WEST VIRGINIA (WOAY) – Democrats in the West Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate said today that state seniors are suffering from a deteriorating quality of life and it’s getting worse. They cited data from America’s Health Rankings (AHR), the longest-running annual assessment of the nation’s health. AHR looks at a comprehensive set of lifestyle factors to determine health on a state by state basis.
“Unfortunately, AHR lists health for West Virginia’s seniors as 46th overall among the states, down one point since 2018,” said Senator Ron Stollings, MD (D-Boone). “As an adult medicine specialist, practicing in our southern coalfields, I see seniors every day who are struggling with our declining economy, social isolation and poor health; it is tragic we are not taking better care of their needs.”
Democrats released legislation to provide an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) for those who receive a retirement annuity through West Virginia’s retirement systems. Senate Bill 757 creates a formula to provide for an increase of up to 3%. It has been more than 20 years since all retirees have received a COLA.
“Not only will this COLA provide a badly needed supplement for our state retirees, but it also will be an economic stimulus in our communities because it will be spent locally,” said Senator Doug Facemire (D-Braxton). “Because of our drug crisis, many retirees are raising grandchildren and are barely surviving; it is almost criminal we are not helping them more with a COLA and a decent reimbursement for kinship care.”
The AHA report found that in West Virginia in the past three years, food insecurity has increased 60% from 12.1% to 19.4% of adults aged 60+. Also, in the past six years, obesity increased 21% from 27.7% to 33.5% of adults ages 65+, which is often caused by a lack of access to fresh, high quality foods. West Virginia has 122 small communities that are at least 20 miles from the nearest grocery store.
“It is unconscionable that seniors are going hungry in our state,” said Delegate Chad Lovejoy (D-Cabell). “These troubling statistics represent seniors in our local communities, maybe even right next door, who are struggling with hunger and its devastating effect on physical and mental health.”
House and Senate Democrats are working to put the needs of West Virginians first. During the 2020 legislative session ongoing Charleston, they have argued against additional corporate tax cuts and the creation of an intermediate court system. They have offered several pieces of legislation to help children, seniors and families.