Statement on Signing the Older Americans Act Amendments of 1987
I am pleased to sign H.R. 1451, the Older Americans Act Amendments of 1987. The bill authorizes a number of worthwhile Federal programs that help provide community-based services important to the Nation's rapidly growing older population and promote economic development in Native American communities.
I believe, however, that certain provisions of H.R. 1451 must be carefully construed and administered to avoid raising substantial constitutional questions under the equal protection clause. The bill amends the Older Americans Act of 1965 to require providers to attempt to provide services to low-income minority individuals in at least the same proportion as the population of low-income minority individuals bears to the population of older individuals of the area served by such provider. While I share the Congress' concern that older Americans programs reach all eligible populations, I expect that the attempt to provide services to low-income minority individuals will be made in a manner that is not racially preferential. It is appropriate, for example, to conduct outreach efforts to identify and inform those who qualify for services, including members of the minority communities.
The bill also amends the Native American Programs Act by requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to disclose to the Congress, on request, the recommendations of review panels concerning applications for financial assistance and the Secretary's reasons for following or deviating from such recommendations. This provision is considerably less problematic than provisions, as were included in predecessor legislation, that require routine reporting of individual decisions and the grounds therefor. Even so, it is important to note that I understand this provision does not detract from the President's constitutional authority not to disclose information to the Congress where necessary to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the deliberative process within the executive branch.
Note: H.R. 1451, approved November 29, was assigned Public Law No. 100 - 175.