57TH General Assembly
While problems of the elderly are prevalent in both the United States and Canada, the references herein are restricted to the United States.
Poverty among the elderly has decreased dramatically over the past twenty-five years. This can be largely attributed to federal assistance programs that have been strengthened and developed during this period. This country has consciously endeavored to develop a national aging policy by supplementing the Social Security Act of 1935 with legislation such as the Older Americans Act of 1965, and Medicare programs assisting low-income persons, such as the Food Stamp Act of 1964 and the subsidized housing program, have also done much to combat poverty among the elderly.
These federal programs, which have helped ameliorate many of the hardships of old age, are essential if we hope to preserve the well-being of our older citizens. If this network of programs is weakened or eliminated, many older Americans will once again face the prospect of spending their later years impoverished, in fear of ill health, poor nutrition, and inadequate housing. Nearly all of these vital programs face budget reductions, freezes, or, in several cases, complete elimination.
Persons who are the most dependent on federal benefits suffer disproportionately from benefit freezes or reductions. The lives of poor people, who often rely on several federal programs, will be devastated by the compounded impact of these budget cuts. Hardest hit will be women and minorities, who are found disproportionately among the poor elderly. The burden of these cuts is not equally shared. The most basic needs of older persons are being threatened by slated program reductions. Income assistance, health care, food, energy assistance, and shelter are all targets for budgetary savings. In addition, the elderly- more than any other groups-live in fear of violence and their personal safety.
For example, one-third of all people receiving low-income home energy assistance and weatherization are elderly. The president's proposals to cut 34% of the home energy assistance and 100% of the weatherization assistance most adversely affect the elderly. The proposed cuts in food stamp allocations and the elimination of the excess shelter deduction will also have a disproportionately adverse effect on the elderly.
Finally, there is a vital need for comprehensive nursing home reforms. Repeatedly, congressional investigations have turned up evidence of widespread warehousing, malnutrition, overmedication, and lack of proper supervision. One study found that 40% of the elderly in nursing homes were not ill and need not have been sent there if adequate in-home support had been provided.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Union of American Hebrew Congregations:
- Calls on the administration to reconsider its fiscal recommendations in the areas of food stamps, low-income weatherization, and low-income home energy assistance because its proposed cuts in those programs would substantially undermine the financial security of the elderly. This important aid program should also be maintained as a policy by future administrations;
- Opposes in particular the president's proposals to eliminate the statutory priority for the elderly in these programs.
- Urges the federal and state governments to provide financial assistance to communities that develop local programs to combat crime and violence.
- Calls upon the United States Congress to reject that part of the president's budget proposal for the Medicare program that would increase beneficiary out-of-pocket costs for short-term hospitalization for the twenty-six million elderly Americans now covered.
- Calls upon Congress and state legislatures to increase the appropriations for housing units for the elderly.
- Calls upon the federal, state, and local governments to effect comprehensive nursing home reform as necessary to eliminate the problems of warehousing, malnutrition, overmedication, and inadequate supervision. Adequate funding for in-home support services should be provided to allow for the elderly who wish to live at home to be able to do so.
- Calls upon state and local governments to consider work volunteer and educational options and opportunities to encourage older adult participation in and contribution to American society.