Federal Agencies Encouraged To Work Together on Elderly Services

June 3, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

wheelchair-945156-mTeamwork – it never gets old. If only we could say the same thing about our own lives. Promoting such teamwork is the major recommendation from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a recent report evaluating federal agency programs for older Americans.

GAO found that five federal agencies within four departments fund home and community-based services and supports that older adults often require to live independently in their own homes and communities. These agencies and departments are the Administration on Aging (AoA) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Transportation (DOT) and Agriculture (USDA). They provide federal funds, often through state agencies, to local governments and community-based organizations.

The Older Americans Act of 1965 requires AoA to promote a comprehensive system of services and to facilitate collaboration among federal agencies. However, GAO found that the five agencies that fund these services and supports for older adults do so, for the most part, independently. Officials with HHS, through AoA, told the GAO that competing priorities for its limited resources prevent AoA from leading development of a cross-agency federal strategy. Regardless, GAO still notes that developing such a strategy could help ensure that the five agencies’ resources for home and community-based services and supports are used efficiently and effectively.

We agree. Especially as our nation’s population continues to age, led by the Baby Boomer generation that is reaching its retirement years, it is critical that federal agencies are unified in their efforts to provide services to these individuals. HHS may have said it did not have the resources to develop a cross-agency strategy, but this issue will only continue to grow and planning now for a unified strategy, no matter the cost, is vitally important. Luckily, HHS concurred with the GAO recommendation and stated that HHS leadership agrees with the need to continue to coordinate services to address the often complex conditions of older adults with long term services and support needs. Hopefully, these agencies will work as a team on this all-important issue.

Let us know what you think about federal agency collaboration for older Americans.

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