|Vol. 12, Nos. 1&2||
On Delivery of Legal Assistance to Older Persons
Click here to download November 2003 Best Practice NotesClick here for the back cover of this issue's Best Practice Notes for information about the Official Compilation of Older Americans Act as Amended in 2000 which is now online in U.S. Code
(November 2003 Best Practice Notes is in PDF format and may
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Targeting Clients Most in Need
This edition of Best Practice Notes (BPN) is devoted almost entirely to the critical and challenging issue of targeting limited Older Americans Act legal resources to those elders most in need of assistance, those who are least able to advocate on their own behalf.The OAA was conceived in 1965 to address the needs of all older persons, and its purpose was broadly directed at giving them an opportunity for full participation in the benefits of society. Since 1965, however, as the scarcity of federal dollars became more apparent and the overall economic and social status of the older population improved, Congress increasingly directed that OAA resources be targeted to those elders with greatest social or economic need. For legal assistance, this targeting directive is even greater than for other OAA services. This is because, of all the service definitions in the Act, only "legal assistance" includes as part of the definition itself, an explicit directive that legal services are to go to "older individuals with economic or social needs." While the Act is clear regarding who should be given priority for legal services, the legislative history, the regulations, and since the 2000 Amendments, the Act itself, are equally clear that means-testing -- the use of income and resources in determining who is eligible to receive services -- is prohibited. Dealing with the dilemma of targeting without means testing can be a source of confusion and frustration, thus this BPN provides an approach to resolving the dilemma. As a first step, it requires the state legal services developer, legal providers, and AAAs to clearly identify who are the elders in greatest need, both across the state and in local service areas. It then requires establishing deliberate operational procedures to insure that targeted groups will in fact be reached and served. A wide range of approaches are presented in the hope that legal developers, AAAs and legal providers across the country will find solutions that fit their particular situation.
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The Center for Social Gerontology, Inc.
A National Support Center in Law and Aging
2307 Shelby Avenue Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Tel: (734) 665-1126 Fax: (734) 665-2071