|Vol. 6, Nos. 3 & 4||
On Delivery of Legal Assistance to Older Persons
1992 Amendments to the Older Americans Act: A Return to Advocacy
The following are excerpts from testimony of Dr. Arthur Flemming given at the first Senate Hearing on the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Amendments. The Hearing, held January 31, 1991, was of the Subcommittee on Aging, Committee on Labor and Human Resources, United States Senate. Dr. Flemming's testimony captures the essence of the 1992 Amendments, in particular the new title VII -- strong and vigorous advocacy on behalf of the nation's most vulnerable older persons.
. . . the message is the same . . . to the heads of the State agencies on aging and to the heads of the area agencies on aging. The Congress expects them to be vigorous and effective advocates in behalf of older persons and especially the vulnerable. The Act makes it clear, in fact, that in discharging all responsibilities under the Act, including the responsibility of advocacy, preferential consideration shall be given to those "with the greatest economic and social needs and to all vulnerable elderly."
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In brief, the Act says to those involved in its administration, charged with the responsibility of advocacy: Open up the doors of opportunity for the poor, the isolated and the victims of discrimination.
Finally, the Act as it has developed up to this point has provided those charged with the responsibility of advocacy with access to two very important processes -- the legal service process and the ombudsman process -- these are open to them and available to them -- in their efforts to make sure that older persons have access to and receive the quality of services to which they are entitled by law.
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. . . I have concluded that the Administration on Aging as well as other public and private groups have missed many opportunities to serve as effective advocates for the poorest of the poor among the elderly . . .
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I believe that advocacy, as conceived of by the Congress in the Older Americans Act, should be at the top or close to the top of the Administration on Aging's action program.
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I believe that a strong advocacy program is a "must" if the rhetoric of the "Declaration of Objectives for Older Americans" as set forth in Title I of the Older Americans Act and the rhetoric of the titles designed to carry out the declaration is to be translated into reality for a maximum number of the older persons of our Nation.
Arthur S. Flemming
US Commissioner on Aging, 1973-1978
Chairman, US Commission on Civil Rights, 1974-1982
The Center for Social Gerontology, Inc.
A National Support Center in Law and Aging
2307 Shelby Avenue Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Tel: (734) 665-1126 Fax: (734) 665-2071