National Survey of Legal Assistance for the Elderly:
Results and Implications


The National Survey of Legal Assistance for the Elderly was a product of the efforts of several individuals at The Center for Social Gerontology. TCSG Research Associate Judy Falit devoted endless hours to conducting the survey itself and carrying out the initial analysis of the data. Her work with the data, which serves as the basis for this report, appeared in TCSG’s Best Practice Notes on Delivery of Legal Assistance to Older Persons, vol. 8, nos. 3&4, November 1997.

TCSG Co-Directors Penny Hommel and Jim Bergman both used several of their many hats in analyzing the data, writing sections of the report, and editing others. As with so many of TCSG’s publications, this report is greatly enhanced by their tireless efforts. Staff Attorney Matthew Batista, who joined in after this project was well underway, also dedicated many hours to editing, writing, and generally tying up loose ends.


In the past two-plus years, the legal services community serving the elderly has faced significant turmoil as a result of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funding cuts and restrictions on activities, and the uncertainty of the status of elder rights and legal services in the Older Americans Act (OAA). All of these developments have threatened the delivery of effective legal services and broader elder rights advocacy. As The Center for Social Gerontology (TCSG) heard from more and more legal service providers and leaders in the Aging Network that, as a result of these developments, legal service providers were increasing the use of or being forced to increase the use of new delivery systems such as pro se, hotlines, and brief service, the crucial need to assess the overall status of legal services for the elderly became apparent.

Therefore, during the Winter and Spring of 1997, TCSG undertook one of the first such assessments since these changes developed. To provide a basis for programmatic and policy analysis, and decision making on the national, state and local levels, TCSG conducted a national mail survey of legal services providers, Area Agencies on Aging and state-level Legal Services Developers. The goal of the national survey was to examine the following issues:

This national survey, one of the first examinations of how states and localities are adjusting to these new limitations, provides a snapshot of the results of the above changes and their effects on the delivery of legal services to the most vulnerable elderly. The findings clearly raise concerns about the future of legal services for the most vulnerable elderly.

Immediately following this introduction is a brief section on Methodology which explains details about the survey including who received a survey and who responded to the survey.

Following the section on methodology is the Highlights of Findings & Implications for Action, which presents an overview of the five key findings of the survey results. Highlights from the survey data are presented to support these findings.

The Discussion of Survey Highlights immediately follows the Highlights. This section presents a detailed review of the five key findings of the survey results. Data that support these key findings are presented, and the implications of the findings are discussed.

Following the Discussion, there is a fairly detailed review of the survey data organized by respondent, entitled Report of Survey Findings by Respondent Type. That is, the Legal Services Developers section highlights the survey data reported by Legal Services Developers; the Area Agencies on Aging section highlights the survey data reported by Directors of Area Agencies on Aging; the Title IIIB Providers section highlights the survey data reported by Directors and Managing Attorneys of Title IIIB-funded legal assistance providers; the Title IIIB/LSC Providers section highlights the survey data reported by Directors and Managing Attorneys of Title IIIB/LSC-funded legal assistance providers; and the LSC Providers section highlights the survey data reported by Directors and Managing Attorneys of LSC-funded legal services providers.

The last section of the report presents a Report of Survey Findings by State. This final section provides the opportunity to compare practices data from selected survey questions and allows for comparison among states as well as within states by provider-types.

Acknowledgments & Introduction  |   Methodology  |  Highlights of Findings & Implications for Action  |  Discussion of Survey Highlights  |  Report of Survey Findings by Respondent Type  |  Conclusion

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