SENIOR HUNGER AND GAO REPORT; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 96
(Senate - June 16, 2015)

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                      SENIOR HUNGER AND GAO REPORT

  Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, I want to touch on an issue that I think 
does not get the attention it deserves. My view is that a nation is 
judged not by how many billionaires and millionaires it has but by how 
it treats the most vulnerable people among us. If we look at the 
greatness of a nation in that respect, the sad truth is that the United 
States today does not get particularly high marks. That is true not 
only in the way we treat our children, but it is also true in the way 
we treat our seniors.
  Yesterday, at my request, the Government Accountability Office--the 
GAO--released a new report that found that nearly 4 million seniors in 
our country are what they call food insecure. That means these seniors 
do not know where their next meal is coming from. What that means is 
that nearly 4 million American seniors may skip dinner tonight because 
they do not have enough money to buy food today.
  Every day in my State of Vermont and around this country, millions of 
seniors have to juggle with their limited budgets their ability to buy 
food, their ability to buy medicine, or, in the wintertime, their 
ability to keep themselves warm in their homes. Those are not the 
choices seniors in this country should be forced to make.
  There is a myth out there pushed by corporate and moneyed interests 
suggesting that seniors in this country are doing just great, that all 
seniors are comfortably middle class. But those people who hold those 
views have not looked at the reality of life for many seniors in this 
country. The truth is--and this is really a shocking truth--that 20 
percent of seniors in America live on an average income of $7,600 a 
year. Between us, I don't know how anybody can live on $7,600 a year, 
let alone older people who need more medicine and more health care.
  The GAO recently found that more than half of all older American 
households have absolutely no retirement savings. So we are looking at 
families where people 55 or 60 have zero saved for retirement because 
for many years they have been working for wages that have been totally 
inadequate, preventing them from putting money into the bank.
  Many seniors obviously have worked their whole lives. They have 
raised kids. But, sadly, many of them do not have the resources they 
need to live a secure retirement.
  As I mentioned a moment ago, we have seniors in this country who are 
going hungry. The GAO report found that fewer than 10 percent of low-
income seniors who needed a home-delivered meal in 2013 received one. 
In other words, what we have created here in Congress over the years 
are good and effective programs, such as the Meals on Wheels program, 
that provide nutritious food to the most vulnerable people in this 
country--seniors who cannot leave their homes; yet, what the GAO report 
discovered is that fewer than 10 percent of low-income seniors who 
needed a home-delivered meal in 2013 received one.
  I have gone to many senior citizen locations around this country, and 
I know that many senior citizens enjoy coming out and getting a 
congregate meal. They go to senior centers, and they are able to 
socialize with their friends. They get a good and nutritious meal at a 
reasonable price. Unfortunately, fewer than 10 percent of low-income 
seniors who need a congregate meal receive one.
  The need, in fact, is growing amongst seniors. GAO found that a 
higher percentage of low-income seniors are food insecure now--24 
percent in 2013--than were in 2008, when the number was 19 percent. So 
the problem is becoming more acute. One in three low-income seniors 
aged 60 to 69 is food insecure; yet, fewer than 5 percent receive a 
meal at home and fewer than 5 percent receive a congregate meal in a 
senior center.
  GAO found that seniors with a disability, minorities, and older 
adults living on less than $10,000 a year were even more likely to be 
hungry. Overwhelmingly, those seniors are not getting the help they 
  The report also found that 16 million older adults from all income 
levels report difficulties with one or more daily activity, such as 
shopping, bathing, or getting dressed. More than two-thirds of these 
seniors do not get the help they need.
  Many of the programs designed to provide support to seniors--in terms 
of Meals on Wheels, in terms of the Congregate Meal Program, and in 
terms of a variety of other programs--are funded by the Older Americans 
Act. The Older Americans Act was first passed by Congress in 1965, 
which is the same year Medicare and Medicaid were passed. This year, 
all three programs are celebrating their 50th anniversary.
  I requested this study to see how seniors have been faring in recent 
years. GAO reported that while the number of older adults in America 
has increased from 56 to 63 million Americans, the Older Americans Act 
funding provided to States has gone down since 2009. In other words, 
the need has gone up, but the funding has gone down. At current funding 
levels, less than two-tenths percent of Federal discretionary spending 
is going to achieve its original purpose.
  Common sense tells us that putting money into prevention and keeping 
seniors healthy in the end run not only prevents human suffering, but 
it also saves us money. If a senior is malnourished, that senior is 
more likely to fall, break a hip, end up in the hospital, at huge 
expense for Medicaid and Medicare. It makes sense to me, it seems, that 
if we fund adequately this important program which keeps seniors 
healthy, independent, and out of hospitals and nursing homes--that is 
what we should be doing. That is why I sent a letter to my colleagues 
on the Senate Appropriations Committee calling for a 12-percent 
increase in funding for the Older Americans Act programs, such as the 
nutrition programs. Thirty-two colleagues joined me on that letter. I 
hope that when we receive the funding level for the Older Americans Act 
this year, we will see an increase on these important programs. We 
should not be giving more tax breaks to those who don't need them. 
Instead, we should be expanding nutrition programs and other services 
for seniors.
  I also encourage my colleagues to support the bill reauthorizing the 
Older Americans Act, S. 192, and I look forward to working with the 
Presiding Officer to reauthorize and expand these critical programs for 
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.