Archive for the ‘Senior Housing’ Category

The Many Faces of Volunteers of AmericaOne of Volunteers of America’s greatest strengths is our diversity. Our work touches a wide variety of needs, including homelessness, addiction, disability and incarceration. We work in many different types of communities, from inner-city neighborhoods to small towns to suburban areas where poverty at one time may have been unthinkable. We help families and singles alike, children and the frail elderly, people with disabilities and veterans struggling with reintegration to civilian life.

While adapting to the unique needs present in different parts of the country, our work has also expanded to focus on a diverse group of immigrant communities, such as Somali refugees living in Columbus, Ohio, or the Hmong people of Southeast Asia who now live in Minneapolis. For these people, their needs extend beyond matters related to poverty or housing to the more amorphous challenges that come from adapting to a new culture.

These are the many faces of Volunteers of America. This diversity makes it impossible to apply a one-size-fits-all solution to any of the problems we try to tackle. What makes our organization so unique, today and as far back as our founding in the late 19th century, is that we take a decentralized approach to helping those in need. Our people on the front lines design programs that meet the distinct needs of those in their local communities, but might not work other places where Volunteers of America has a presence. And that’s okay … there are sometimes as many diverse and creative ways to solve a problem as there are unique people seeking our help.

Only by taking a flexible approach that addresses local needs, big and small, can we make real progress toward helping America’s most vulnerable live prosperous, more successful lives. For more information about the many faces of Volunteers of America and our diverse variety of programs, please visit http://www.voa.org/services-we-provide.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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Let’s be honest about the “fiscal cliff” and the faulty logic that claims that charitable tax deduction is a benefit for the wealthy that won’t be missed. Political leaders touting this bromide are justifying proposals to redirect these dollars away from important work happening in communities nationwide.

Congress is seriously considering caps or cuts to the charitable deduction. The potential result—millions served by America’s nonprofit sector will be hit with the double whammy of government cutbacks and decline in the support of organizations like Volunteers of America, American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the American Cancer Society.

Quietly and humbly carrying out extraordinary missions every day, it may be easy to overlook the nonprofit sector as a growth industry and vital part of America’s social and economic fabric. Limiting or doing away with the charitable deduction at a time when people are still reeling from the recession and budget cutbacks simply makes no sense. It won’t help the federal government avoid the fiscal cliff. It will simply shift it to the nonprofit sector and communities that depend on it.

Hundreds of leaders serving our communities will travel to our nation’s capital December 4-5 to make sure elected officials understand what is at stake. These leaders of the Charitable Giving Coalition include more than 50 of America’s most active charities, nonprofits and other organizations. We are speaking out to protect a 100-year American philanthropic tradition that encourages giving back and strengthening communities. We’re also urging anyone committed to protecting the charitable deduction and the communities served by charitable giving to make sure their voices are heard.

We aim to pierce the “inside-the-beltway” bubble with a reality check from thousands of communities outside the beltway about what is at stake—crucial programs and services, from food pantries and medical research to youth programs and seed grants to support new businesses and job creation.

Data suggests that for every dollar deducted through this incentive, communities receive $3 of benefit. No other tax provision generates the kind of positive impact. But, if donors have less incentive to give, donations decline. The result is the loss of billions of dollars to support worthy causes, the jobs they provide, and the millions they serve.

According to Giving USA individual contributions to charitable causes in America account for 73 percent of all giving. These donations help achieve breakthroughs and benefits that put our country on a path of continuous improvement. A new public opinion poll commissioned by the United Way found that most Americans (79 percent) believe reducing or eliminating the charitable tax deduction would have a negative impact on charities and the people they serve. Of those who indicate they would reduce charitable giving, the majority (62 percent) indicate they would have to reduce their contributions by a significant amount—by 25 percent or more. Two out of every three Americans (67 percent) are opposed to reducing the charitable tax deduction.

The message is clear. Americans want to protect the charitable deduction.

And, consider this: Nonprofits generate $1.1 trillion every year through human services and provide 13.5 million jobs. They account for 5.4 percent of the GDP and 9 percent of all wages paid. The diverse nonprofit sector supports efforts to, for example, develop technology and medications to improve our health—like insulin, the polio vaccine, the MRI, electron microscope and pacemaker, provide educational opportunities and access to health services and ensure housing and shelter for the most vulnerable. Other nonprofits enhance the arts and cultural activities, conserve wetlands and protect the environment, protect civil and voting rights, and preserve historic treasures.

