies to clear the way for more LGBT elder housing and bar housing discrimination against LGBT older people;
  4. Educating LGBT older people in how to look for LGBT-friendly housing and how to exercise their rights; and
  5. Expanding LGBT-friendly services available in housing sites across the country.

A National Steering Committee provides oversight to the Initiative, and a National Advisory Board, which includes groups such as the National Center and Caucus for Black Aging and DEC partner National Hispanic Council on Aging, provides additional support and expertise.

New programs like these represent cutting edge solutions that address ongoing challenges faced by elders whose particular needs haven’t been historically addressed.

 

Fred Korematsu Day and George Takei: Asian Americans and Civil Rights for ALL

Last week, our blog noted the nation’s celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This week, our friends in California are recognizing the contributions made by the life and legacy of Fred Korematsu. Since 2010, California state legislation has designated January 30 as Fred Korematsu Day. To mark the 5th anniversary of this commemoration, the Fred Korematsu Institute in San Francisco is hosting a special evening featuring the inimitable George Takei.

Korematsu Day 2015

Fred Korematsu’s actions in defiance of the incarceration of Americans of Japanese ancestry by the U.S. government during World War II cemented his role as a civil rights hero and a central figure in the effort to right the wrong of Japanese American internment. The Fred Korematsu Institute promotes programming that “remembers, instructs, and honors Americans who have suffered from prejudice, discrimination, and civil rights injustices,” making important connections between civil rights struggles of different communities, including those of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez. Karen Korematsu, Fred Korematsu’s daughter and Executive Director of the Fred Korematsu Institute, reminds us that “people need to know that they can make a difference.”

George TakeiGeorge Takei’s role in recognizing Fred Korematsu’s legacy is an appropriate one, given George’s own dedication to social justice. Parlaying his historic portrayal of Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu on television’s “Star Trek” into a platform that allowed him to take advantage of social media and become dubbed “the king of Facebook,” George Takei has used his visibility to advocate for a number of different communities, including AAPI, LGBT people, and elders. As someone who fits all three categories, he more than most embodies the connections we make at the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Fred Korematsu, as a civil rights icon for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, is a reminder that even communities that fall under the inaccurate perception of the “Model Minority Myth” have active histories of struggle and social justice. DEC member groups such as SEARAC and NAPCA know this firsthand, and their work on behalf of the AAPI community and elder population makes a critical contribution to DEC’s work on a range of issues. Other AAPI organizations, including the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, are wrapping up a week-long social media campaign to raise awareness about the Affordable Care Act in AAPI communities, and we join that work and call for everyone to #SignUpB4TimesUp!

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

DEC Blog: A Federal Update

 

A View of the White House. Photo Credit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/inside-white-house

A View of the White House. Photo Credit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/inside-white-house

 

This week, we wanted to spend some time sharing some of the fast moving information happening at the federal level. The items below are drawn from government sources, Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) members, and important partners.

This past Monday, the nation celebrated Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The ideals he worked and sacrificed for inform our work and we dedicate this blog post to him, his family, and his legacy.

We at DEC are hard at work on a variety of fronts. Our #SignUpB4TimesUp campaign is up and running- check out our blog for the tools to help raise awareness about the second enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act and what it means for our communities. Next week, the AAPI community steps up to Sign Up as well with a weeklong series of events as the 2nd Asian American and Pacific Islander Affordable Care Act Enrollment Week of Action. Our member groups are also doing important work in communities around the country and where relevant, we’ve pointed to that work and what is happening in our constituencies as well.

For this blog, we’ve made a section for each branch of the federal government- Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.

 

Executive

Many eyes and ears this week were tuned into the President’s State of the Union speech. The National Council of American Indians (NCAI) this week in turn, gave their own State of Indian Nations Address on January 22.  Among the topics covered in the address included: Federal Budget, Tax Reform, Technology Access, Access to Capital, Energy Reform, Governmental Partnership, and Education Reform.

The White House Conference on Aging is moving forward in its planning process for this conference that only happens once every 10 years. White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz issued a statement that provided key updates to the Conference’s planning process, including four regional forums in February (Tampa, FL), March (Phoenix, AZ), April (Seattle, WA), and May (Boston, MA). The Diverse Elders Coalition and its members are engaging the White House and other stakeholders to ensure our communities have a voice at this important event.

 

Legislative

We posted a blog earlier about the opening of the 114th Congress. An interesting article by our friends at New American Media breaks down some of the figures around Social Security and what it means for communities of color and women.

Our member group Southeast Asia Resource Action Center has announced its 16th Annual Leadership and Advocacy Training (LAT), which will be held in Washington, DC April 27-29. SEARAC’s important work engaging federal lawmakers will be on full display here.

They are also hiring a Policy Manager, who will also be involved in their legislative advocacy work. For more information, visit their web site.

 

Judicial

Last week, the Supreme Court took up the issue of marriage equality when they agreed to hear cases regarding state bans on same-sex marriage in four states.

