October 15, 2018

Key Changes of the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016

Teresa Yao

(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Vol. 37, Issue 6.)

 

On April 19, 2016, President Obama signed the Older Americans Act (OAA) Reauthorization Act of 20161 into law to further improve access and quality of comprehensive services to older adults in our country.2 Originally, the Older Americans Act of 1965 was enacted by Congress during the Johnson Administration, with the goal of providing a diverse range of services for older Americans with the greatest social or economic need. However, as technology and society have changed, Congress periodically updates the law to keep pace with ever-changing needs and priorities. Here are a few of the key changes to the OAA in the 2016 reauthorization, which will be effective from FY 2017 to FY 2019.3

For the Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs), the OAA reauthorization focused on improving the coordination with Area Agencies on Aging to promote independent living, and home and community-based services.4 The Assistant Secretary is responsible for implementing ADRCs to provide accessible assistance regarding long-term care options, navigating Medicare and Medicaid programs, and informing individuals about available home and community-based services so that older adults retain broad discretion in choosing their care.5

Regarding elder abuse, the reauthorization updated definitions to parallel the Elder Justice Act.6 Furthermore, the statute focuses on efforts to detect elder abuse cases through multiple entry points, such as requiring the Director of the state Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program to collect and promote best practices for responding to elder abuse in all its forms;7 asking state agencies to submit data on elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation;8 requiring the Assistant Secretary on Aging to include training for service providers and other aging professionals;9 and increasing area agency efforts to raise public awareness about elder abuse.10

The OAA reauthorization also repeals three Title IV demonstration projects: computer training, multidisciplinary centers and multidisciplinary systems, and ombudsman and advocacy demonstration projects.11 These changes largely cleaned up out of date language in the statute. The provision on computer training had lost relevance with the growth of technology use among older adults. Some of the demonstration projects have completed, others have become permanent in other parts of the Act.

The 2016 OAA reauthorization also made multiple changes and clarifications to the LTC Ombudsman Program authorized under Title VII of the Act.12 Specifically, the LTC Ombudsman Program is now required to serve and protect all residents of long-term care facilities without age limitations.13 Many of the changes clarify the programs’ responsibilities and their procedures for protecting confidentiality.14 Each ombudsman participating in the state ombudsman program is also required to undergo training provided by the National Ombudsman Resource Center.15

With regards to mental health, the OAA now includes “behavioral health” to better incorporate the Aging Network’s recognition of substance abuse and suicide prevention within the topic of mental health.16

Finally, the 2016 reauthorization addresses improvements to transportation for older people and people with disabilities by requiring the Assistant Secretary of Aging to provide assistance to states relating to “efficient, person-centered transportation services.”17

A list of all key changes are available on ACL’s website and in PDF format:

Older Americans Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. 3001-58 (2016).

Statement from Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee on Older Americans Act Reauthorization Signed into Law, Dep’t Health and Human Serv. Press Office (April 19, 2016), http://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2016/04/19/statement-assistant-secretary-aging-kathy-greenlee-older-americans-act-reauthorization.html.

Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016, Admin. Aging, Admin. Comty. Living, U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Serv., http://www.aoa.acl.gov/AoA_Programs/OAA/reauthorization/2016/index.aspx (last visited July 13, 2016).

2016 Older Americans Act (OAA) Reauthorization Act (P.L. 114-144), Admin. Comty. Living, U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Serv. (2016), http://www.aoa.acl.gov/AoA_Programs/OAA/reauthorization/2016/docs/OAA-Summary-Final.pdf.

See 42 U.S.C. 3012(b)(8).

See note 4, at p. 2.

42 U.S.C. 3011(d)(3)(M).

42 U.S.C. 3058i(b)(5).

42 U.S.C. 3012(d)(4)(g).

10 42 U.S.C. 3026(a)(6)(H).

11 See note 6. See also 42 U.S.C. 3002.

12 See note 10. at p. 2-3.

13 See note 4. See also 42 U.S.C. 3058(f)(6).

14 See note 4, at p. 3.

15 42 U.S.C. 3058g(h)(4).

16 See note 15.

17 Id. ■

Teresa Yao

Teresa Yao is a rising third-year law student at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri. She was a summer law intern at the ABA Commission on Law and Aging in 2016. Ms. Yao is an executive editor of the Washington University Law Review and is concurrently pursuing a Master’s in Social Work with her law degree. Prior to law school, Ms. Yao was an undergraduate at Washington University, where she graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology and a minor in Children’s Studies.