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AARP Leadership Profile

Debra Whitman

Executive Vice President, Policy, Strategy and International Affairs

Debra Bailey Whitman is AARP’s Executive Vice President, Policy, Strategy and International Affairs. She is an authority on aging issues with extensive experience in national policymaking, domestic and international research, and the political process.

She oversees AARP’s Public Policy Institute, Office of Policy Integration, Office of International Affairs and Office of Academic Affairs. She works closely with the board and National Policy Council on a broad agenda to develop AARP policy priorities and make life better for older Americans. An economist, she is a strategic thinker whose career has been dedicated to solving problems affecting economic and health security, and other issues related to population aging.

As staff director for the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, she worked to increase retirement security, preserve a strong system of Social Security, lower the cost of health care, protect vulnerable seniors, safeguard consumers, make the pharmaceutical industry more transparent and improve our nation’s nursing homes. She has sought bipartisan, fact-based solutions to these and other challenges facing older Americans.

She previously worked for the Congressional Research Service as a specialist in the economics of aging. In this capacity, she provided members of Congress and their staff with research and advice, and authored analytical reports describing the economic impacts of policies affecting older Americans, as well as the distributional and intergenerational effects of legislative proposals. From 2001 to 2003, she served as a Brookings LEGIS Fellow to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, working as a health policy adviser to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Earlier in her career, she conducted research on savings and retirement for the Social Security Administration, helping to establish the Retirement Research Consortium and serving as the founding editor of the Perspectives section of the Social Security Bulletin. She holds a master’s and doctorate in economics from Syracuse University and bachelor’s in economics, mathematics and Italian from Gonzaga University.

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