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Testimony on the FY 97 Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations by Fernando M. Torres-Gil
Assistant Secretary for Aging, Administration on Aging
Accompanied by
William F. Benson, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Governmental Affairs and Elder Rights
John F. McCarthy, Director, Office of Management
Edwin L. Walker, Director, Office of Program Operations and Development
Dennis P. Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Budget
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Before the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, And
May 2, 1996

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee:

I appreciate this opportunity to discuss with you today the FWA Year (FY)
1997 budget request for the Administration on Aging (AoA).

Our FY 1997 budget request is $828 million, the same level as the comparable
FY 1996 amount which is based on the ninth Continuing Resolution (P.L. 104-99)
with incremental policy adjustments, and about five percent below the FY 1995
enacted level. At a time of fiscal austerity, this request provides funds for
programs aimed at improving the quality of life of older Americans and families,
in particular those individuals who are vulnerable, who have physical and
cognitive impairments that put them at risk of institutionalization, and at
helping them remain independent and productive.

I strongly believe that the request we are presenting today is a solid one
in spite of budget constraints. It is built on careful planning as to how we
might make the greatest use of Federal funds if we are to meet the needs of die
nation's burgeoning elderly population. AoA serves older persons and their
families within the framework of the Older Americans Act. As the focal point in
the Federal Government for serving older persons, AoA works to advance dignity
and independence of older Americans. The service delivery levels funded by the
Administration on Aging will be maintained in FY 1997 and targeted to the needs
of socially and economically disadvantaged older persons, especially the
low-income and minority elderly.

By the year 2030, it is estimated that the number of people aged 60 and
older will increase to 89 million, representing 25% of the total population,
while those 85 and older will to almost 9 million. AoA recognizes the need to
address these demographic changes. Thus, our focus is not just on reaffirming
our commitment to serving today's older persons, but also on working toward a
secure and productive future for the elderly of the 21st century.

Briefly summarized, our FY 1997 budget request will provide funding for the
support of a network of 57 State units on Aging, 221 grantees representing over
300 tribes, 670 Area Agencies on Aging, and more than 27,000 service providers
including 6,000 senior centers throughout the country; provide over 240 million
meals -- about half of meal recipients are low-income elders and 17 percent of
recipients are members of minority groups; provide supportive services,
including over 40 million rides for physician 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 10 million
personal care services to elderly in need and about one million legal counseling
sessions; and support services for the frail elderly, including an additional
1.3 million personal care services, 700,000 reassuring visits and telephone
calls, over 150,000 complaints concerning nursing homes are resolved by
Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs. The Administration has proposed
reauthorizing legislation for the Older Americans Act that includes transfer of
$150,000,000 from the Department of Agriculture to AoA to administer functions
of the Department of Agriculture's Nutrition Program for the Elderly.

In addition, the reauthorization legislation includes $350,00,000 to
administer the Department of Labor's Community Service Employment program for
Older Americans. The Older Americans Act reauthorization legislation passed
by the House Committee on Education and Economic Opportunities supports both of
these actions.

It is important to note that AoA and the National Network on Aging not only
provide services but also must act to protect the rights and safety of older
people, especially those who are vulnerable. The Title VII programs: Long-Term
Care Ombudsmen, elder abuse protection, and benefits insurance and pension
counseling help ensure that older persons are protected and their rights are
not abridged. The limited funding for these programs allows State Agencies on
Aging to provide for these services.

The ombudsmen program is one of the most effective program for protecting
the most vulnerable older people, those who must live in nursing or board and
care homes. Elder abuse has well been documented as a major problem for many
older people. The Title VII Elder Abuse Prevention program provides support for
helping abused and exploited older people.

The benefits and pension counseling program while small has established
itself by helping older people receive the benefits they have earned. No other
federal program provides assistance to those older people with pension problems.

For the Federal Administration activity, the amount requested will support
177 fill-time equivalent positions and related expenses. This relatively small
staff of AoA is responsible for overseeing the national network of 57 State
units on Aging, more than 300 tribal organizations, 670 area agencies on aging
and more than 27,000 service providers throughout the country. In keeping with
the Department's downsizing efforts, we have kept our staffing requirements to a
minimum level. We will also continue implementation of the Information
Resources Management plan to establish AoA's Information Resources Management
infrastructure and maintain the data base for all program information
activities. Proper implementation of this plan will ultimately improve the
quality of information and service to the public.

Under the mandate of the Tide IV program, the Administration on Aging (AoA)
has had the resources to emulate the private sector with an applied research,
demonstration, and development strategy that develops, tests, and incorporates
new ideas and innovative best practices at the state and local levels. As the
applied research and development program of the aging network, Title IV has been
and continues today as the testing ground for nutrition programs, home care
services, legal assistance, transportation, respite care, adult day care,
reverse mortgages, and many other innovative services which were funded in order
to determine how effectively they would improve the independence, care, and
dignity of older Americans in their communities.

The fiscal year 1997 request for Training, Research and Discretionary
activities is $11,666,000. The FY 1997 request is a decrease of over 50% from
the Title IV budget levels of prior years, which were in the range of $25-$26
million during the first half of this decade. The lower request for AoA's
discretionary program reflects our realistic understanding of contemporary
budget realities as well as the greater priority on providing services to the
elderly under Older Americans Act programs.

However, this does not lessen the importance of investing in this vital
discretionary program in preparing the nation for a doubling of the older
population. Title TV remains critical to determining how best to serve older
persons and their families, now and in the 21st century, through applied
research, innovative model programs, better trained personnel, and timely
technical assistance and information.

Principal current examples of Title TV initiatives include: the National
Resource and Policy Centers in long-term care, nutrition, long-term care
ombudsman, elder abuse prevention, housing, and older women; a National Aging
Information Center; a National Academy on Aging; two National Resource Centers
on Native American Elders; and career preparation programs in the field of
aging. The following program priorities will guide the allocation of FY 1997
Title IV funds:

1) Expanding the current system of consumer directed home and
community-based long-term care for older persons and others with disabilities,
with a special emphasis on Alzheimer's Disease victims and their caregivers;

2) Developing a blueprint for the retirement of the baby-boom generation;

3) Protecting older persons from crime, violence, abuse, and exploitation;

4) Advancing our understanding of how to better serve the elderly, including

The mission of the Administration on Aging is to ensure that 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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