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What is the Older Americans Act?

April 26, 2019 Elder Law & Medicaid Planning

The Older Americans Act was signed into law on July 19, 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to address economic shortcomings for those in their later years of life. While focused on aiding Americans who are 60 years of age and older, the Older Americans Act has had far reaching implications affecting Americans of all ages. The Older Americans Act is a piece of umbrella legislation that introduced many new programs, agencies, and centers, including the Aging and Disability Resource Centers, the National Family Caregiver Support Program, and the Administration on Aging. The Older Americans Act also brought in many new forms of funding for services required by seniors to retain their independence, such as transportation services, education services, and legal aid. Notably, the Older Americans Act was brought in during 1965, the year of significant change in social welfare programs in the United States – 1965 also seeing Medicaid and Medicare coming into existence.

How is the Older Americans Act Funded?

The Older Americans Act is funded through discretionary funding at the federal level. For each fiscal year, the legislature must allocate funding to the Older Americans Act — funding peaked in 2010 at $2.33 billion and has slightly decreased since. Because funding has not kept up with the increasing demands placed on the program by an aging population, government agencies struggle to provide services. Therefore, seniors who rely on the programs under the Older Americans Act face long waiting times and waitlists to receive the services.

What Benefits are provided by the Older Americans Act?

The Older Americans Act is divided into seven titles, with Title I declaring the objectives of the program. Title II creates the Administration on Aging which oversees the programs established by the Act. Title III provides federal funding to state agencies that are tasked with corresponding objectives. Title IV establishes several new programs specific to rural areas, education, and Native American programs. Title V establishes a senior engagement program that focuses on involving senior citizens in community service programs, such as volunteer opportunities. Title VI establishes programs focusing specifically on Native American populations, primarily operating through grants. Title VII establishes federal grants to state programs for elder rights protection programs.

What is the Future of the Older Americans Act?

The Older Americans Act has been reauthorized through 2019. In January 2019, the United States Congress will again convene to reconsider whether to reauthorize the Older Americans Act.  While the outcome of the Older Americans Act is technically uncertain, it is generally expected to be reauthorized.

The Older Americans Act established tremendous federal funding for senior aid programs. If you have questions regarding which aid programs you may qualify for, speak with an experienced elder law attorney near you.