Congress Reauthorized the Older Americans Act in April 2016: What’s next?

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is the country’s leading vehicle for delivering services and supports to older people nationwide. The OAA makes many services and supports for older adults available at low or no cost. Necessary services like home delivered meals, transportation, and benefits counseling all help older adults live in their homes and communities and age with dignity. It is an invaluable law that helps millions of people each year. 

Older Americans Act timeline:

  • A bi-partisan OAA Senate bill passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee on January 6th, 2014.
  • On January 10th, 2014, three House members introduced a bi-partisan, “straight” reauthorization of the OAA, HR 3850, to demonstrate that Republicans and Democrats both believe in the OAA and can successfully work together to strengthen the law.
  • On February 28, 2014, Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) introduced HR 4122, the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2014.
  • In January 2015 the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). This legislation, S. 192, the “Older Americans Act Amendments of 2015,” would reauthorize the OAA for three years and make improvements to benefit older Americans and their families.
  • The legislation passed the full Senate without opposition on July 16, 2015.
  • The legislation passed the full House of Representatives on April 14, 2016.
  • On September 30, 2019, the law authorizing the Older Americans Act is set to expire.

While we are glad that vital services for our elders will continue to be funded by the reauthorized Older Americans Act, the Diverse Elders Coalition is disappointed that many of the unique needs and demands of our communities — such as listing LGBT older adults as a group of greatest social need; data collection; and permanently establishing the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging — were not included in this reauthorization.

We continue to advocate for the explicit inclusion of our communities (see below) in the Older Americans Act and turn our attention to the next round of reauthorization.

What has the Diverse Elders Coalition done?

In 2014, The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), representing the DEC, testified before the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. NHCOA discussed the successes of the OAA in helping older adults age independently and in good health. NHCOA also highlighted the devastating effect that budget cuts have had on the ability of OAA programs to serve diverse elders and recommend that the OAA be updated to prioritize the delivery of services in a culturally and linguistically competent manner.

Amidst the long-stalled reauthorization of the OAA in 2015, The Diverse Elders Coalition released a statement and a fact sheet regarding diverse elders and the Older Americans Act.

In 2016, the DEC partnered with Caring Across Generations to respond to the ACL’s public comment period on their Guidance for the Development and Submission of State Plans on Aging, State Plan Amendments and the Intrastate Funding Formula. The guidance was used by the Administration on Aging regional offices to develop state plans on aging, which provide statewide funding and support for Older American Act programs. On August 22, 2016, the DEC submitted over 4,500 comments to the ACL from diverse communities, demanding that the final guidance released by the ACL explicitly acknowledges the needs of our diverse communities and encourages state aging programming to meet those needs.

After collecting nearly 5,000 comments in response to ACL’s public comments, the DEC hosted a standing room only Congressional Briefing in Washington, DC where we released our new report, “Aging with Health and Dignity: Diverse Elders Speak Up.” The report synthesizes the comments and provides concrete recommendations for advocates, providers, and policymakers who work with and for diverse elders.

In 2017, the DEC released the fact sheet, “Diverse Elders and the Older Americans Act“, along with three other fact sheets in response to the release of the Trump administration’s planned budget for FY18, which included massive cuts to social safety net programs. The series of fact sheets highlight federal programming that improves aging for diverse elders.

In 2019, the DEC revised and released our recommendations for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. The recommendations are summarized here. In addition, DEC member organization, the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) has also released their recommendations for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. NICOA’s recommendations are summarized here. Our requests to Congress include increased authorized funding for all Titles of the Act, strengthened support for SCSEP, the recognition of LGBT older adults as a population of most need, and more. We attended several meetings and advocacy opportunities on Capitol Hill to promote these priorities later this year.

During this year, DEC member organization, SAGE has endorsed the introduction of three bills. If passed, these bills will amend the Older Americans Act. These bills are listed below.

  • The Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elders Americans Act reintroduced by U.S Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Charlie Cris (D-FL).
  • The Inclusive Aging Act introduced by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Bob Casey (D-PA).
  • The Elder Pride Act introduced by U.S Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Debra Haaland (D-NM).

Resources

In December 2015, the Diverse Elders Coalition released two new consumer resources to promote the Older Americans Act as one of the coalition’s main priorities. The Older Americans Act and Diverse Elders: Emerging Solutions for Critical Constituencies was updated in March 2019 to reflect revised priorities. These resources are available on our Learn page or by clicking the links below:

OAAFactSheet

 

Diverse Elders and the Older Americans Act

 

 

OAAStatement

The Older Americans Act and Diverse Elders: Emerging Solutions for Critical Constituencies