FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 3, 1999
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
RICHARD INGHAM, (405) 522-3069 or Richard.Ingham@OKDHS.org
LEGAL SERVICES DEVELOPERS HOLD ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM IN BOULDER, CONCERNED ABOUT DILUTION OF ADVOCACY IN
OLDER AMERICANS ACT.
The National Association of Legal Services Developers (NALSD) held its annual symposium in Boulder, CO April 15-18. NALSD officers reported record highs in symposium attendance and NALSD membership, progress in relationships with Older Americans Act (OAA) partners, but disappointment with Administration on Aging (AoA) proposed amendments to the OAA which would weaken the Act's long-standing commitment to advocacy.
"The Older Americans Act has successfully provided three services to America's vulnerable elderly for nearly 25 years: meals, information and assistance services, and advocacy," explained NALSD chair Richard Ingham. This is undercut by the AoA's proposal in two ways. First, Title VII, the Elder Rights Protection Title, is changed so that states may elect to implement a State Elder Rights and Legal Assistance Development Program, while they shall establish Ombudsman and Elder Abuse programs, thereby making a telling distinction among the three elder rights programs. "This is contrary to the declaration of objectives in Title I of the OAA, which declares that older people of our nation are entitled to equal opportunity to enjoy certain basic objectives, such as income, housing, and health care. This declaration of national purpose is hollow without strong elder rights programs in every state," Ingham emphasized.
Also troublesome is the AoA's proposal for waiver of requirements for priority services. Legal services remains a priority under the AoA draft, but new language would allow any area agency to obtain a waiver of this provision simply by submitting a waiver request that demonstrated to the State Agency's satisfaction that the need for legal services was being met. "The problem with this waiver process," Natalie Thomas, NALSD vice chair noted, "is that only two parties are involved in the decision making. Gone are requirements for notification of interested parties such as the elderly themselves, and public hearings on the issue."
In a report to NALSD members, Ingham noted significant progress in improving relationships with OAA partners. "In the past year we demonstrated to the Board of the National Association of State Units on Aging the potential of the Legal Services Developer position and took steps toward explaining the statutory role of the Developer to the National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs. We hope to make similar progress with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging this year," Ingham stated.
Ingham is Oklahoma's Legal Services Developer and lives in Edmond, OK.
Thomas is Georgia's Legal Services Developer and lives in Atlanta, GA.