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In this 10th year of the Older Americans Act and Administration on Aging we must ask ourselves, Mr. Chairman, whether the central purposes of the original Act have been adequately addressed and I must, with regret, answer that the answer is “no.” Throughout its history and to the present day AOA has been burdened with a discrepancy between its general mandate and the resources provided to achieve its objectives.
Certainly we made progress in meeting some purposes and in adding new purposes to the act, but all too often any improvement heralded as a grand achievement is too little too late. Perhaps we ought to underscore one other point here and that is that the committee has, at times in the past, authorized open end appropriations or no specific appropriations for many titles of the act. Open authorizations have too often led to inadequate appropriations or, as is true in cases of titles V and VIII, no appropriations whatsoever.
While we understand the complex legislative process involved, we deplore the increasing penalty of Congress and the administration to raise the hopes of older Americans by enacting new programs which are then never funded and never implemented.
We ask this committee to do all in its power to alter that specific situation. Let's stop giving false hopes to people by putting good words on the record and then not putting adequate numbers to meet those words.
Now, the future of the area agencies on aging is a prime issue before us. They are created largely out of the 1973 amendments and they follow substantially the directions of the Administrator on Aging itself, sharing two mandates: administrative role of developing, planning, and coordinating the delivery of support in gaps in services provided under titles III and VII; and a stimulating coordinating role to use, or to pool the untapped resources of a community itself. It is very early in the game to make a very adequate assessment of the mixed bag that the area agencies on aging represent at this moment.
We would therefore, suggest raising some questions which this committee might want to explore as deliberations on the future of the area agencies on aging are planned and examined. Let me underscore that the National Council on Aging supports the concept of area agencies on aging—provided they give an adequate leeway and adequate resources to properly coordinate both central and local funds and programs.
One program that this Congress is not unaware of is of course, that anybody designated as a coordinator faces a very real problem. Everybody wants to be the coordinator and nobody wants to be the coordinatee.
At the local level this presents the area agencies on aging a very real problem of getting together TV networks, both public and private. One aspect of the area agencies on aging's problem is the dilemma that they are bound to face rather quickly—the assumption there are local resources and funds to be coordinated. If indeed such resources exist at the local level, leaving aside for the moment the private sector, if they exist in the public sector why indeed the great pressure for revenue sharing?
I thought we had revenue sharing because of no resources at the local level. We have to undergird and strengthen the financial base of county and city governments and indeed, we do in one way or another. The upshot of this is there are very few resources and little revenue sharing money and less than 1 percent of the revenue-sharing funds have gone to older people's programs that are available for the coordinative effort of the area agencies, which leaves them largely the task of coordinating what already exists.
There are resources in the voluntary sector which need to be stimulated and brought to bear on services for the elderly. Our orgainzation is deeply involved in such an effort. Part of it I may say, is funded by the Administration on Aging through one particular project, but there are many other sources of health care that are needed and questions to be raised about the area agencies on aging.
Some of them are listed on the testimony. I won't go over them again at this time unless some members of the committee will want to raise questions about them.
In raising an issue about the funding cycle of the area agencies on aging I would like to commend the Federal Council on Aging, which has just completed a thorough study on the whole funding business with the area agencies on aging. We have not made a complete and final judgment yet on all they had to say, but it seems to us particularly valid to include, in the State formula for funding the area agencies, a factor on poverty among elderly and determining what resources go into a community.
However, there is something else that the Federal Council on Aging did not deal with, something eliminated from the legislation, but reinstated in the AOA regulation and that is giving the Commissioner on Aging discretionary authority to extend specific projects based on the recommendation of the State's unit on aging after 3 years of funding.
My concern is not that he will continue the funding of local projects, but that it leaves open the possibility he may not continue funding of local projects. We believe, Mr. Chairman, it is time for the Federal Government to make a specific commitment to permanently fund a service delivery program for elderly people in the community: Certainly we support the notion that every attempt should be made to stimulate other funding sources, but the threat of program cut backs after 3 years is not the most productive method to accomplish that objective.
More positive incentives need to be established and the hope that service will be rendered to people as they get older cannot hang on a thin thread of somebody approving or disapproving a program, but once and for all let's agree that we have a responsibility to older people and we will build into the fabric of our communities such services as will enhance the independence and dignity of older people.
Mr. BRADEMAS. I hate to interrupt. Doctor, but the House is going in session in 15 minutes and we have another witness. I must ask you to confine yourself to 5 minutes; otherwise the other witness will not be heard.
Vr. OsSOFSKY. I understand and let me concentrate on this, if I mar. Mr. BRADEMAS. Could you just summarize?
