NEWS from the Elder Justice Coalition
Bipartisan Budget Agreement Signed By President
Last week, the Senate and House passed a bipartisan budget agreement which sets spending levels for the federal government for FY 2016 and FY 2017. President Obama signed it into law yesterday. We continue to review the full agreement but view it as mostly positive for several reasons, including:
  • The bill would prevent any return to sequestration (across the board spending cuts) through September 30, 2017.
  • The bill provides for $40 billion in new spending over two years for non-defense discretionary programs, which would include the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), the Administration for Community Living, the Older Americans Act, and the Elder Justice Initiative.  Actual funding levels for programs are to be decided by the individual appropriation bills, which will be considered in the next month.
  • The bill averts large increases in Medicare Part B premiums and deductibles as well as large cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) premiums.
Now, the process moves to the Appropriations Committees, which must establish final funding levels for the remainder of FY 2016. Right now, federal programs are operating under a Continuing Resolution which maintains current funding levels through December 11. 
The Elder Justice Coalition, in light of the increased funding available for non-defense discretionary programs, is committed to seeking the highest funding possible for federal elder justice programs, particularly the Elder Justice Initiative. Last year, the President proposed $25 million in his budget for the Elder Justice Initiative and the Initiative was finally funded at $4 million. This year, the President proposed $25 million again and Congress had once more suggested $4 million in their spending bills before the spending levels were raised. With the increased funding amounts available, we will be strongly advocating for Congress to fund the Initiative at the full $25 million amount.

Budget Spending Offset by Reduction in VOCA Funding
The budget agreement, while mostly positive, does have one major drawback for elder abuse victims. It shrinks the amount available in the Crime Victims Fund (established under the Victims of Crime Act, VOCA), by $1.5 billion to offset the increased spending elsewhere.
This news comes at a pivotal time for the Fund, which received a huge increase in the FY 2015 budget from $700 million in FY 2014 to $2.3 billion in FY 2015 to be disbursed to states, enabling states to expand their reach to underserved victims. Also, at the White House Conference on Aging, the Office of Victims of Crime announced that they were issuing a long-overdue final rule to specify that VOCA funds should be used to help underserved victims, specifically including victims of elder abuse.
The Elder Justice Coalition has signed on to letters to the Senate and House appropriators calling for high appropriations levels for the Crime Victims Fund. We will be monitoring the situation closely and continuing to advocate for the Fund and its use to help older victims of crime and elder abuse and exploitation victims.

CDAA National Elder & Dependent Adult Abuse Symposium
December 1-4, 2015 - Anaheim, CA

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