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Older Americans Act Reauthorization Passes Congress

April 13, 2016

The Older Americans Act (OAA) is nearing reauthorization for the first time in 10 years, following its successful passage through both houses of Congress.

Originally signed into law in 1965, the OAA established a vast network of aging-specific organizations and initiatives throughout the country, all aimed at allowing elders to live with dignity and independence — and, if possible, in their own homes and communities.

The OAA was most recently reauthorized in 2006; it expired in 2011. Since then it has remained funded but without adjustments for inflation or for the growing number of elders in the U.S.

The latest reauthorization bill (S.192), introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), passed the Senate last July.

The House passed the bill on March 21, with some added changes. The Senate approved the final version of the bill on April 7; it is currently on the desk of President Obama, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill was supported by broad, bipartisan majorities every step of the way.

Highlights of OAA

In addition to updating funding levels for federal, state, and community programs on aging, S.192 would direct state Aging and Disability Resource Centers to provide “person-centered counseling to assist individuals in assessing their existing or anticipated long-term care needs and goals, and developing and implementing a person-centered plan for long-term care.”

It also requires the Administration on Aging (AoA) to “ensure that programs authorized under this Act include appropriate training in the prevention of abuse, neglect, and exploitation..of older individuals.”

The AoA would also be required, “when feasible,” to create a “consumer-friendly tool to assist older individuals and their families in choosing home and community-based services.”

Finally, the OAA reauthorization means that the national Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program will be strengthened by, among other things, calling for regular training for ombudsmen and improving consumer access to them.

— by Matthew Ozga

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