Now is not the time for Congress to dismantle a tradition that supports America’s nonprofits and the people and causes they serve. No doubt our nation faces a fiscal crisis that must be addressed, but Congress should stop seeing the charitable deduction as an easy mark and acknowledge the fiscal cliff they will create for America’s most vulnerable at a time they can least afford it. Giving strengthens our communities. Urge your members of Congress to preserve the charitable deduction.

Click here to add writing to your member of Congress to preserve charitable giving to your GOOD “to-do” list.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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When I hear the debate about entitlement programs and trimming spending from the federal budget, I think of my late mother. She was a Dallas hairdresser who eventually opened her own beauty shop and worked hard her whole life to support her family. In her later years, when her health started to fail, I became largely responsible for her care. But despite having close relatives who could provide for her day-to-day needs, she still depended on Medicare and Social Security to provide for her healthcare and other expenses.

My mother was lucky. Many older people have no one to care for them and no savings to rely upon. As head of an organization that provides health care and housing to more than 30,000 low-income seniors daily, I take very seriously the reality that for many of these vulnerable Americans, we have become their family… they are certainly ours.

As the family members responsible for their care, we rely on Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security to assist in financing their services. These proud and dedicated Americans are not looking for a handout. Rather, they have been hard working men and women who guided the country through World War II and then built us into the strongest nation and democracy on earth. They helped defend and secure for future generations most of the freedoms we enjoy.

For these reasons, it seems unthinkable that our country could adopt any fiscal policy that would balance the federal budget on the backs of these great — but now elderly and vulnerable — Americans. I, for one, can not face them everyday unless we’ve let it be known that this outcome is unacceptable.

While we know that it’s necessary to control spending, we must take a prudent and even-handed approach. Currently, a disproportionate share of proposed budget cuts focus on vulnerable and low-income people who depend on government-funded services. Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security cannot fall victim to shortsighted efforts to cut the budget.

One proposal would convert Medicaid into a block grant system, pushing the burden of the program from the federal government to the cash-strapped states. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has stated that turning Medicaid into a block grant will greatly reduce the number of people who can be served by the program and will cause some services that are currently mandatory to be reduced or eliminated due to budgetary shortfalls. We and other like-minded organizations are very concerned about the impact this would have and are working to oppose this form of funding.

It has also been proposed that Medicare move away from its traditional form and move to a voucher-based program. However, these open-market programs typically cost more, not less, per beneficiary. Payments to existing voucher-based plans are an average of 13 percent higher than traditional Medicare costs.

Additionally, Social Security has become an integral and necessary component to the American economy. For decades Congress has borrowed against the surplus Social Security had in its coffers. In the 1950s, things were working well — people paid into the programs, funds were drawn down for beneficiaries and there were 16 workers per beneficiary.

Years later, the funds Congress borrowed from Social Security in the past are needed today since there are now only 3.3 workers per beneficiary. Seniors are also more reliant on these funds than in the past, as Social Security provides the majority of income for more than 60 percent of senior households. For the poorest 40 percent of seniors, Social Security makes up more than 80 percent of total income. These funds also go to organizations like Volunteers of America to help provide much-needed care.

There are both moral and fiscal reasons to preserve these services. If the shelter and care needy people receive is taken away or delayed, they will end up sicker and in more distress. The proposed options to delay the immediate and short-term costs for these people will only exacerbate the situation and increase total costs in the long run. This will do more harm to the future fiscal health of the entire country.

A balanced, thoughtful approach must be taken to ensure proper support for the most vulnerable while protecting the long-term fiscal position of the nation. Older Americans, and all vulnerable people, deserve the dignity provided through the care funded by programs like Medicaid and Medicare. We’re all one big family — we can’t turn our backs on them when they need us most.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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During Volunteers of America’s first years in the early 20th century, our founders and their faithful followers adhered to the tenet “to go wherever we are needed and do whatever comes to hand.” More than a century later, this philosophy continues to guide Volunteers of America’s ministry of service.

