I have been helping seniors enjoy better lives since I was in graduate school, 35 years ago.
My master’s thesis was on “Gerontology and Public Policy.” I noted that there was no national organization yet that was devoted to improving senior health through biomedical research. And after school, I co-founded one: the Alliance for Aging Research. I served as an officer of the Alliance for more than two decades, until I was elected to Congress. During that period, we increased funding on aging research by 600%. Many of the treatments that we see today for osteoporosis, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease and the like come out of this initiative.
In Congress, when the President’s budget proposed a cut in Social Security, I wrote out by hand the “No Cuts Petition,” which drew more than three million signatures. I then presented that petition to the President and the Speaker of the House. The Social Security cuts were then removed from the budget.
Throughout my time in office, I have championed increases in senior benefits.
I authored the Seniors Deserve a Raise Act (2015), which would increase both Social Security and military retirement benefits by 2.9%, and also implement higher cost-of-living adjustments tied to the “Consumer Price Index for the Elderly”.
I authored the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act (2015), which expands Medicare to include coverage of eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dental care.
I also was successful in passing legislation to benefit seniors. For instance, I amended the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill (2016) to restore nearly half the total proposed cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing for the Elderly appropriation.
I also amended the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act (2015) to increase funding for the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program by $2.8 million.
Congress once had a forceful and tireless advocate for seniors, the great Rep. Claude Pepper (D-FL). Seniors need such an advocate again.