Citing growing needs and rising costs for the nation's rapidly expanding population of seniors, a group of two dozen senators on Friday called for a significant funding increase for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels.
"There are few better investments than the cost-effective programs that millions of older adults depend on for a healthy and dignified life," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 23 other senators said in a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate appropriations panel in charge of funding Older Americans Act programs.
The senators said a 12 percent increase would catch up with rising costs and the growth in the number of seniors over the past decade. There are now more than 60 million Americans over age 60. Some 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. People older than 85 make up the fastest growing segment of the elderly population, the group with the greatest need for nutrition services, caregiver support and legal services to protect them from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
The senators said investments in nutrition and other programs that help seniors stay healthy and live in their own homes save taxpayer dollars by reducing Medicare and Medicaid outlays for more expensive hospital and nursing home care.
"Despite this growing need, federal funding levels for nutrition, supportive services and caregiver supports have failed to keep pace with inflation or the growth in our aging population," the senators said the letter to leaders of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.
In addition to Sanders, the letter was signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John D. Rockefeller, (D-W.Va.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Full text of the letter is available in PDF format below: