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Bipartisan legislation will help hundreds of thousands of Washington’s senior citizens
This week marks the 50th anniversary of signing of Older Americans Act into law


(WASHINGTON, D.C.)– Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) commended Senate passage yesterday of the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2015, bipartisan legislation to support social and nutrition services—from home-delivered meals to senior centers—for nearly 12 million U.S. seniors. This week marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Older Americans Act into law.


“We should be doing everything we can to support our seniors in leading healthy, fulfilling lives, and that’s why I am proud our bipartisan bill passed the Senate to help make that a reality,” said Murray. “From putting in place stronger elder abuse protections to sustaining our investment in funding for Meals on Wheels, this legislation makes important improvements to the support and resources available to seniors in Washington state and across the country.”


The Older Americans Act has been due for reauthorization since 2011.


See below for Senator Murray’s remarks for the record:


Thank you, M. President. Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Older Americans Act, which enshrined into law our responsibility for helping seniors live healthier, fuller, and more independent lives. Fifty years later, I’m glad Congress has worked to reauthorize the Older Americans Act to once again uphold that promise of our nation.


And I am glad we came together in a bipartisan way to provide important support for seniors in my home state of Washington and those across the country. I want to especially thank Senators Alexander, Sanders, and Burr for all of their hard work on this bill.


I believe we should be doing everything we can to support seniors, so they can lead healthy, independent lives. Improving opportunities for seniors is part of how we can restore some much-needed economic security for them. And it’s how we can help ensure our country is working for all Americans, not just the wealthiest few. But today, far too many seniors find themselves skipping meals or going hungry, instead of getting the nutrition they need.


In fact, 9.3 million seniors in our country face the threat of hunger according to a 2012 report. And in my home state of Washington, 13.5 percent of seniors struggle with hunger. As if that isn’t enough, many seniors face other serious challenges like elder abuse. That can include mistreatment in a nursing home or financial exploitation.


M. President, this bill to reauthorize the Older Americans Act supports crucial social services and nutrition programs for seniors. As one example, this bill sustains our investment in Meals on Wheels. In my home state of Washington, more than 460,000 seniors enroll in that program. Meals on Wheels is a critical lifeline for them. And it’s an important investment for our country. For every dollar we invest in Meals on Wheels, we can save up to $50 in Medicaid spending, according to a study from the Center for Effective Government.


Among other important provisions, the bill also strengthens programs to combat elder abuse. This bill focuses on the critical importance of both abuse screenings and prevention efforts. And, it would improve the response to abuse, neglect, and exploitation in long-term care facilities. 


It also puts a key emphasis on evidence-based public health programs. It bolsters transportation programs. And it ensures that OAA programs include a focus on seniors’ behavioral health needs. M. President, I am proud that this bill is the result of strong bipartisan work. It proves yet again that when Republicans and Democrats work together, we can get results. So I hope we can build on this progress. I want to continue to work with Republicans to find common ground and get results for families and communities in Washington state and across the country. And I hope to continue to work on ways to restore economic stability and security to more seniors.


In 1965, at the original signing of the Older Americans Act, President Johnson said the true significance of this bill would be in its results. He said he hoped the bill would, “help us to expand our opportunities for enriching the lives of all of our citizens in our country, now and in the years to come.” M. President, reauthorizing this law will carry out that mission and expand opportunities so more seniors can lead healthy, independent lives.


It’s an important part of our work to help the economy grow from the middle out, not the top down. And it will be another step toward making sure our government is working for all families, not just the wealthiest few. So today, I want to call on all my colleagues to support this bill.  Let’s reauthorize the Older Americans Act and live up to our nation’s responsibility to seniors across the country.


Thank you, M. President. I yield the floor.