HD25 - Review of the Virginia Department for the Aging

Executive Summary:
The Virginia Department for the Aging (VDA) is the State component of a federal, state, and local structure that provides services to the aging under the federal Older Americans Act. VDA distributes funds and provides support to 25 local area agencies on aging (AAAs), which provide services to the elderly. House Joint Resolution No. 209 from the 1998 Session required the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to conduct a study of VDA's mission and the effectiveness of its organization, operation, and performance.

The review found that a greater priority for VDA and aging issues by the executive branch appears needed. Although both the number and proportion of elderly persons in Virginia's population have increased since 1980 and are projected to continue rising, during recent years VDA's staffing has been substantially reduced. Partly as a result, VDA's ability to support its primary clients or customers -- the AAAs -- has been diminished. VDA has had difficulty in meeting its statutory responsibilities, and has done little on-site monitoring of the programs and services provided by AAAs. The agency recently operated for over 11 months without a full-time director. Also, executive branch appointments to a statutorily-created Commonwealth Council on Aging have not been expeditious.

VDA's activities need to be refocused in order to provide statewide leadership on aging issues and assist policy-makers in preparing for further increases in the aging population. During the course of the review, VDA management indicated an intent to make substantial changes at the agency. However, the level of management commitment and willingness to follow through on needed improvements is unclear at this time. The report recommends that the Joint Commission on Health Care request periodic progress reports from VDA on the department's rebuilding and refocusing efforts. In addition, the report contains some specific recommendations for improvements.