GAO Study Looks for Increasing Reliance on Older Americans Act Program

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study finds that while many older adults likely needed meals or home-based care in 2008, they did not receive Title III or other government program assistance, such as Medicaid, that they needed.

Preceding a reauthorization of The Older Americans Act (OAA), enacted to help older adults remain in their homes and communities, and upon study findings that project large increases in the number of adults who will be eligible for OAA services in the future and likely government budget constraints, GAO was asked to determine the following: What is known about the need for home- and community-based services like those funded by OAA and the potential unmet need for these services; how have agencies used their funds, including Recovery Act funds, to meet program objectives, and how government and local agencies measured need and unmet need.

The study found that while 9% low-income seniors received meals services, many more were likely to need them. Similarly, many of those who needed who needed help walking or bathing did not receive the help they needed and 21% of older adults were likely to need transportation services. The study also found that since the economic downturn began in late 2007, local agencies have received increased requests for home-delivered meals (79%), support services (73%) and caregiver services (67%).


Some data was difficult to obtain for the purposes of the study, according to the GAO report. In response to a difficult economy and the loss of Recovery Act funding, GAO spoke with 10 state agencies. GAO spoke to and found five plan to cut services, two reserved funds from other sources, two are not sure how they will adjust, and one will maintain services.

With some data still unfound, ultimately, based on the findings, GAO recommends that the Department of Health and Human Services study the effectiveness of cost-sharing and definitions and measurement procedures for need and unmet need.

View the GAO report.