Saturday, August 19, 2017
Casey tackles aging issues
“As soon as you’re born,” he said, “you’re aging.”
Advocating for that all-encompassing constituency includes an obligation to protect programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, said Casey, the committee’s ranking Democrat, on Monday at a conference on aging at Wilkes University.
The next fight on that front will come with the federal government’s 2018 budget, the Scranton resident said. The plan from the U.S. House of Representatives includes cuts to Medicare over the next 10 years, as well as cuts to discretionary spending that Casey said could eventually affect other programs seniors care about.
For example, a cut in discretionary funding could affect how much money is available for Community Development Block Grants, a Department of Housing and Urban Development fund that supports a variety of local programs. With the federal government distributing less funding, states and local organizations have less money for initiatives like Meals on Wheels or heating assistance programs.
“We have a lot of fights ahead of us. We have to fight against those kinds of cuts,” Casey said.
Seniors are a major part of Casey’s constituency, and they account for a major part of federal spending. The 2010 budget allocated 20.4 percent of federal spending for Social Security and 13.1 percent of federal spending for Medicare, according to FactCheck.org.
Among the issues addressed at the conference was the threat of seniors being targeted by scams intended to rob them of their savings.
Scammers might pretend to be IRS agents claiming they’re owed money and threatening arrest, or lottery officials promising a bogus windfall.
The best course of action if someone threatens punishment for nonpayment is to hang up, said Tim Camus, an inspector with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
The IRS won’t contact anyone first by telephone, and it also won’t threaten arrest or a lawsuit, he said.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne spoke about drug abuse. Even though they’re not often the face of the opioid crisis, older Americans are not immune from the problems caused by the drugs, which have led to an increase in overdose deaths in recent years.
“We really have to elbow our way into the discussion about the opioid crisis,” she said.
Senior citizens can be addicted themselves or face having to care for a family member who is addicted or left vulnerable because of someone else’s addiction, Osborne said.
Conference panelists also addressed funding of programs that affect seniors.
Mary Roselle, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging for Luzerne and Wyoming Counties; Tim Camus, a deputy inspector general for the U.S. Treasury Department; and Gail Roddie-Hamlin, president and CEO of the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, all had a simple answer when asked what they wanted Casey to know: They could use more funding for their missions.
That’s the central challenge of government, Casey said, citing research into Alzheimer’s disease as an example.
Because of investments in research, Pennsylvania has the potential to be the place where there’s a major breakthrough on a cure for Alzheimer’s, he said.
“But we can’t continue that research on Alzheimer’s or anything else unless we continue to pound the table” for funding, he said.
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Casey tackles aging issues