ACL Update 11-11-2019


The Honor of Serving Those Who Served

November 11, 2019
Lance Robertson, ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging

Approximately 200,000 Americans will join the U.S. military by the close of 2019. This year’s volunteers will join the ranks of the 24 million Americans who either currently serve in the military or are veterans. When each of them made the decision to join, they knew the sacrifices that lay ahead, the risks they might be asked to take, and the responsibilities one assumes when they put on the uniform. As a small token of appreciation, our nation sets aside the second Monday in November as a day to honor their service and remember that our freedom rests on the shoulders of those who agree to serve.

In 1988, I was one of those fresh recruits, and more than 10 percent of my colleagues here at the Administration for Community Living have served in the military, and some continue to serve as reservists. The Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force all are represented in our hallways, with service spanning from World War II through our current conflicts. I could not be prouder to serve alongside them.  (You can get to know a few of them in this blog post and in our Facebook album.)

Let me share the stories of two veterans, one who is a member of the ACL staff and another who has been served through one of our grantees.

When Omar Valverde was a freshman at the University of Idaho in 1985, he observed a fellow student become transformed from “party animal” to focused adult in a matter of months. His friend had joined the Army Reserve and a few months at boot camp had helped him mature. Inspired, Omar and two other friends soon signed up under the buddy system. The three of them were shipped off to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

Omar laughs now as he recalls his 19th birthday. He was being disciplined for a minor infraction and his sentence was to perform a lot of pushups – so many pushups that a pool of sweat formed under his face. That sweat formed a pool so deep and wide he could see the reflection of his own face. Omar knows that the Army took in an inexperienced student and helped him become a finely tuned instrument.

Today, as an Aging Services Program Specialist in ACL’s Office of Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services, Omar harnesses the strength the Army gave him to protect the rights, financial security, and independence of older adults. Omar works with states to build innovative legal service delivery systems to address priority legal issues for older adults most in need, including veterans. 

Erin Cobb’s story is another demonstration of how the aging and disability networks  supported by ACL help veterans.  

Erin was a college student when she joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 2003. While she was in boot camp, the invasion of Iraq began. Erin returned to college and also went on to complete her combat training. In 2005 her studies were interrupted when she was deployed to Iraq. In 2011, after eight years of service, she was discharged from the military. Two months later, Erin’s life changed dramatically. Erin was the victim of domestic violence that culminated in an attempted murder-suicide on September 24, 2011. She suffered a severe spinal cord injury and left the hospital with what soon become a life-threatening pressure sore.

Things were going from bad to worse as the sore progressed. Erin is convinced she would not have survived if she had not become connected to Bernadette Mauro at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s Military Veterans Program, part of ACL’s National Paralysis Resource Center. Instead, Erin continues to serve her country as both a peer mentor and Veteran Council member at the Military and Veterans Program.

Bernadette is quick to point out that ACL’s funding has allowed the Foundation to expand its support of veterans, including Erin. Bernadette reports that ACL funding has allowed the Foundation to take their deep knowledge of spinal cord injury and match it to their veteran outreach efforts.

The programs ACL administers under the Older Americans Act serve veterans in a variety of ways.  For example, an estimated 129,000 veterans receive home-delivered meals, and another 178,000 participate in programs at community centers and other congregate meal sites. Approximately 26,000 receive transportation services, and 22,000 receive caregiver support services.

ACL is determined to help bridge the gap between available resources and veterans in need. We applaud efforts such as the St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Department of Aging and Human Services Veterans Resource Day, which is being held today. Through their efforts, older veterans are being connected to social and health programs that help them continue to live in, and contribute to, their communities.

On this Veterans Day, as I contemplate the impact of our work, I feel blessed to be part of the ACL mission. The stories I shared are just a small glimpse into the work we do that helps veterans nationwide. To all those who have served, or are serving, in our armed forces, we thank you. On Monday, may you know that a grateful nation appreciates your sacrifices, and that ACL will always work to support you in living independently, in your community.


ACL Update 10-25-19


National Drug Take Back Day is Oct 26

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Oct 26

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs. The study shows that a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.

On Saturday, October 26, police stations, pharmacies and community centers will be hosting prescription drug take back at over 4,000 locations. To find a location near you, visit

Go to your medicine cabinet and check for any unused or expired medications including opioids. Opioids go by many names, including morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, methadone, buprenorphine, and fentanyl in addition to other names such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Opana, Codeine, Fentanyl, Tramadol or morphine such as Kadian and Avinz.

Unused medicine is a threat to the lives of children, older adults, and pets. Accidental drug misuse sends thousands of Americans to the emergency room each year. If you don’t need it, get rid of your “left-over” drugs for your family’s safety. Each Take Back Day, thousands of pounds of prescription drugs are returned, helping to prevent incidents of drug abuse and misuse across the nation.

Learn more by visiting

ACL Update 10-15-19


Residents' Rights Month: Know Your Rights, Stand for Quality

October is Residents' Rights Month, an annual event recognizing the respect, dignity, and rights to which all residents of long-term care facilities are entitled. The federal Nursing Home Reform Law guarantees residents’ rights and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity, choice, and self-determination.  The law also requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident.”

The Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has selected "Stand for Quality" as this year's theme. This theme "emphasizes the importance of quality in all aspects of residents’ experiences – quality care, quality of life, quality services, and quality choices – to name a few."

To celebrate Residents' Rights Month, ACL is releasing a new infographic and handout highlighting the rights of people living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other residential facilities.

Know Your RIghts Graphic

Help us spread the word:

The Consumer Voice has many more resources for Residents' Rights Month including factsheetsa PSA and other promotional materials, and  artwork by residents.

ACL funds Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. These programs work to resolve problems affecting residents’ health, safety, welfare, and rights. Residents, their families, and others have the right to contact their local Ombudsman program to help them understand their rights, learn about community resources, and work through problems. In 2017, Ombudsman programs:

  • Worked to resolve 201,460 complaints initiated by residents, their families, and other concerned individuals.
  • Resolved or partially resolved 73% of all complaints to the satisfaction of the resident or complainant.
  • Visited 68% of all nursing homes and 30% of all board and care, assisted living, and similar homes at least quarterly.

Learn more about the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

ACL Update 10-08-19


Alzheimer's Disease Programs Initiative (ADPI) 2019 Awards Announced

ACL announces the 2019 awards for its state and community ADPI. The 13 newly awarded, 3-year cooperative agreements are with 4 states and 9 community organizations for a total of $10,370,642. The awardees are located in 11 states across the nation.

ACL’s ADPI program is dedicated to developing dementia-capability in states and expanding it in communities. All of the new grantees are required to dedicate 50% of their funds to direct services that include, but are not limited to, delivery of home and community-based dementia specific evidence-based and evidence-informed interventions and dementia education and training programs.

The programs are engaging in a range of activities designed to meet the needs of the communities and individuals they serve. Programs target long-term services and supports to persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) as well as paid and unpaid caregivers. While each program is different, all include activities designed to support special populations, including low-income and minority communities, people with ADRD who live alone, and individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities at risk of developing a dementia.

The successful 2019 ADPI applicants are:

  • Hawaii Department of Health (HI)
  • Summit County Combined General Health District (OH)
  • Maryland Department of Aging (MD)
  • South Carolina Department on Aging (SC)
  • Durham Center for Senior Life (NC)
  • Chinese American Service League (IL)
  • Hospice of the Bluegrass, Inc. (KY)
  • Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging (AL)
  • Visiting Homemaker Service Passaic County (NJ)
  • Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WI)
  • SeniorsPlus (ME)
  • Community Research Resource Information & Services for Seniors (IL)

Learn more about ADPI and other related ACL initiatives

ACL Update 10-01-19


Celebrating the International Day of Older Persons 2019: “The Journey to Age Equality”

By Lance Robertson, ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging

The United Nations designates October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons.  This year’s theme—The Journey to Age Equality—focuses on pathways of coping with existing and preventing future old age inequality. It is aligned with the UN 2030 Agenda, Goal 10 which is designed to ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequality of outcome, including through measures to eliminate discrimination, and to employ and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, economic or other status.

The 2019 theme is intended to explore how to address demographic and other societal changes and to change the narrative of “old age”. In less than two decades, older adults are projected to outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history. Starting in 2030, when all Baby Boomers will be older than 65, older Americans will make up 21 percent of the population, up from 15 percent today.  These demographics have great implications for policies related to healthcare, caregiving, social structures, pensions and social security.

At the Administration for Community Living, we strive to maximize the independence, well-being, and health of older adults and people with disabilities. Today, at the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) 57th Directing Council Side Event, I am moderating a panel, The Response to Aging Societies: Challenges and Opportunities in Fostering Sustainable Health and Long-Term Care System in the Americas, highlighting perspectives from the U.S., Europe, Japan and the PAHO Regional.

In August, I had the privilege to represent the United States at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Third Senior Officials’ Meeting. Specifically, I participated in the 9th High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Health and the Economy in Puerto Varas, Chile. There, I shared our vision to help older adults reach their full health potential, live with dignity, and participate fully in society. I presented on the economic imperative for planning to enhance healthy aging, embracing the digital future in support of healthy aging in place, and supporting the global aging agenda.  These presentations included examples of how progress has been made possible in the United States because of the framework we have based in equity, inclusion and nondiscrimination. 

Also, I heard from, and was inspired by, what I learned from others about their structures and innovations in the fields of health and aging. As a result, I urge us all to use today, the International Day of Older Persons, as an opportunity to honor and celebrate the countless contributions and enormous potential of older people throughout the globe. We should rededicate ourselves and continue to promote the health, well-being, community involvement, and independence of older Americans.  Also, we should all work to promote equality in access and opportunity -- including access to healthcare, caregiving, the ability to work and remain employed, access to lifelong learning, or in the range of social protections that lead to productive living throughout the life course.

Learn more about the UN's International Day of Older Persons and celebrations in New York City, Geneva, and Vienna.

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