GAO: Millions of seniors lack meal, transportation help

GAO: Millions of seniors lack meal, transportation help
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Only 10 percent of nearly 17 million older adults in low-income households receive meals from the federal government, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO estimates many more adults age 60 and older need meal services, but don’t receive them.

These services stem from programs under the Older Americans Act of 1965, which was intended to help older Americans stay in their homes and communities by providing meals, transportation and assistance at home.

The government watchdog found more low-income adults were more “food insecure” in 2013 than they were in 2008. Food insecurity is defined by a person having three or more conditions, which include skipping meals or not having enough money to pay for food.

At the same time, the percentage of those people receiving meals increased by 50 percent between 2008 and 2013.

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In 2011, the GAO said few people were receiving services because of low funding and lack of awareness. Officials from state agencies, for example, told GAO the demand for these services exceeded the amount of funding they were allotted.

While home-based care has improved since 2008, GAO said 1 in 5 adults, or 8.5 million people, are potentially at risk for needing transportation services.

GAO said it recommended in 2011 that HHS develop a uniform system for collecting information on older adults with unmet needs. GAO says HHS “has not fully implemented the recommendation to date.”

On Monday, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP Iowa senator suggests Trump impeachment defense could hurt Biden at caucuses On The Money: Stocks close with steep losses driven by coronavirus fears | Tax season could bring more refund confusion | Trump's new wins for farmers may not undo trade damage Sanders launches first TV ads in Nevada MORE (I-Vt.), who’s running for the Democratic nomination for president, called for a reauthorization of the Older Americans Act and for higher funding.

“A nation is judged by how it cares for its most vulnerable including the elderly and children. It is not acceptable that millions of elderly in this country are living in poverty and struggling to feed themselves,” Sanders said. “Instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires we should be expanding nutrition programs and other services for seniors.”

The Older Americans Act expired in 2011 and was last reauthorized in 2006.