Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Thursday introduced legislation to reauthorize and strengthen the Older Americans Act which supports Meals on Wheels and other critical programs for seniors. “With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, our country’s growing population of seniors includes many who rely on these critical programs to help them stay in their own homes and communities,” said Sanders. Speaking at an Older Americans Summit, Sanders and others unveiled the new bill to extend the landmark law that was first enacted in 1965.
The measure is co-sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
At a time when millions of seniors are struggling with inadequate incomes and when nutrition programs for seniors have been cut, Sanders’ bill would authorize a significant increase in support for meals at senior centers and programs like Meals on Wheels that deliver food to seniors’ homes. Budgets for senior nutrition programs have been slashed this year as a result of across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.
At a time when many in Congress want to cut Social Security benefits, the measure also require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to create a more accurate way to measure seniors’ living expenses. A consumer price index for the elderly would account for spending on high-inflation goods and services like health care, prescription drugs and heating homes. The change would result in more accurate annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients.
The bill’s other provisions to help seniors include improved job training services for seniors, expanded support for caregivers and added protections against elder abuse.
“As millions of Baby Boomers turn 65, reauthorizing the Older Americans Act is crucial to ensure that we meet the needs of today's seniors,” said Jim Firman, president of the National Council on Aging.
Nancy Altman of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition said reauthorizing the law “is critical to ensuring the wellbeing of seniors in the United States who are committed to living out their days in the comfort of their own communities.”
To read a fact sheet on the bill, click here.
To read the bill, click here.
To read letters of support, click here.
To read a list of supporting organizations, click here.