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Legal Services for the Elderly Program

Authorizing Legislation: Title III-B, Section 321, of the Older Americans Act, as amended

The Purpose of the Program and How it Works

Legal assistance provided under Title III-B is part of the essential core of AoA’s legal assistance and elder rights programs. The legal services network can provide important assistance for older persons in accessing long-term care options and other community-based services. Legal services also protect older persons against direct challenges to their independence, choice, and financial security. These legal services are specifically targeted to “older individuals with economic or social needs.”

There are approximately 1,000 OAA-funded legal services providers nationwide, which provide nearly one million hours of legal assistance each year. Legal assistance provided may involve:

  • Access to public benefits, including SS/SSI/SSDI, Medicaid and Medicare, veterans benefits, and unemployment compensation;

  • Drafting advance directives and designating surrogate decision makers who will effectuate older adults' wishes if they become incapacitated;

  • Issues related to guardianship with a focus on representation for older persons who are the subject of guardianship actions;

  • Access to available housing options, including low income housing programs that allow independence in homes and communities;

  • Foreclosure or eviction proceedings that jeopardize the ability to stay independent in homes and communities;

  • Gaining access to the full benefit of appropriate long-term care private financing options;

  • Maintaining long-term financial solvency and economic security;

  • Ensuring elder rights protections for older persons transferring from long-term care facilities to home and community-based care; and

  • Elder abuse, including consumer fraud and the financial exploitation of older persons.

The legal assistance provided to thousands of older persons each year has a clear and direct positive impact on their ability to stay independent in their homes and communities, with optimized choice and individual autonomy, for as long as possible. The following examples demonstrate the benefits:

  • A 73-year-old woman was contacted by a telemarketer and invited to join a discount buyers club. She told the company she was not interested. However, when her checks began bouncing, she contacted her bank and found that an electronic transfer to the buyers club had been made. Intervention by senior legal services led to a full refund plus additional expenses.

  • A legal provider assisted an older woman in obtaining her social security funds after they had been garnished from an account jointly held with her son. The son had a judgment against him and the creditor took action against the account. The woman was a resident of a nursing facility and the non-payment of her bill might have caused her to be discharged.

  • A widow experienced financial exploitation. A legal provider managed to cancel instruments (e.g., financial power of attorney, house deed) that had been forged by the abuser.

  • An 80-year-old man found himself the proposed ward under a guardianship petition, but did not believe he needed a guardian. A legal provider defended the man against imposition of a guardianship by showing that the standards for granting a guardianship had not been met.

  • An older couple was threatened with eviction. The legal provider’s attorney informed them of what was required under law to evict tenants. The couple was relieved to know that they did not have to move simply because the landlord told them to leave the residence.

Data Highlight: Extensive Services Provided to Seniors

Units of service representing one hour of legal service provided

FY 2006: 968,757
FY 2007: 943,757
FY 2008: 920,397

Funding History

FY 2006 $24,746,629
FY 2007 $25,252,261
FY 2008 $24,800,000


Last modified on 04/30/2017


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