Prevent Blindness urges enhanced role for vision and eye health in first major opportunity to change Older Americans Act program regulations since 1988

The Administration for Community Living, which administers programs under the Older Americans Act (OAA) recently issued a proposed rule to update several aspects of the OAA. This is the first time that the program would see significant changes since 1988. The proposals were based in part on several aspects of a stakeholder request for information issued in 2022, to which Prevent Blindness issued a response.

The ACL’s proposed rule includes many technical changes to the program regulations that states and entities within the aging network would need to adhere to when administering programs and services to older adults over age 60. While the rule did not propose to expand programs and services under existing titles (as this is the role of Congress during reauthorization and appropriations processes), the ACL offered several program clarifications and updates for the public to provide feedback on.

In response, Prevent Blindness submitted several recommendations to the ACL with respect to older adult vision and eye health.

  • Further Defining “Greatest Economic Need” and “Greatest Social Need”: ACL has proposed to further define the existing terms of “greatest economic need” and “greatest social need” to include the populations that are identified in President Biden’s Executive Order 13985: Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. This proposed change would include “persons with disabilities.” ACL has proposed this change in order to ensure there is consistency in how states define people who are of “greatest economic need” and “greatest social need.” Prevent Blindness affirmed our support for this change; however, we recommended ACL consider revising the populations to “persons with functional sensory impairment” to ensure that people who live with varying degrees of vision loss or loss of visual function are not excluded from receiving support under OAA programming.
  • Grants to States and Community Programs on Aging: While ACL did not make significant proposed changes to the nature of services designed to provide health screenings or other services to detect or prevent illness and injury common in older adult populations, Prevent Blindness urged the ACL to consider ways in which to foster greater understanding of the prevalence of vision loss and its connection to aging and overall health through increased state coordination and cooperation within the aging network to connect older adults to low vision eye care and rehabilitative services necessary to thrive within their communities.