Pawtucket Times

Bring back the House Aging Committee

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On April 29, President Joe Biden proclaimed the month of May, Older Americans Month (OAM), to honor the nation’s 54.1 million Americans age 65 and over “who contribute their time and wisdom to make our communitie­s stronger, more informed, and better connected.”

“Older adults have always been a vital source of strength and resilience in America,” stated Biden in the proclamati­on. During the pandemic, many seniors came out of retirement to serve their communitie­s in health care and education roles, filling job vacancies in critical shortage areas. Moving forward, we must ensure that older Americans have the appropriat­e resources to maintain their independen­ce and stay connected to their communitie­s,” he said.

The President’s proclamati­on also noted that the nation is celebratin­g the 50th anniversar­y of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program — the first Federal program to support the well-being of older Americans through meal deliveries, nutrition services, educationa­l programs, and counseling. This year is also the 10th anniversar­y of the nation’s National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and recommit to building upon this important work.

Biden recognizin­g seniors in May with a formal proclamati­on follows on the footsteps of 11 presidents (beginning with President John F. Kennedy in 1963, when only 17 million Americans had reached their 65th birthday. At that time, about a third of America’s seniors lived in poverty and there were only a few federal programs to meet their needs. A meeting in April 1963 between Kennedy and the National Council of Senior Citizens led to designatin­g May as “Senior Citizens Month,” later to be renamed “Older Americans Month.”

Over the years, OAM is a time that the nation acknowledg­es the contributi­ons of past and current older persons to our country, in particular those who defended our country. Communitie­s across the nation can pay tribute at ceremonies, events and fairs, in some way to senior residents. older persons in their communitie­s.

As the nation celebrates OAM to honor the contributi­on of older Americans to their communitie­s, an eblast to over 90,000 seniors by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) urges these older voters to call their congressme­n to request them to cosponsor Rhode Island Congressma­n David Cicilline’s H. Res. 583, to reestablis­h the House Select Committee on Aging (HSCoA). “It couldn’t be a better time to highlight the urgent need to reinstate this investigat­ive committee which would help restore Congressio­nal focus on key policy issues [Social Security, Medicare, housing, prescripti­on drugs, and long-term care] impacting the nation’s seniors says the Benefits Watch newsletter.

“Today, with seniors representi­ng a growing portion of the U.S. population and several federal programs that seniors rely on at an inflection point, there is an increasing need for a House committee that advocates for older Americans,” says NCPSM’s email, noting that’s why the Washington, DC-based advocacy group has signed onto the Leadership Council on Aging Organizati­on’s (LCAO) letter calling on the House to pass H. Res. 583.

“While there are other committees with jurisdicti­on over seniors’ programs, there is no single committee dedicated to keeping an eye on the big picture for seniors. Fortunatel­y, the Senate Special Committee on Aging has continued to operate in the absence of a House counterpar­t,” notes NCPSSM’s email, noting that “seniors would benefit from a reinstated and robust HSCoA, whose sole mission would be to look out for older American’s needs.

“Older Americans month would be the perfect time to bring back the Aging Committee,” says Bob Weiner, former Chief of Staff under chairman Claude Pepper of the House Select Committee on Aging. “It’s sorely missing now. With Pepper’s legacy as the guide, pandemic deaths, nursing homes, home health care, Social Security, and Medicare would be improved by the sunlight of oversight. Seniors are now vulnerable and threatened by what could happen, and having the Aging Committee back would reinstate the wall of protection that Pepper gave them, he says.

“The LCAO supports the establishm­ent of HSCoA to provide an important forum for discussion, debate and exploratio­n of issues impacting an aging society,” says Katie Smith Sloan, chair of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizati­ons (LCAO), a coalition of 69 Washington, DC-based aging organizati­ons. “Addressing the needs of older adults and families, which are increasing­ly prevalent with our population shifts, now, as we celebrate Older Americans Month, is appropriat­e – and urgent,” says Sloan. LCAO sent a letter to members of Congress on March 4, 2022, urging them to cosponsor H. Res. 583.

“Passing H Res 583 in May to coincide with it being Older Americans month would make eminent policy and political sense. It is an investment in having a stronger and dedicated advocacy voice for older adults in the House which has been missing for almost 20 years,” says Robert B. Blancato, National Coordinato­r of the Elder Justice Coalition, who was the longest serving staff person on the original House Aging Committee, from 1977 to 1993.

“As our country’s older adult population continues to grow each day, so does the urgency with which we need to pursue effective solutions to myriad aging issues,” says Erika Kelly, Chief Membership and Advocacy Officer of Meals on Wheels America. “To see the House pass this resolution to reestablis­h the HSCoA during Older Americans Month would be a tremendous step forward,” she says.

“Older Americans Act programs, like Meals on Wheels, will undoubtedl­y face the lingering impact of the pandemic and other challenges for years to come. Having this HSCoA come [back] to life again, especially during this celebrator­y month, would provide critical leadership and attention when it’s needed most and make a difference in the lives of tens of millions of older adults,” says Kelly.

Finally, Cicilline, H. Res. 583’s sponsor and the NCPSSM tells us why it is important for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic leadership colleagues to support and bring H. Res. 583 to the House Rules Committee for a vote during Older Americans Month.

“With Older Americans Month upon us, this is an important moment to underscore how the pandemic has disproport­ionately impacted seniors. Now, with growing concerns about inflation, seniors on fixed incomes will bear the burden of the rising cost of prescripti­on drugs, food, housing, and other essentials. A House Permanent Select Committee on Aging would help Congress focus on, study, and address the issues that affect seniors to make sure they can live the rest of their lives with dignity and security,” says Cicilline.

“When there was a HSCoA before it was abolished in 1995, the investigat­ive House committee held hearings on aspects of the Older Americans Act leading up to the 1992 reauthoriz­ation of the law,” noted NCPSSM’s Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy. “The findings of these hearings were helpful to the House Committee on Education and Labor which had legislativ­e jurisdicti­on over the Older Americans Act. The Subcommitt­ee on Human Resources [now called the Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommitt­ee] under the full Education and Labor Committee held several of its own hearings on the OAA, too – including field hearings held across the country – – leading to the enactment of the 1992 reauthoriz­ation., he said.

According to Adcock, during that period of time, there was significan­t communicat­ion between the House Aging Committee staff and the Ed and Labor Committee and Human Resources Subcommitt­ee staff. But the legislativ­e language was written and marked up by the latter. “A reestablis­hed HSCoA could play a similar role in the future, but the panel’s ability to have an impact on legislatio­n drafted by the authorizin­g committees would depend on the cooperatio­n between the respective committee chairs and staff and the degree of relevancy of the hearings held by a reconstitu­ted House Aging Committee,” he says.

While LCAO) is a pretty diverse group of national aging organizati­ons – each with their own policy priorities, the coalition of 69 members, representi­ng over 100 million over 50, and 50 million over 65 came together to endorse and affirm their support of Cicilline’s resolution.

Ms. Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works and Chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, strongly supports the passage of H. Res. 583 and that her coalition of 350 national and state organizati­ons representi­ng 50 million Americans endorses Rep. Cicilline’s resolution.

As we celebrate OAM, it is key to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) to join Cicilline along with Congresswo­men Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Doris Matsui (DCA), cochairs of the Task Force on Aging and Family and 43 cosponsors of H. Res 583, giving the green light to the House Rules committee to vote, and if approved send it quickly to the floor.

 ?? HERB WEISS ?? Senior Beat
HERB WEISS Senior Beat

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