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Strengthening the Older Americans Act's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Provisions

This page contains resources and information on strengthening the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program provisions in the Older Americans Act. Click on the topic areas below to find more information.

News and Updates

The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a bill to reauthorize the Older Americans Act!  House-amended S. 192, the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2015, was signed by President Obama.  Reauthorization of the bill is long overdue; authorization expired in 2011.  S.192 Older Americans Act (OAA) bill includes provisions that would make the long-term care ombudsman program more effective and help long-term care consumers.  The bill will reauthorize the current OAA, which expired in 2011.

Click here to read the bill, S.192, OAA Reauthorization Act of 2016.

Click here to compare the House bill with the Ombudsman provisions of the current Older Americans Act. 

Click here to read the letter Consumer Voice submitted in support of the bill.

More information about the bill:
House S. 192 includes provisions clarifying both organizational and individual conflicts of interest within the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program; improving resident access to ombudsmen; better protecting the confidentiality of ombudsman information; ensuring that State Ombudsmen receive ongoing training; and, permitting ombudsmen, when feasible, to continue to serve residents transitioning from a long-term care facility to a home care setting.

What the House bill includes: The main difference between the Senate version and the House bill is that the House bill includes specific authorization levels for funding that in general would increase 6.777 percent over three years and changes to the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) program.

S. 192 will:

  • Clarify both organizational and individual conflicts of interest within the program;
  • Clarify that the State Ombudsman is responsible for the management of the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, including the office’s fiscal management;
  • Improve resident access to ombudsmen;
  • Better protect the confidentiality of ombudsman information;
  • Ensure that State Ombudsmen receive ongoing training;
  • Grant long-term care ombudsman programs the option of continuing to provide assistance and services to individuals transitioning out of facilities and into home settings when feasible; and
  • Requires the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman and any designated local Ombudsman entity to identify, investigate, and resolve complaints of any residents of a long-term care facility, including residents with limited or no decision-making capacity and who have no known legal representative.

What is the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program?

Under the Older Americans Act, every state is required to have a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long-term care system.

Long-term care ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities. Ombudsmen provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. They are trained to resolve problems. Ombudsmen can assist with resident complaints. However, unless given permission to share resident concerns, these matters are kept confidential. 

The ombudsman program is administered by the Administration on Aging (AoA).  The network has 8,700 volunteers certified to handle complaints and more than 1,300 paid staff. Most state ombudsman programs are housed in their State Unit on Aging.  Nationally, in 2008 the ombudsman program investigated over 271,000 complaints made by 182,506 individuals and provided information on long-term care to another 327,000 people.

Visit the AoA website for more information.

What Does the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Do?

  • Resolves complaints made by or for residents of long-term care facilities

  • Educates consumers and long-term care providers about residents' rights and good care practices

  • Promotes community involvement through volunteer opportunities

  • Recommends changes to laws, regulations and policies as appropriate and in accordance with federal law

  • Provides information to the public on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities and services, residents' rights and legislative and policy issues

  • Advocates for residents' rights and quality care in nursing homes, personal care, residential care and other long-term care facilities

  • Promotes the development of citizen organizations, family councils and resident councils

How Will Stronger Ombudsman Provisions Help Long-Term Care Consumers?

Stronger ombudsman program provisions would better protect the frail, vulnerable elders who depend on them. The provisions should be strengthened to: 

  • Give Ombudsmen Greater Freedom to Represent the Interests of Residents: Currently, many ombudsmen are restricted from taking systemic advocacy actions, such as communicating with legislators, policymakers or the media, either at all or without prior approval from the agency in which they are housed. New provisions would make it clearer that ombudsmen have this authority and increase their autonomy.

  • Improve Ombudsman Access to Residents: Ombudsmen face challenges gaining access to residents and finding a place to communicate privately with a resident. New provisions would give ombudsmen unimpeded, private access round-the-clock.

  • Reduce Conflicts of Interest: Ombudsmen may have other job responsibilities or be located in agencies that have responsibilities that can appear to or actually compete with the interests of residents.  As a result, residents and families may feel the ombudsman is not truly working on their behalf.  New provisions would give clarity regarding potential conflicts of interest and guidance for eliminating or remedying conflicts. 

Resources from Consumer Voice and the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center

Other Useful Resourcs & Links