Washington Watch

Tammy Lytle has covered the White House, Congress, politics and breaking news in the nation’s capital for 23 years. She is the former Washington bureau chief of the Orlando Sentinel and her work has appeared in newspapers magazines and websites.

What the $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Means for Older Americans

The $1.1 trillion bipartisan spending bill passed by Congress funds federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year, eases the sharp budget cuts known as the sequester and ends the lingering threat of another government shutdown. It also affects a number of programs especially important to older Americans. Here’s how, according to an AARP analysis: Increases spending by $41 million on nutrition programs for older Americans, including Meals on Wheels. This replaces across-the-board spending cuts, called sequestration, that took hold …

What’s the Nation’s No. 1 Problem?

It’s the government, stupid. Bill Clinton won a presidential campaign with the motto, “It’s the economy, stupid.” But these days the top issue to most Americans is the government, according to a new Gallup poll.   Some 21 percent of Americans polled in the Jan. 5-8 survey said that the most important problem facing the country today is the government itself - including poor leadership, corruption, abuse of power and general dissatisfaction with Congress and politicians in general. The second most important …

Need Help From the IRS? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Have tax questions or problems? You probably shouldn’t expect much in the way of help from the IRS these days, according to the latest report from the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent organization within the agency. Some of the major findings: The IRS no longer helps elderly, disabled and low-income taxpayers prepare their annual returns. Ten years ago it prepared 476,000 such returns. Only 61 percent of calls to the IRS from taxpayers wanting to speak to someone were answered, …

Extended Jobless Benefits Clear Hurdle in Senate

When it comes to unemployment, older Americans face a double whammy. Many face age discrimination. (About a third say that they – or someone they know – were recently discriminated against because of their age.) On top of that, employers also discriminate against job applicants who have been out of work the longest, according to Deborah Chalfie, AARP senior legislative representative for financial security. Of the unemployed, people 55 or older were out of work an average of 51 weeks, …

6 Things to Watch in Congress

Members of Congress are back in Washington with an agenda full of items important to older Americans. Here’s a rundown: Debt ceiling and federal budget. Two deadlines loom here. The federal government will run out of borrowing authority if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling by Feb. 7. Although Capitol Hill lawmakers negotiated a budget deal in December that set overall spending, they must pass a bill with more specifics by Jan. 15. Each time budget deadlines hit, some lawmakers …

Congress Moves to Overhaul How Medicare Pays Doctors

Capitol Hill lawmakers are showing signs that they could finally revamp how Medicare pays doctors. For the short term, the budget deal approved in the House on Dec. 12 delays for three months a cut of 24 percent in physicians’ reimbursements slated to begin Jan. 1. For the long term, after years of last-minute scrambling to stave off the payment cuts, several key Senate and House committees have approved legislation to repeal the formula that Medicare uses to pay physicians, …