The cases will be argued before the court in June with a decision expected by late June. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that set in motion a series of lower court rulings in favor of marriage equality and it is expected that their ruling this time around may settle the issue on a national level once and for all.

A DEC member, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), recognized the wedding of two of their constituents in their blog this week- in Oklahoma of all places! We extend our congratulations and best wishes to Eduardo and Ray.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition. 

Sign Up Before Time’s Up: DEC’s ACA Enrollment Campaign

ACA Second Round of Enrollment Flyer

With just one month left in the second round of enrollment for the Marketplace to get health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the Diverse Elders Coalition is launching “Sign Up Before the Time’s Up”- a mini campaign for ACA enrollment.

Until the February 15 deadline, new participants can sign up for health care coverage in the Marketplace. Those that are currently receiving health care coverage in the exchange can make adjustments to their plans. Note that American Indians/ Alaska Natives that are members of federally recognized tribes are not subject to deadlines and can enroll at any time.

The DEC and its members have been hard at work at state and federal levels raising awareness about the ACA and its importance for elders of color, American Indian/ Alaska Native elders, and elders who are LGBT. In this round of enrollment, this campaign includes three components:

• Updated Web Site: The DEC web site includes new information about this round of enrollment, including a new flyer with updated information about enrollment for diverse elders and information for people with HIV/AIDS;
• Social Media: Our #signupb4timesup emphasizes the urgency of enrolling now before “time’s up” on February 15; and
• Partnership: Support from DEC members, our friends, and other stakeholders will help amplify the message to get the word out

What Can You Do?
• Get Informed: Check out our web site and find out more about the new round of enrollment and what’s at stake for our communities;
• “Like” and Post: Help expand our social media presence by sharing our #signupb4timesup content on Facebook and Twitter with your networks; and
• Get Engaged: Tell your friends, families, colleagues, and communities about the importance of getting health care coverage and the need to “Sign Up Before the Time’s Up!”

For more information, contact Ben de Guzman, DEC National Managing Coordinator at bdeguzman@diverseelders.org or 202-347-9733×235

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

The 114th Congress Begins: New Faces and Ongoing Challenges for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus

The U.S. Congress had a “first day of school” feel to it on Tuesday as the 114th Congress officially started in Washington, DC. On the “Senate side” north of the U.S. Capitol building, Vice President Joe Biden swore in the new Senate. Meanwhile, on the House side, the 435 members of the U.S. Congress, as well as the five non-voting delegates representing Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, convened for the first time under the leadership of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) was on hand to welcome old and new members of Congress. One particular set of members we were able to connect with is the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). Made up of members of Congress of Asian American/ Pacific Islander (descent) or who represent districts with sizable AAPI populations, CAPAC is dedicated to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

Reflecting both the demographics of the AAPI community as the fastest growing racial/ ethnic group according to the U.S. Census, as well as their political emergence as a force to be reckoned with, the 114th Congress has, for the first time, 14 members of AAPI heritage. These fourteen are an interesting cross-section of the Congress, including bipartisan (Democrat and Republican) and bi-cameral (House and Senate) representation:

  • Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
  • Del. Amua Amata (R-AS)
  • Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA)
  • Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)
  • Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
  • Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)
  • Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)
  • Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA)
  • Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY)
  • Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)
  • Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI)
  • Del. Gregorio Sablan (D-CNMI)
  • Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)

Many members of Congress hold open house events in their offices and Washington, DC fully indulges the “Back to School” vibe by hosting any number of events for the new Congress to meet with constituents. This week, I was able to go to Capitol Hill and meet with a number of CAPAC members, including:

Rep. Ted Lieu, new to the Congress from the 32nd District in California,

DEC National Managing Coordinator Ben de Guzman with newly installed Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and friends

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) came to Congress to replace longstanding Congressman Henry Waxman upon his retirement

 

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), former Chairman of CAPAC, and

Rep. Mike Honda has stood by our communities on a number of issues since coming to the Congress in 2001

Rep. Mike Honda has stood by our communities on a number of issues since coming to the Congress in 2001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rep. Ami Bera, MD (D-CA), who withstood a strong challenge in the 2014 midterms to win his election by less than 1,500 votes.

Rep. Ami Bera's background as a doctor helps him understand many issues our communities face

Rep. Ami Bera’s background as a doctor helps him understand many issues our communities face

 

The Diverse Elders Coalition is also served by other groups such as the Congressional Native American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

Caucuses like these give members of Congress who serve all their constituents a unique opportunity to lift up particular perspectives of communities of color, in Indian country, and the LGBT community. By providing a venue to focus on specific needs that communities that are often underresourced face, these caucuses serve a critical role in addressing the needs of the elders DEC and its members serve.

We are going to need all the help we can get. The 114th Congress will have plenty of challenges to face in terms of meeting the needs of diverse elders, including issues such as proposed attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA). CAPAC, and the other caucuses that work with DEC members, will continue to be an important bridge between our communities and the increasingly politicized climate of Capitol Hill.

 

Ben de Guzman is the National Managing Coordinator for the Diverse Elders Coalition. He can be reached via e-mail at bdeguzman@diverseelders.org.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.