Mr. Ossofsky. I want to state two points: I am shocked the Commissioner on Aging has sought to present to us an administration pro
gram to do away with title V of the act. It has never been funded and is the one that creates an opportunity to expand your centers, a major base for services to older people in the community. I will take no further time than to associate myself with the testimony of Bill Hutton on title IX.
We have in our testimony recommendations for other expansions of the Older Americans Act which will lead to discussion, and I hope to have an opportunity at another hearing to go into details on needs for further services and an effort to expand the Older Americans Act into new roles and dealing with the middle-aged worker as well and dealing with the new opportunity for changing the image of older people in our country by providing new roles and new services that older people can give to the country as well as what they receive.
Mr. BRADEMAS. Thank you very much, Mír. Ossofsky. I shall not ask questions at this time because there is no time. I will be grateful if you will be willing to respond to questions in writing.
Mr. Ossowsky. With pleasure, Mr. Chairman. [Prepared statement follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JACK OSSOFSKY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE
NATIONAL COUNCIL ON THE AGING Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the House Select Subcommittee on Education, I am Jack Ossofsky, executive director of the National Council on the Aging (NCOA), a private, nonprofit organization whose membership consists of individuals and organizations throughout the country who serve the nation's older citizens. In 1975 SCOA will mark its twenty-fifth year of providing leadership in the field of aging to public and private agencies at the national, state, and local levels. We continue to be a national resource for planning, information, and service in those areas affecting the lives of the nation's elderly population.
The National Council on the Aging welcomes this opportunity to appear before your Subcommittee to present our views on the extension of the Older Americans Act. We commend the Subcommittee's prompt attention to this legislation which directly affects the lives of millions of older people. At a time when the elderly are being forced to endure increasing economic burdens, they will be pleased to note the priority given to the Older Americans Act by this Subcommittee.
In anticipation of the Congressional deliberations which will take place this rear ou extending the Older Americans Act, NCOA has planned a number of events to facilitate the input of ideas and recommendations from those working in the aging field.
1. In our periodical publications, we have asked members to send us their experiences with the current law, along with their ideas for revisions and additions. These responses have just begun to arrive in our Washington office, and will be analyzed by our legislative staff.
2. The Public Policy Committee of NCOA's Board of Directors will meet this week in Washington to develop a formal position on the extension of the Act.
3. In early spring, NCOA will hold four regional conferences across the country which will include workshops focusing on the Older Americans Act.
4. On February 6th and ith, VCOA will convene a meeting of 164 national voluntary organizations concerned with promoting the independent living of the aced. These organizations will make recommendations from their unique points of view on needed revisions in the Act.
5. The governing body of NCOA's National Institute of Senior Centers will hold its annual meeting this week and will draft a statement of its concerns on renewal of the Act.
Based on all these sources, we hope to have the opportunity to submit additional information to this Committee in the near future to assist you in your deliberations.
Today I wish to pose some major questions concerning extension of the Act and to propose some preliminary answers based on our experience with the current law during the past two years :
1. ARE THE RESOURCES OF THE ADMINISTRATION ON AGING ADEQUATE FOR FULFILLING
This Committee is well aware, Mr. Chairman, of the recent growth in the budget and programs of the Administration on Aging. NCOA has continually supported that development because we are convinced there is not a more effective or efficient method for the Federal government to address the unique needs of America's older people. AoA has been given two broad responsibilities: (1) to act as manager of two formula grant service related programs for older people (Titles III and VII); and (2) to act as a focal point within the Federal gorernment for aging matters.
We applaud the untiring and dedicated efforts of Commissioner Flemming in attempting to carry out these mandates. We feel strongly, however, that without additional resources, AOA cannot begin to achieve the objectives outlined in Title I of the Act.
Those objectives are quite explicit: an adequate retirement income, suitable housing, physical and mental health, restorative services, employment opportunities, dignified retirement, the pursuit of meaningful activity, efficient community services, benefits from research, and personal independence. I have taken the time to mention these goals because I feel somewhere along the way we have lost sight of the original intentions of the Act. None of us should be deceived by the suddent and impressive growth in AoA's budget into thinking that those objectives are being adequately addressed. The funds allocated to income, education, training, research, employment and physical/mental health services hare been meager indeed.
1975 will mark the ten-year anniversary of AoA. We must ask ourselves, Mr. Chairman, whether the central purposes of the original Act have been adequately addressed. I think the answer is clearly no. Throughout its history and into the present day, AOA has been burdened with a discrepancy between its general mandates and the resources provided to achieve those ends. Certainly progress has been made in some areas, but too often any improvement heralded as a grand achievement is, in fact, too little and too late.
We encourage the Committee to authorize specific amounts for each Title of the Older Americans Act based on the original intentions of the Act and on the continuing needs of older people. Open authorizations have too often led to inadequate appropriations, or, as in the case of Titles V and VIII, no appropriations at all. While we understand the complex legislative process involved, we deplore the increasing tendency of the Congress and the Administration to raise the hopes of older people by enacting new programs which are never funded or implemented. We ask this Committee to do all in its power to alter that situation.
