In a recent special message to Congress, President Ford reaffirmed his commitment to meeting the needs of older Americans, and to draw on their strengths in resolving the problems of America. He asked Congress to:
". . . help our nation demonstrate by its deeds a deep concern for the dignity and worth of our older persons. By doing so, our nation will continue to benefit from the contributions that older persons can make to the strengthening of their nation."
President Ford noted that the single greatest threat to the quality of life of older Americans is inflation. His first economic priority has been to fight inflation -- and his programs have cut nearly in half the double digit inflation experienced in 1974. But, he said,
". . . the retired, living on fixed incomes, have been particularly hard hit, and the progress we have made . . . has not benefitted them enough."
To meet this problem, the President included in his budget request for fiscal year 1977, a full cost of living increase in Social Security benefits, that will help bolster the purchasing power of 32 million older Americans. Because the President is determined that the Social Security system must remain fiscally sound, he has also requested legislation to increase payroll taxes by three-tenths of one percent for employees and employers so that payments will not exceed revenues.
In a major new program to alleviate the burden of catastrophic illness, President Ford has proposed:
Millions of older persons, he said, live in fear of being stricken by an illness that will call for expensive hospital and medical care over a long period of time.
"Most often they do not have the resources to pay the bills . . . We have been talking about this problem for many years. We have it within our power to act now so that today's older persons will not be forced to live under this kind of a shadow."
These actions are only the most recent of many taken by the Ford Administration to help older Americans. Over the last year and a half -- from the first days of his Administration, President Ford:
President Ford has supported the concept of the Older Americans Act since its inception in 1965. This past November the President strengthened the Act when he signed into law amendments creating new services and goals. Under President Ford's Administration -- $272 million -- almost seven times the amount available three years earlier -- went to this program. Through the Administration on Aging, created by this Act, a national network on aging composed of state, area and nutrition agencies has been established. As an example of what the Act does, nutrition agencies serve older persons over 300,000 hot meals a day, five days a week at 5,000 locations. This network helps older people to:
And, in developing health care for elderly Americans, the President has directed his Administration to develop programs that will lead to better use of present and potential resources for delivery of services to the elderly with the goal of improving health and quality of life. Actions in this area include:
President Ford's commitment both to resolving the problems of older Americans -- and in using their talents -- is great. A statement from his February 9, 1976 message to Congress reflects his beliefs:
"Today's older persons have made invaluable contributions to the strengthening of our nation. They have provided the nation with a vision and strength that has resulted in unprecedented advancements in all of the areas of our life. Our national moral strength is due in no small part to the significance of their contributions."
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