Today’s hearing on “Reducing Senior Poverty & Hunger: The Role of the Older Americans Act,” was brief but to the point: Restore the Sequester Cuts to the programs which serve the older Americans and add 12% to the funding for Meals on Wheels.

4 million Seniors live on less that 11,000 dollars a year. Vulnerable seniors have been successfully served by the Older Americans Act, which was created during the Johnson administration.  This year, meals programs have been cut by 51 million dollars through September, 2013.  In addition to giving nutrition, these programs provide social contact through meal delivery and through socialization. The experts report that when Seniors become malnourished their medical costs increase and they end up in the hospital. The point of the hearing was to describe the rationale for supporting the reauthorization of the Act.

You can watch the experts testify here at this LINK.

Testifying were:

  • Nancy J. Altman , Co-Director of Social Security Works and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Pension Rights Center, Washington, D.C.
  • Ellie Hollander , President and Chief Executive Officer of the Meals On Wheels Association of America, Alexandria, VA
  • Howard Bedlin , Vice President, Public Policy and Advocacy at the National Council on Aging, Washington, D.C.
  • Paul Downey President & Chief Executive Officer of Senior Community Centers, and President of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs, San Diego, CA

Senator Sanders of Vermont introduced the experts and moderated the session.

Ellie Hollander, the primary witness for Meals-On-Wheels,  gave examples of the personal impact of the program and described the negative impact of cuts. By funding the program without keeping it current with inflation, and by cutting the funding due to Sequestration, funding has fallen by 18% since 1992. Even a fully-funded program would not meet the demand of seniors in need.

Nancy J. Altman, of Social Security Works,  described the context of poverty in which these programs work their magic. The majority of seniors are vulnerable and not well-off. One out of two Americans, 65 or older, are already unable to meet needs for basics or are one crisis away from poverty. Over 40% of seniors over 65 reported difficulties with one activity required for independent living. Altman recommended that the Older Americans Act be reauthorized.

Senator Warren testified that for every one dollar cut from meals programs, government will pay 50 dollars for medical care due to illness, falls, broken bones.

Howard Bedlin described other programs within the Older Americans Act which help seniors. There are important service programs incorporated in this Act.

Paul Downey testified about the OAA reauthorization and its impact on meals for seniors. Most of the seniors served in his area live at or below the poverty level. They are on “the cusp of homelessness”. The cuts are taking meals away from those who need them.

If you are 75 years old and have several impediments to managing activities of daily living, these programs are literally life-lines. These programs are crucial to maintaining personal independence and allow seniors to stay out of nursing homes when they would rather live in their own homes. These programs are effective and essential to feeding our hungry American seniors.

To get the whole story  I recommend that you watch the video of the meeting at the link.