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contributed to social policy development in behalf of older people so I support the holding of the conference.
I want to comment particularly on the recent decision by Secretary Sullivan to make the Administration on Aging an independent agency. It was a most important step. In my testimony I make reference to the fact that some guarantees should be built into the Act to assure that the Commissioner on Aging does, in fact, have control over the budget and personnel of the Administration on Aging. It is very important for the Commissioner to have that type of autonomy
Title II of the Older Americans Act places a great deal of responsibility and specific functions on the Commissioner by name, and it is very important that the Administration on Aging and the Commissioner have resources.
The field of aging is very fortunate to have Dr. Berry as the Commissioner on Aging. She is an extremely competent person, but she does need help to carry out the functions assigned to her, more help than she has at the moment.
I mention increased authorizations in funding for Title III. I believe that Title III should have greatly increased authorizations if they are to meet the growing needs of an increasing older population. Title III has become the major delivery system in the nation for the provision of many services for older people. As a result of past Congressional mandates, there is extreme pressure on Title III.
There is competition for funds from those interested in supportive services at senior centers, from those interested in congregate and home delivered nutrition services, from those interested with legal services and other groups, and I believe that the scarcity in the competition for funding especially at the area and state level is what is behind the interest, almost the preoccupation it seems, with such proposals as mandatory cost-sharing and the public/private partnerships put forward by the Administration on Aging. I share Dr. Berry's view that this is--mandatory cost-sharing has become a divisive issue.
It is hard for me, as one of the original founders of the National Association of State Units on Aging, to go against the position of that organization, and I recognize the views that State and Area Agencies—have in terms of mandatory cost-sharing, but it is an issue that needs airing and decision making by the Congress on a thoughtful basis.
The General Accounting Office has made a report on increasing minority participation. It is an excellent report. It revealed something that a lot of people had expected, that we didn't have an adequate data base for the collecting of information. The recommendations go to directing that deficiency, and I was pleased to hear Dr. Berry speaking to that point.
There are many other ways beyond a more adequate data collection system to improve the targeting to increase minority participation. Some of those are underway. There are some excellent statements that have been provided by both the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the National Caucus and Center on
mony they will give you some more specific ideas for additional targeting provisions.
I want to spend most of the remaining time talking about mandatory cost-sharing. This is an issue that was first advanced in 1983 by the National Council of State Public Welfare Administrators and later became the position of the American Public Welfare Association. It is based on the assumption that in an era of soaring costs of the care of the frail elderly and declining budgets at the state level, and I am using almost word for word their language, the states should have the option of implementing a mandatory cost-sharing for Title III of the Act.
It was argued at that time, and I believe this argument is being made today, that this approach would permit much greater coordination of Title III programs with the Title XX Social Services block grant program and Medicaid as well as with other programs such as food stamps serving older persons which are, as you know, means-tested. Those advocating this approach argue that mandatory cost-sharing would result in improved targeting of the lowincome older population including the minority aging.
As you may already know, I am strongly against the introduction of mandatory cost-sharing. It would be an abandonment of the intent and philosophy of the Older Americans Act. Mandatory costsharing is not just a significant new way to raise funds in the Title III program. It also implies a shift in the Older Americans Act
programs to a highly residual and selective model in which services are basically for certain subgroups of older people.
The widespread use of income eligibility forums and assessment will, in my judgment, stigmatize the program in the eyes of older people, and this will result, in my opinion, in reduced participation not only among middle class older persons but low-income seniors
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It is interesting to note the strong opposition to mandatory costsharing that has been voiced by the National Caucus and Center on the Black Aged. It is their position, a carefully developed one, that mandatory cost-sharing would discourage minority participation in Older Americans Act programs. I agree with their position.
The Older Americans Act has worked very well with voluntary contributions. I am unimpressed with the arguments for mandatory cost-sharing. The Older Americans Act has always operated under the assumption that its services would be available to all older persons without eligibility and income reviews as a condition of eligibility. The introduction and implementation of mandatory cost-sharing in the Title III grant program would convert it eventually to a traditional welfare program.
I also discuss public/private partnerships. I think this is a very creative idea, and I support going ahead with it because I think this would add to the resources of the field. There can be safeguards, and I know Dr. Berry is aware of that. Her guidelines that went out with the elder care program, spoke to that point.
I would like to conclude with two new initiatives very briefly. One is the initiative by the National Association of State Units on Aging calling for a New Title Grant for Elder Rights program. This would be a very significant way of giving more attention particularly to programs like the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman pro
gram, the whole problem of elderly abuse, and most important institutionalize a permanent outreach program regarding the Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, and other related programs.
And the second is the proposal made to have a major health promotion and prevention program that would be based at senior centers and other sites. This is a most innovative proposal, one that has been made by the National Council on Aging and its National Institute of Senior Centers. There are over 12,000 senior centers in the Nation, and several would be very appropriate sites for such an operation.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. Thank you again for inviting me here today. It is always a privilege to appear before this committee, and I would be glad to provide any additional information on any part of the testimony or any part of that Act that you may wish
Chairman ROYBAL. Thank you, Mr. Bechill.
TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM D. BECHILL
School of Social Work, University of Maryland
House Select Committee on Aging and
Subcommittee on Human Resources
House Education and Labor Committee, House of Representatives
1991 REAUTHORIZATION OF THE OLDER AMERICANS ACT
April 25, 1991
Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to again testify on a reauthorization of the older Americans Act. It is always a privilege to appear before the Congress on legislation pertaining to the future development of the Act.
In its twenty-six year history, the Older Americans Act has been amended
twelve times. As the result of the many changes made by the Congress since the original law was enacted in 1965, the Act has evolved from one whose initial appropriation was only $7.5 million to one whose total appropriations is now over $1.3 bulion. The Act has become a major source of Federal support for a wide
range of community, social, nutrition, and employment opportunities for older persons in our nation. From the beginning, the Act also has had the intent of assisting all older persons, regardless of their income, health, or place of residence, to be active, self-sufficient, and independent. The Title I objectives of the Act are literally a B111 of Rights for all Older Americans, a unique statement of social policy and commitment.
Also, the Act has always featured the involvement of all levels of government. Since the milestone 1973 Amendments to the Act especially, there has been the emergence of an "aging network that involves all levels of government, literally hundreds of community agencies and organizations, representing older persons, the various professions, and voluntary organizations who have interests in the needs and interests of the older population. The "network" is visible. It includes the various state units on aging, area agencies on aging, thousands of senior centers, thousands of nutrition sites, and the programs and services carried in behalf of Native Americans and the excellent Title V employment
program for low-income older persons.
This 1991 reauthorization will be a critical one.
Various committees of the
House and Senate have been collecting data and studying various issues and matters of concern regarding the present operations of the Act. This seems to be especially the case with the title II functions regarding the role of the Commissioner on Aging, the Title III grant program, and the title IV research and training grant program. In the time given to me today, I would like to briefly comment on some of these issues. I hope these remarks will be helpful to you in
your work on the 1991 reauthorization.