Manchin's Message from the Hill to the Mountains: Keeping Our Promises to West Virginia's Seniors


Date: June 1, 2012
Issues: Senior Citizens

As your Governor, I was so proud that we were able to cut tax rates and, at the same time, expand services to seniors. And, as your Senator, I'm working to make sure we can do the same for all our country's seniors.

This week, I was so pleased to travel down to the Raleigh County Senior Center to talk about the Older Americans Act, a law that provides some of those important services. The Older Americans Act pays for programs like Meals on Wheels, adult day services, caregiver help, legal assistance, transportation and abuse prevention. Each year, more than 50,000 West Virginia seniors rely on services that are offered through the Older Americans Act, which must be reauthorized this summer before it expires on Sept. 30.

Since so many people rely on the law's services, I wanted to find out how we could improve it. In February, I held my first field hearing for the Senate Aging Committee on senior issues in Charleston -- and the Older Americans Act in particular -- and listened to some very helpful ideas from West Virginians on how we can work together to improve the law. People came from all over the state to discuss their experiences and ideas on how to deliver services to seniors effectively. The hearing brought together a number of West Virginians and federal officials with a stake in our aging network, including state government officials, local volunteers and seniors who use the services. What I heard is that we need to identify inefficiencies and redundancy in the system to eliminate wasteful spending.

I also learned that we need to do a better job of protecting our seniors and assisting our veterans. As a result, I have introduced two commonsense amendments to the Older Americans Act to make sure that our seniors receive services and protections they need and deserve. The first is called the Seniors' Financial Bill of Rights Act, which would help protect seniors from financial exploitation.

The measure would require states to develop their own Seniors' Financial Bill of Rights, which would help seniors get information about their financial rights. It would also give seniors access to financial counseling resources, provide resources to protect seniors' financial rights and ensure that caretakers and law enforcement have the necessary information to recognize the risks and signs of financial exploitation.

The second amendment is called the Streamlining Services for Older Veterans Act, and it would require state and local agencies to develop a plan for delivering senior services to veterans. It would also require targeted outreach to veterans who are eligible for assistance under the Older Americans Act.

Both of these amendments would make commonsense improvements to the Older Americans Act, and help ensure that our seniors receive the services and care they deserve. West Virginia's seniors helped build this nation, and we must never break our obligation to them. Last year, the first of the 77 million Baby Boomers turned 65, and every day for the next 18 years, more than 10,000 seniors will turn 65 and become eligible for senior services.

These amendments are only two of the ways I am working to improve the quality of lives of our seniors in West Virginia. I have also introduced the National Yellow Dot Act, which would protect seniors in emergency medical situations, like car accidents. The bill would create a voluntary program through which individuals would receive a yellow dot decal to place on the rear windshield of their vehicles. The yellow decal would alert emergency personnel to look for a corresponding yellow folder in the vehicle's glove compartment. The folder would contain a photograph of the driver, their medical conditions and other vital information. In addition, I introduced the Silver Alert Act, which, like the Amber Alert program in use for missing children, would create a nationwide network for locating missing adults and senior citizens.

As we work together across party lines to run our government more efficiently, serving our seniors will remain a high priority. You can be sure that I will continue to work hard so that our seniors' needs are met.