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Best Practice

Vol. 8, Nos. 3 & 4

On Delivery of Legal Assistance to Older Persons

November 1997


In recent years, legal assistance for the elderly has faced challenging times. Legal assistance has been questioned as a priority service in the Older Americans Act (OAA); Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funding has been significantly reduced; and restrictions have been placed on LSC providers, limiting the scope of permissible services.

In an effort to assess the impact of these funding cuts, restrictions, and potential legislative changes, The Center for Social Gerontology (TCSG) conducted the national survey presented in this issue. Key findings of the survey include the following:

1) Over 60% of area agencies on aging indicated that their Title IIIB legal assistance providers also receive LSC funding. Therefore, the LSC funding cuts and restrictions have a real effect on the provision of legal assistance for the elderly.

2) Although over a majority of AAAs consider legal assistance "fairly" or "extremely" important, most AAAs and legal services developers believe that if legal is not retained as a priority service in the OAA, Title IIIB funding for legal assistance will significantly decrease.

3) Legal providers across the country have had to change their delivery mechanisms. These changes include an increased reliance on technology, a switch to less complex levels of service, and overall downsizing of the organizations.

4) In general, the aging network has not been included in state-wide LSC planning efforts. Although in some states aging network representatives have played critical roles in obtaining additional funding, most states have not included Title IIIB/Non-LSC legal providers, AAA representatives or legal services developers in the LSC planning effort.

5) Each state faces unique challenges to its legal assistance system. In response, some states have created two parallel systems -- one that operates with LSC funding and under the LSC restrictions and another that relies solely on non-LSC funds; some states have found additional organizations to assist in providing legal assistance; and some have augmented their (now reduced) LSC funds with funding from their state legislature, foundations, and United Way.

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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