AARP South Carolina’s legislative priorities for 2015

AARP.SC represents more than 570,000 members in South Carolina. The volunteers advocate for the 50+ citizens of our state on issues in utility rates to services for vulnerable adults.

Teresa Arnold, state director of AARP S.C., is the featured spokesperson this week. She will address 2015 Legislature Priorities: Respite Funding, Guardian Ad Litem Program and the Electronic Monitoring Bill.

South Carolina State Advocacy Priorities

• Family Caregivers: More than 777,000 caregivers in S.C. provide vital services to their loved ones. If the caregiver is no longer able to provide this service, the loved one may need institutional care. The state could then be holding the tab, as Medicaid pays for the majority of nursing home beds. Supporting caregivers is crucial. In 2014, the Legislature approved $2 million in one-time funding for respite vouchers for family caregivers. AARPSC supports efforts to make these funds stable. Informal caregiving has been shown to help delay or prevent the use of nursing home care.

• Volunteer Guardian Ad Litem For Adults: In 2014 the Legislature passed S. 764, legislation to establish the Volunteer Guardian Ad Litem program for vulnerable adults. The mission of the Adult SCVAGAL program is to advocate for the best interests of neglected and exploited adults in Family Courts by providing guardian ad litem representation. The program now needs state funding. AARPSC requests the Legislature fund this program at an estimated cost of $529,827.

• Long Term Care/Home and Community Based Services: AARPSC is working with stakeholders to support caregivers by improving quality related to these services. Working with the Institute of Medicine and Public Health’s Long Term Care Task Force, AARPSC will play a role in implementing recommendations to improve information and resources to enhance home and community based services. HCBS allow citizens to remain independent and avoid placement in nursing homes. Rebalancing HCBS spending and consumer choice versus institutionalization will result in cost savings to our state.

• Ethics Reform: Currently complaints against state legislators are handled by committees made up of fellow legislators who can dismiss complaints in secret without any input. Good government relies on the ability of elected officials to be responsive to the electorate, not financial donations. AAARPSC will continue its work with coalition partners to promote legislation that expands current income disclosure and campaign contributions requirements for elected officials so that voters know what groups have the potential to impact the outcome of an election.

• Electric Monitoring: Adults who reside in nursing facilities are usually in very poor health; they are often unable to care for themselves from harm. Family members or caretakers sometimes suspect mistreatment when they begin noticing unexplainable bruises or missing personal items. To address these concerns, AARPSC supports the use of video technology for the purpose of surveillance, documentation of care and virtual visitation. This technology should be allowed only when protections are in place to ensure that it does not infringe on roommates’ right of privacy.

• Senior Hunger: South Carolina ranks 4th in the nation for older adult risk of hunger and 17th in the USDA state food insecurity ranking. Over 10 percent of our older adults are at risk for hunger. It’s easy to imagine that Social Security and Medicare provide sufficient protection against a problem as basic as hunger.

Yet the average Social Security benefit is just over $1,200 a month — and a majority of seniors today rely on Social Security as their largest source of income.

In 2015 AARPSC will provide outreach and education to assist seniors who need help. AARPSC will also work with stakeholders to develop recommendations for systems to promote access to food for our state’s hungry seniors.

• Driver Safety: Cars and traffic rules have changed. Some drivers age 50-plus have never looked back since they got their first driver’s license, but even the most experienced drivers can benefit from brushing up on their driving skills. That is why AARP offers safety courses for mature drivers. These programs have been revamped. In an effort to encourage increased participation, AARPSC will pursue legislation to shorten the course requirement from six to four hours. AARPSC supports effort to make it easier to participate in driver training courses.

• Roads and Highways: Nearly one-third of South Carolina’s primary and interstate highways and half of our secondary roads are in poor condition. This creates unsafe conditions for seniors and all of our state’s citizens. Nationally, 19 percent of all public roads are state-owned. Local governments own the other 81 percent of the roads in America. SC state highway funding per mile is the lowest in the nation, and fees paid to the state by each citizen are among the lowest in the nation. AARPSC will join with the SC Alliance to fix Carolina Roads to promote funding to address this critical need.

To learn more about what AAARP is doing to advocate for South Carolina members, send an email to