Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We've Moved!

Check out all of WOW's great work on our new blog!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act Threatens Job Prospects for Older Adults

Last month, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, introduced the Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act (H.R. 3610). If passed, the Act will repeal many job training programs targeted to meet the needs of specific, at risk populations. Cuts include programs such as Jobs Corp, Wagner-Peyser and Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the principle job creation program for low-income older adults.

SCSEP is the largest federally funded program designed to target unemployed, low-income elders. It provides job training, placement services, counseling and community service assignments that help low-income seniors build economic security. Because older workers are four-times more likely to face unemployment than their younger counterparts, SCSEP addresses the unique needs of the elder community. Although Rep. Foxx declared the workforce education programs currently in place “hopelessly redundant and expensive,” in 2010 SCSEP employed over 100,000 participants nationwide.

If passed, the Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act will eliminate a program that is currently aiding thousands of unemployed seniors, 89% of whom live at or below the poverty level. Because SCSEP distinctively caters to the needs of seniors, its removal will almost certainly damage the prospect of employment for many older adults.

Sahdia Khan
Elder Economic Security Initiative Intern 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Seniors Benefit from the Affordable Care Act

As the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) approaches on March 23rd, it brings with it many new advantages for older Americans. The ACA directly impacts seniors by closing Medicare’s prescription drug benefits gap, promising comprehensive preventive care coverage and removing loopholes used by insurance companies to deny coverage. In these aspects, the ACA expands coverage for seniors while reducing the opportunity for exploitation.

Elimination of the “donut hole” is a key example of one of the improvements brought by the ACA. The “donut hole” is a drug coverage gap that forces participants to pay costs in full after their annual expenses reach $2,830. Until intervention from the ACA, Medicare beneficiaries paid the total cost of drugs until their annual expenses surpassed $6,440. The new law diminishes this gap in coverage by offering Medicare participants a 50% discount on brand name drugs. WOW’s Elder Index has found that out-of-pocket health care costs account for the second highest expense for elders, after housing.

Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act expands preventive care coverage to seniors by offering free annual wellness visits and personalized prevention for individuals enrolled in Medicare. By 2018, all private health insurance plans must cover preventive services without co-payments.

Finally, the Act will prevent insurance companies from rescinding coverage based on unintentional mistakes on applications. Currently, insurance companies have the right to revoke policies when a beneficiary becomes sick if there are unintentional mistakes on paper work. The new regulations eliminate this policy by prohibiting insurers from withdrawing coverage unless fraud or intentional misrepresentation of facts has occurred.

The anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and the introduction of its new reforms will help secure more fair healthcare policies to seniors. In the long run the ACA saves taxpayer dollars by eradicating fraud and abuse within the Medicare system and simultaneously guaranteeing elders more reliable coverage.

Sahdia Khan
Elder Economic Security Initiative Intern

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Economic Security is Highlighted in Older Americans Act Reauthorization

This month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will introduce legislation to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA), one of the most crucial sources of federal support for older adults. The OAA provides essential programs ranging from the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), to services to prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults, to meal and nutrition services for older persons.  

The reauthorization also includes several key amendments. For example, the bill establishes economic security as a goal of the OAA and includes a clarification of the formal definition of “economic security” to encompass the income necessary to pay for housing, health care, transportation, food, long-term care and goods and services to meet other basic needs. According to WOW’s Elder Economic Security Standard Index, average annual Social Security income only provides an older woman renter with 61% of the income necessary to establish economic security. The OAA’s emphasis on expanding and ensuring economic security is a key component in helping to compensate for this deficiency.

Furthermore, the OAA will redefine the term “economic need” to 200% of the federal poverty level, an especially important distinction in light of the fact that one in five older Americans today survives on an average income of only $7,500 per year.

Overall, the amendments and reauthorization of the OAA is a major stride for older Americans and provides an opportunity to improve existing programs in the framework of economic security. By addressing the growing need of support programs for older Americans through job training, legal assistance, nutritional advising and long-term care coordination services, the bill functions as one of the most comprehensive government-sponsored forms of assistance to seniors.

Sahdia Khan
Elder Economic Security Initiative Intern

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Look Back at 50 Years of the Special Committee on Aging

On Wednesday, the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging held a forum entitled "Aging in America: Future Challenges, Promise and Potential.” The event featured many speakers, including aging experts and key Special Committee staff, and commemorated the Committee's 50th anniversary.

