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Testimony on the President's FY 1988 Budget Request for the Administration on Aging by Robyn I. Stone
Assistant Secretary for Aging
Administration on Aging
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies
February 13, 1997

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee:

I appreciate this opportunity to discuss with you today the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 1998 budget request for the Administration on Aging (AoA).

Our FY 1998 budget request totals $838 million, essentially the same level as in FY 1997. At a time of fiscal moderation, this amount reflects the Administration's commitment to programs that improve the quality of life of older Americans, especially those with physical and cognitive impairments that put them at risk of institutionalization. The programs administered by AoA are designed to help older people remain independent and productive.

The budget request also reflects the Administration's intent to make government more efficient by consolidating the management of programs that serve the elderly. We propose two transfers: the Health Resources and Services Administration will transfer to AoA the Alzheimer's Diseases Demonstration Grants, and the Employment and Training Administration of the Department of Labor will transfer the Community Service Employment for Older Americans program.

Fiscal restraint and the need for cost efficient management, along with the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), are driving us to focus our budget request on activities with proven effectiveness while we scale back those we can no longer afford. At the same time, we are making progress on better use of new information technology. In short, I come before you today not only to report on the results our programs are achieving throughout the country, but also about how the Administration on Aging is doing more with less.

AoA serves older persons and their families within the framework of the Older Americans Act. The service delivery levels funded by the Administration on Aging will be maintained in FY 1998 and targeted to the needs of socially and economically disadvantaged older persons, especially the low-income and minority elderly.

Briefly summarized, our FY 1998 budget request will provide funding for:

  • Nutrition services, which provide over 240 million congregate and home-delivered meals annually, and which this year celebrates its 25th year of serving older Americans. A major Congressionally-mandated evaluation completed last year found this to be one of the most efficient and effective of Federal programs. It is targeted on those most in need: about half of meal recipients are low-income elders and 17 percent of recipients are members of minority groups. And, nutrition services are the core of a comprehensive and coordinated system of community based services, which is a major focus for our GPRA activities this year.

  • Supportive services, which include over 40 million rides for doctor and pharmacy visits, nutrition and related activities, over 12 million responses for information and referrals and access to vital services for seniors and their families, nearly ten million personal care services to elderly in need and about one million legal counseling sessions.

  • Support services for the frail elderly, which include an additional 1.3 million personal care services and 700,000 reassuring visits and telephone calls.

  • Protection of vulnerable older Americans, which includes State long-term care ombudsman programs, prevention of elder abuse, State elder rights and legal assistance programs, and outreach, counseling and assistance. These programs are central to the advocacy role mandated by the Older Americans Act.

  • Alzheimer's Disease demonstration grants, the majority of which are administered by State Offices on Aging and which support new and innovative ways to help people and their families who confront this tragic disease. A modest increase in funding is due for this program, which has proved successful in such areas as building links between families, doctors and community supports, and outreach for low-income and minority groups and those who live in rural areas.

  • Modest funding for Aging Training, Research and Discretionary Programs. This limited request will provide viable and critical support for a number of activities, including the Eldercare Locator and aging resource centers.

These services are the cornerstone for effective local systems of community based services, and provide the leverage for coordinating services funded through States, localities and other Federal sources. As a major portion of our GPRA efforts, we are strengthening partnerships with States, tribal organizations and communities to build and expand these systems. Affordable and accessible home and community based care is preferred by aging and disabled Americans. Home and community based care is, however, complex and must be tailored to personal needs. The national network of State, tribal and area agencies, and their service providers, contribute the flexibility and responsiveness that make community based services so effective.

Another focus for our efforts in FY 1998 is information -- both information collection and dissemination. States, area agencies on aging and tribal organizations say they need us to provide current and accurate information on the practices in the field that work best. Older people and their families tell us they need information about the services available in their communities. We are working hard to meet the challenges of being the Federal focal point, provider, broker and disseminator of information related to the field of aging, serving consumers, researchers, practitioners and the formal aging network.

Our Web site is a good case in point. Started on a shoestring as an employee initiative, it has developed -- through rich content on our own site and links to other aging-related sites -- into something very close to "one-stop information shopping" in the aging field. This information resource, which serves up to 500 different users every day, was featured in a story in Reader's Digest last year.

Another example of our priority focus on information dissemination is our support for the Eldercare Locator, a nationwide 800-number directory and referral service for older people and their families to find out about services available in their communities across America. This service, which fielded more than ten million calls -- mostly from women, since wives and daughters are frequently caregivers -- was described recently in a story in Parade magazine and featured on ABC News.

Another agency focus is on older people as consumers -- promoting their participation in planning, managing and delivering the services they need; enhancing the ability of older people to safeguard themselves, their rights and their property; and helping older consumers make informed choices for themselves, their families and their communities.

Our request for Federal administrative funds will support 150 full-time equivalent positions and related expenses. The small staff of AoA is responsible for overseeing the vast network of 57 State units, 222 Indian tribal organizations serving more than 300 tribes, 661 area agencies on aging and more than 27,000 service providers throughout the country. In keeping with the Department's downsizing efforts, we have reduced our staff by more than 20 percent over the last several years, and are committed to keeping our staffing requirements at a minimum level.

Our staff is also responsible for implementing a new Congressionally-mandated National Aging Program Information System, overseeing the data collection efforts by States and validating the figures. This NAPIS system is an important piece of our effort to meet the requirements of GPRA. We have a strategic plan in place, and are concentrating on building strong ties to States and localities -- many of which are quite advanced in such areas as performance-based planning, budgeting and measurement.

The vision of the Administration on Aging is to ensure that the present and future older Americans have an independent, productive, healthy and secure life. This budget request will greatly support the cornerstone of comprehensive and coordinated home and community-based services which are needed to make the provisions of the Older Americans Act a reality in local communities across the nation. Our request will also continue to build on the foundation of enhancing AoA's ability to meet its vision, and to continue to be responsive and effective in serving our consumers.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My colleagues and I will be happy to answer any question which you and the members of the Subcommittee may have.

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