Obama Signs Older Americans Reauthorization Act

President Obama has signed the Older Americans Reauthorization Act (OAA) into law, reestablishing funding levels for many services that enable millions of older adults to remain in their homes through retirement.

The legislation provides funding for critical services including Meals on Wheels, transportation, caregiver support, legal services, elder abuse protection and more, for the next three years. Congressional members in the House and Senate approved the legislation earlier this year.

“The OAA underpins a promise to preserve the right to live independently, with dignity, making everyday decisions according to our individual preferences and goals across our lifespan,” Kathy Greene, assisted secretary of aging with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said in a statement.

Many industry groups voiced their support of the reauthorization.

“Our nation faces a severe and growing shortage of eldercare providers with the skills and training to meet the unique health care needs of older adults,” Amy York, director of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), said in a statement. “EWA is committed to supporting the reauthorization of the OAAA as it invests in building and maintaining an eldercare workforce—the includes family caregivers—that supports well-coordinate, high-quality care for older adults.”

EWA is a group of 31 national organizations that represent consumers, family caregivers and health care professionals, and work to address the workforce crisis in caring for an aging population.

The Act was first established in 1965 and has a long reputation of helping older Americans live more independently and manage their health at home. The act was mainly a response by policymakers who were concerned about a lack of community-based services for seniors. With the largest cohort of older Americans aging into retirement, policymakers were again prompted to respond to the growing need of in-home and community-based services.

The OAA was last authorized in 2006 and expired at the end of 2011, after Congress failed to approve reauthorization legislation. Reauthorizing the act has been a priority for President Obama, whose budget proposal for FY 2016 included an increase of $138 million for the OAA.

Written by Amy Baxter