The Special Committee is responsible for bringing attention to key issues relating to older adults. Although it has no legislative authority, the Special Committee on Aging studies issues, conducts oversight and investigates fraud and waste.

Kathy Greenlee, the Assistant Secretary for the Administration on Aging, spoke about the milestone legislation and judicial action that affects the aging community since the inception of the Special Committee in 1961, including:
  • Creation of Medicare and Medicaid (1965)
  • Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (1987)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)
  • The Olmstead Decision (1999)
  • Affordable Care Act (2010)
Assistant Secretary Greenlee also emphasized the importance of preventative care across the lifespan, and that it is possible to deliver better care for those who need it at lower costs by using a home and community-based approach.

There has been a significant difference in the lives of older adults over the last half century, and the next 50 years is sure to be transformative as well.

Kelly Stellrecht
Outreach and Field Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pass the American Jobs Act and Put Women Back to Work

How do we resolve the current economic impasse? We put Americans to work, men and women. That will require a Herculean effort on the part of our leaders to catalyze job creation. As millions of Americans continue to look for meaningful employment, the President has put forward The American Jobs Act, a blueprint for getting Americans back to work, and we look to Congress to act quickly on this legislation.

Women are facing increasing unemployment rates and older women are facing higher rates of long-term unemployment. Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) finds the “Pathways Back to Work Initiative” particularly encouraging because it includes employment and job training opportunities that create needed entry points for women of all ages, especially for those who are low-income workers.

Job training programs have proven to be successful in fighting unemployment. In the past year, programs like those proposed have helped put more than 4 million Americans back to work. These investments can continue to assist unemployed Americans, particularly women, get back to work with good jobs that pay higher wages and provide economic security for their families. Targeting funds toward enhancing opportunities for women and other under-represented groups by training women in non-traditional fields like construction and encouraging entrepreneurship among the long-term unemployed will ensure that we build an economy that lifts everybody, not just a few.

Take Gloria Morrison, for example. After juggling part-time jobs since high school as a security officer, sales manager, pizza deliverer and martial arts instructor, her part-time work dried up, and she sank into a depression because she was unable to find work. WOW’s Building Futures job training program for un- and underemployed residents in Washington, DC helped Gloria build new skills in marketable, middle-income work. Now she’s part of an apprenticeship program that is not only a job, but the first step on a career ladder that will provide her both job and economic security.

The President’s plan gives hope that we can move forward with investments in our economy that will be both innovative and effective, and we call on Congress to move now to pass this plan.

Donna Addkison
Wider Opportunities for Women

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Super Committee, Don’t Leave Behind Older Women and Their Families

Times are tough for hardworking Americans of all ages. That’s why it’s imperative that Congress look for a balanced approach (including revenues) to deficit reduction, while protecting low- and middle-income elders who rely on programs like Social Security, Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, the Senior Community Service Employment Program and more.

As hard-working people see the availability of pensions dwindle, many find themselves wholly reliant on Social Security in their retirement years. Social Security is the only source of income for 1 out of 5 elders, and women are more than 60% more likely to live in poverty in their senior years than men are. Due to pay equity issues, the occupational segregation of women in low-wage jobs, and cycling in and out of the workforce due to take care of children and family members, women often find themselves with a Social Security payment that falls short of economic security.

The Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index) provides a clear picture of the plight faced by women living on average Social Security income. The Elder Index measures the income that older adults require to maintain their independence in the community and meet their daily costs of living. The average annual Social Security income for all women provides a single elder homeowner without a mortgage just under 70% of the income required to achieve economic security. If she rents her home, her average annual Social Security income will provide only 55% of the income required to achieve economic security.

Without employer-based retirement savings income, such as a pension, and/or housing and health care subsidies, the average annual Social Security income alone, although a critical economic security foundation, leaves women struggling to choose among necessities such as heating oil, prescription drugs and food. To close the income gap many elders must draw on state and federal supports including Medicare, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Medicare Part D (prescription drug) Low Income Subsidy (LIS). As Congress looks for ways to reduce the deficit, it is important that they protect the programs that low- and middle-income Americans rely on to make ends meet in their later years.

Maggie Flowers
Field Manager
Elder Economic Security Initiative