2. WHAT SHOULD BE THE FUTURE OF THE AREA AGENCIES ON AGING ? As this Committee is aware, the 1973 Amendments to the Older Americans Act authorized the establishment of planning and service areas within each state. These substate planning bodies-Area Agencies on Aging (AAA's)-share the two mandates given AOA as a whole:
(1) The administrative role of developing, planning, and coordinating the delivery of support and gap-filling services provided for under Titles III and VII of the Act; and,
(2) The stimulative role of encouraging and pooling the use of untapped community resources to meet the needs of the elderly.
The reports which we receive from the field on the AAA's are mixed. It is clear that they are still in their formative stages. While NCOA supports the basic concept, there are a number of questions which must be answered before a final judgment on the future of the AAA's can be made.
Have the AAA's been provided with adequate resources to achieve their mandated roles? Without sufficient funds and competent personnel, they cannot achieve the difficult task of mobilizing and refocusing existing community resources for the elderly.
Are the two major roles mandated to the AAA's complementary, or will they inevitably result in internal organizational conflict ?
Is there a need to further clarify the relationship between the AAA's and the state units on aging?
How successful have the AAA's been in involving local governments in their work?
How successful have they been in involving local voluntary agencies in their work?
To what extent have the AAA's fulfilled their information and referral role at the local level?
Have the AAA advisory boards been constituted to facilitate input from elderly consumers of services ?
Have the AAA's been provided with adequate training and technical assistance to ensure staff capability to carry out the mandated roles of the AAA's?
Have the AAA's been in operation long enough to isolate which factors seem to facilitate and which deter the success of an AAA?
Has there been adequate auditing/monitoring of AAA operations? If not, with whom does that responsibility rest—the state unit on aging or AOA?
In addition to the future of the AAA's, many other aspects of Title III need scrunity-most importantly, the state formulae for funding programs under the Act. We wish to compliment the Federal Council on Aging for its thorough study of this question. Because their report has only recently been issued, we are unable at this time to make a final judgment on its recommendations. Initially, however, we are pleased to note the inclusion of a poverty factor into the formulae and will very shortly issue NCOA's formal reaction to all the Federal Council's recommendations in this regard.
Yet we are concerned about an aspect of the funding question with which the Federal Council did not deal. During Congressional deliberation on the 1973 Amendments, the Administration's proposal for a three year limit on funding individual projects was rejected. But that provision was reinstated in AoA's regulations giving the Commissioner discretionary authority to extend such projects based on the recommendation of the state unit on aging. Mr. Chairman, we believe it is time for the Federal government to make a commitment to permanently fund a service delivery program for the elderly. Certainly we support the notion that every attempt should be made to stimulate other funding services, but the threat of program cutbacks after three year is not the most productive method to accomplish that objective. More positive incentives need to be developed.
The elderly should not have to fear that programs vital to their independence will be denied continuing funds.
3. HAS THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT UTILIZED THE VAST AND VARIED CAPABILITIES AND
POTENTIALS OF THE NATION'S ELDERLY ?
Mr. Chairman, the answer to that question is a resounding no. It is hypocritical to criticize American society for discarding the aged, when the designers, administrators and evaluators of the Older Americans Act also have turned their backs on the capabilities and potentials of the elderly.
Certainly the Act should provide for services which ensure the continued independence of older people. But independence for what? I do not need to tell the Committee of the contributions made by older people to American society, nor of the unnecessary barriers which they overcame to make those contributions. The Older Americans Act should be a model of consumer involvement in both operations and evaluation, in order to demonstrate the value of older people to the rest of society. We urge this Committee to mandate the increased involvement of older people on the Advisory Boards of the AAA's and to ensure that those Boards have substantive influence over the work of the AAA's. Title IV should be re-written to provide grants to recruit qualified older people so that they may provide service to their peers and evaluate ongoing programs. Qualified older people can play an invaluable role in auditing and monitoring programs which are theoretically designed to assist the elderly. The newspapers are full of reports on the most recent nursing home scandal. If older volunteers were given a role in monitoring of such programs, perhaps their peers would not have to reside in unconscionable conditions. The rest of us have done a miserable job in this regard. I think it is time we let the elderly show us how it should be done, for I am convinced the results would be astounding. I know the elderly are up to the challenge. The question remains whether we are.
4. WHAT ROLE SHOULD THE MULTIPURPOSE SENIOR CENTER PLAY IN THE DELIVERY
OF SERVICE TO THE ELDERLY?
NCOA urges this Committee to extend and expand Title V-Multipurpose Senior Centers—with an adequately authorized level of funding to achieve its