Manchin Unveils ‘Seniors’ Financial Bill of Rights’
At rally in nation’s Capitol, Senator urges reauthorization of Older Americans Act, outlines legislation that would guarantee financial counseling and legal help to seniors making hard choices
Senator also unveils ‘Streamlining Services for Older Veterans Act’ to help older veterans get the services they have earned
Washington, D.C. – At a rally with hundreds of advocates for seniors today in the nation’s Capitol, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) unveiled the “Seniors’ Financial Bill of Rights” to protect older Americans from financial abuse and another bill to ensure older veterans get the services they have earned.
Senator Manchin joined six of his Senate colleagues to address supporters of the Older Americans Act. Senator Manchin held a hearing about reauthorizing of the bill last month in Charleston, West Virginia.
Senator Manchin’s legislation would ensure that seniors know their rights and have access to the information and legal assistance they need to help prevent financial exploitation by requiring every state to create a Seniors’ Financial Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights will guarantee every senior access to information about their financial rights, financial counseling resources to make informed financial choices, and legal assistance to protect their financial rights.
Senator Manchin also unveiled a bill – the Streamlining Services for Older Veterans Act – to help older veterans navigate the myriad of services available in the aging network and improve coordination among service providers.
Senator Manchin’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
The reauthorization of the Older Americans Act is about keeping our promises to our greatest generation. Older Americans Act programs give seniors the support they need to stay healthy and independent as they age. It is a commonsense investment that I know every person in this room understands the value of and one that we have prioritized in West Virginia.
West Virginia is the second oldest state in the country by percentage. Our aging services and programs serve more than 120,000 seniors. When I was Governor, we set a budget that got our fiscal house in order, but we did so while prioritizing our seniors and increasing resources for senior services by 83 percent. We placed hot and cold food trucks in all 55 counties and targeted funding for Alzheimer’s Respite Care and Elder Watch programs.
In February, I brought the Senate Aging Committee to West Virginia to talk about how we can strengthen the aging network to meet the growing needs and challenges of the Baby Boom generation and preserve these critical services for future older Americans. I get some of my best ideas from West Virginians and this hearing gave me some great ideas to bring back with me to Washington.
One issue that raised serious concerns for me was the financial exploitation of older Americans that is on the rise – and must be stopped. Older Americans are estimated to lose $2.9 billion every year from exploitation. This exploitation comes in all forms: forgery, stealing cash or assets, or abusing joint accounts.
Across the country, we are working to strengthen laws and reporting requirements to protect seniors from abuse and prosecute offenders. But more still can be done to both respond to incidents of abuse and to prevent financial exploitation before it happens through education and awareness.
I’m introducing a bill that would ensure that seniors know their rights and have access to the information and legal assistance they need to help prevent financial exploitation by requiring every state to create a Seniors’ Financial Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights will guarantee every senior access to information about their financial rights, financial counseling resources to make informed financial choices, and legal assistance to protect their financial rights.
At our February field hearing we also talked about the unique needs of our older Americans who are veterans. There are approximately 12.5 million veterans over the age of 60 in the U.S. In addition to the benefits that these brave men and women have earned from their service to our country, as older Americans, they are also eligible for services and supports under the Older Americans Act. But as we all know, navigating the bureaucracy of one benefits system can be difficult enough. That is why I am introducing the Streamlining Services for Older Veterans Act to help our veterans navigate aging programs and services by asking our aging network to engage in targeted outreach with aging veterans and improving coordination between the aging network and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, to ensure our veterans receive the best service possible.
As Congress works to reauthorize the Older Americans Act and at the same time, works to tackle our rising deficit, I believe we are all going to have to work to identify inefficiencies and redundancy in the system because this wasteful spending should be the first to go. As you know, our national aging network is made up of 56 State Units on Aging, 629 Area Agencies on Aging, known as triple As, 20,000 service providers and too many volunteers to count. In a system this big, there is bound to be a great deal of room for improvement through coordination, flexibility, and innovation. We need to hear from you – the eyes and ears on the ground – about how to improve the way we work together from the federal level down to the local senior center. Because we need to work together to improve the way we serve seniors, not just every five years when reauthorization comes around, but every single day.
Thank you for the work that you do and for being here today to share your support for the Older Americans Act.
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