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Administration on Aging (AoA)

Civil Rights

Federal civil rights laws and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, together protect citizen’s fundamental rights of nondiscrimination and privacy.

Please select from the topics below to learn more:

Civil Rights Resources

HHS – Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
HHS, through OCR, promotes and ensures that people have equal access to and opportunity to participate in and receive services from all HHS programs without facing unlawful discrimination, and that the privacy of their health information is protected while ensuring access to care.

Nondiscrimination Laws, Regulations, and Standards
View HHS nondiscrimination regulations that apply to programs, services, and activities receiving Federal financial assistance from HHS.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act(HIPAA)Privacy Rule

The HIPAA Privacy Rule creates national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information.

The HHS Office for Civil Rights enforces the HIPAA Privacy Rule. This Website provides useful information for consumers and professionals.

Guidance of the Administrative Simplification Provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
The 2001 memo provided HIPPA guidance to State and Area Agencies on Aging providing services under the Older Americans Act. Select here for memo.

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Guidance on Citizenship/Alien Status as Applicable to Older Americans Act and other Programs Administered by the Aging Network

POLICY: Non-citizens, regardless of their alien status, must not be banned from services authorized by the Older Americans Act and wholly or partially funded with Federal resources based solely on their alien status.


Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), Pub.L.104-193, restricts access to "Federal public benefits", services or benefits wholly or partially funded with Federal resources; services or benefits wholly funded by state or local governments may be state or local public benefits per section 411 of PRWORA. Section 401 of PRWORA provides that aliens who are not "qualified aliens" are not eligible for any "Federal public benefit" unless that benefit falls within a specified exception. Under section 432 providers of a non-exempt "Federal public benefit" must verify that the applicant for the service is a citizen or a qualified alien and is eligible for the service. PRWORA also provides for important exemptions to the verification requirements, including those for the provision of in-kind, community-based services necessary for the protection of life or safety. Also, under section 432(d) of PRWORA (as amended by section 508 of the "Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996"), nonprofit charitable provider organizations are not required to determine, verify, or otherwise require proof of eligibility of any applicant for benefits even if they provide "Federal public benefits".

HHS has issued a detailed interpretation of "Federal public benefit" in the Federal Register of August 4, 1998 and effective on that date. Administration on Aging (AoA) administered OAA programs are not on the list published by HHS as they do not provide "Federal public benefits" as defined in Title IV of PRWORA. Hence, new verification requirements promulgated by the Department of Justice are not applicable. Non-citizens, regardless of their alien status, should not be banned from services authorized by the OAA and administered by the AoA based solely on their alien status. Similarly, services provided to older persons under the Social Services Block Grant are not "Federal public benefits" as interpreted in the HHS Notice and exempt from verification requirements.

Federal Register Notice

Limited English Proficiency (LEP)

Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English may be Limited English Proficient and may be eligible to receive language assistance with respect to the particular service, benefit, or encounter.

Executive Order 13166

Department of Justice Guidance

HHS Policy Guidance on the Prohibition against National Origin Discrimination as it affects Persons with Limited English Proficiency

Limited English Proficiency: A Federal Interagency Website promotes a positive and cooperative understanding of the importance of language access to federally conducted and federally assisted programs.

HHS Office of Civil Rights LEP Resources

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Last Modified: 7/18/2014