Public Policy

Debra Whitman is an authority on aging issues with extensive experience in policymaking, research and the political process. As AARP's executive vice president for Policy, Strategy and International Affairs, she leads policy development in retirement security, health care, consumer protections and other issues.

The Fierce Urgency of Now: How $880 Billion in Cuts to Medicaid Could Hurt Us All

If you have protection against future catastrophic out-of-pocket costs for basic life functions, consider yourself lucky. The vast majority of people in the United States don’t. Yet the reality is that there’s a 52 percent chance that someone turning 65 today might develop a severe disability requiring long-term services and supports (LTSS)—that is, help with such functions as eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting. For more extensive care, the cost can surpass $250,000 for those over the age of 65—a figure …

Get a Power of Attorney (But Make Sure It’s Not a License to Steal)

Many of us understand that saving for retirement and for the long term is one of the most important actions you can take to ensure a secure future. So is protecting that savings. One in five older adults fall victim to some form of financial exploitation. Sometimes the loss is minor, but sometimes it can be disastrous. In a single case, the average victim loses $120,000, which is roughly the average amount of a 50-year-old’s entire retirement savings. AARP understands …

New Data, Real People: What a $100,000 Check Says About America’s Social Security Situation

Social Security surfaces in the news regularly — in all kinds of ways. As summer 2016 wound down, news broke concerning an 80-year-old homeless woman named Wanda Witter who, after two decades of battle and with the support of AARP’s Legal Counsel for the Elderly, proved that the government owed her $100,000 in Social Security funds. A $100,000 check for an 80-year-old woman living on the streets — that makes for a good media story, doesn’t it? More importantly, the …

Make Your Voice Heard on AARP Policy Positions

Every day, thousands of AARP staff and volunteers bring AARP public policies to life when they fight on behalf of older Americans and their families in all state capitals and Washington, D.C. Yet those vital efforts would not be possible without input from people just like you. AARP policies are set by our all-volunteer Board of Directors, but only after an annual process that begins with listening to the insights and experience of individuals who are 50-plus. As a first …

Gaining New Ground: Solutions for Financing Long-Term Services & Supports

There is little dispute that the cost of long-term services and supports (LTSS) is daunting. The typical cost for care in a nursing home is about $91,250 a year, and the average annual base price for assisted living is $43,200. Few people can accumulate sufficient savings, even over a lifetime, to cover the costs. Most people rely on their families and friends for the bulk of their LTSS needs. Yet, family caregivers cannot do it all, and in the future, …

Taking a Closer Look at Aging American Indians and Alaska Natives

I grew up next to the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state and I remember how native elders were revered throughout the community.  At the annual powwow the elders shared their history through song and dance, and all generations sat together, joining in the chanting and drumming. Those memories rushed back this week, as AARP’s Public Policy Institute released its most recent report, “Lifelong Disparities among Older American Indians and Alaska Natives.” AARP, along with researchers from Western Carolina University …