You may have noticed that the programs and services provided by Volunteers of America in one part of the country can look completely different than those offered in another. Our approach is to assess the more than 400 communities we serve individually, identifying each one’s unique unaddressed needs We understand that a one-size-fits-all solution is not the best way to help those in need. Because all people and all communities are different, that’s the only way to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of those we serve.

The professional staff at Volunteers of America is really a 16,000-member family, and as you know, a family’s greatest strength is in its diversity. We’re experts in the needs of children, low-income families, the elderly, the homeless, veterans, those with disabilities and the incarcerated. We also understand that to fix many problems, we must help multiple groups and address multiple needs at the same time, taking a comprehensive approach that ultimately builds stronger communities.

And while we’re a national organization, we know that our work is most effective when it’s done locally. Examples of this can be found in places like Sioux Falls, S.D., where Volunteers of America recently hosted its national conference. While many of the problems in that community, such as poverty and substance abuse, are the same as in other places where we have a presence, the unique people in this community come with their own unique issues that must be considered. In South Dakota, Volunteers of America is a leader in providing services specifically to the Native American population, and we incorporate our clients’ culture into the services they receive.

Volunteers of America has always been a national organization providing services that meet local needs. In an age when taking a custom approach to anything has become increasingly rare, we strive to make sure our clients receive care that fits their unique individual needs. The people we help deserve more than just a cookie cutter solution to their problems. We make sure that they get the best individualized care possible. At Volunteers of America, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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On May 10, 2011, we convened our third-annual roundtable of experts at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to discuss the urgent issues facing older Americans today. This year’s discussion — Women and Aging 2011: Policy Implications for an Aging Population — focused specifically on the significance of aging women in the home, workplace and broader community, with an in-depth discussion on the public policy and other solutions needed to head off an impending crisis of the nation’s elderly.

“The good news is that women are living longer,” said panelist Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “The bad news is that they also living poorer and sicker. They earn less, save less and are still the primary caregivers [for older family members].”

Our National President Mike King shared with the audience and fellow panelists his experiences caring for his mother as she grew older, something he considered an honor rather than a burden. He added that it is critical to talk to aging family members about their needs and preferences before it’s too late.

“You can’t start the discussion on family care choices early enough,” King said.

Panelist Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, drew a contrast between her native Greek heritage and American culture.

“There is something in [American] culture that does not respect and revere age,” she said. “We need to redefine what it is to take care of older family members so that task is not perceived as drudgery.”

Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, executive vice president of multicultural markets and engagement for AARP, said she was personally surprised at how unprepared she is for the task of now caring for her own mother. “The biggest barriers are lack of knowledge and preparation,” she said.

Ms. Cortés-Vázquez said that challenges in caregiving for the elderly center on four areas: health issues; legal issues, including the need to make decisions about care well in advance; the need to prepare for aging at home rather than seeking institutional care; and the “myth” that Medicare will provide completely for one’s long-term care. She stressed that we must explore alternatives to Medicare such as long-term care insurance.

The May 10 roundtable, moderated by Medical journalist and best-selling author Dr. Bob Arnot, served as a launch for our new white paper — Boomer Bust 2011: Still Unprepared and Unaware — featuring new research that paints a disturbing picture of the financial realities faced by seniors and their caregivers. According to the white paper, women over age 60 make up a rapidly growing percentage of the people retired or facing retirement and comprise 80 percent of the caregivers for chronically ill or aging relatives.

Ness also emphasized the need to prepare for aging while also stressing that existing public policy “has a long way to go” to help caregivers reach their own old age with adequate preparation.

“Take care of your own health, and learn about financial planning,” she said. “Understand how you want to be cared for and communicate that to your future caregivers.”

We encourage you to remain active in this national debate either through our blog or through your own established blog.  Thanks to bloggers like Rosie Lumetta , Anthony Cirillo, Carol Bradley BursackLynne Spreen and ElderCarelink the conversatons we started at this event will remain at the forefront of public discussion.  You can help keep the momentum going by posting and encouraging those on your blogroll to do the same.  To get more information or to obtain exclusive blogger content contact David Burch

Whether you attended the event in person, watched the livestream, view the event now or follow the twitter conversation about it, please share your impression of the event and the important issues it raised.  With a projected 71.5 million people aged 65 or older by 2030 and long-term costs continuing to rise with many Americans unprepared for – and unaware of the those costs – the time is now to focus on changes necessary to ensure everyone receives the care they need as they grow older.

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