New AARP Board member Jacob Lozada, Ph.D, brings a packed agenda to the post he assumed in May. On his to-do list: rallying support for Divided We Fail, increasing AARP’s diversity, strengthening the organization’s outreach to the U.S. Hispanic community, and boosting membership in his native Puerto Rico.
“I can help [explain] to my Puerto Rican people why they should join AARP,” Lozada says. “The issues in Puerto Rico are basically the issues of the Hispanics in the United States—financial stability and health care.”
The longtime civil servant and retired colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Department brings valuable experience gained in prominent positions such as assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and special advisor to the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. He owns a Fairfax, Virginia, consulting firm specializing in health care management. In an exclusive interview, he gives AARP Segunda Juventud readers his perspective on issues facing U.S. Hispanics and how he hopes to boost AARP’s profile in his native Puerto Rico.
Q. You’ve just been installed on AARP’s Board of Directors. What made you want to serve?
A. AARP is a unique world-class organization. You’re talking about a nonpartisan membership organization with a huge membership and the power to ensure that some of those things that are important to us as citizens are maintained. My motivation was to be able to contribute, perhaps in a small measure, with the experience I have gained as a military officer, as a government executive, and as a private-sector international consultant. I hope [the Hispanic community] can look up and see someone who has worked very hard and is now able to be a [board] member of this great organization.
Q. What will your role on the AARP Board bring to Puerto Rico?
A. Hopefully, I can help bring to my Puerto Rican people the value of AARP. And perhaps the fact that they see a Puerto Rican on the national board will give them the message that we are inclusive—that there is someone who looks and speaks like us and is part of an organization in Washington, D.C., that understands our issues.
Q. What would you say are the biggest social issues facing older Latinos living in the United States?
A. The two biggest issues are the high cost of health-care services and the financial status of Hispanics when they retire. The question that lingers in a large percentage of our community is, “Am I going to have plenty of money saved for retirement?” They [health care and financial security] go hand-in-hand.
Q. And in Puerto Rico?
A. The issues in Puerto Rico are basically the issues of Hispanics in the U.S.: financial stability and health care. [But] it’s interesting to know that for Medicare and Medicaid funding [levels], Puerto Rico is not treated the same as the states. The funding is not at the same level.
The issue of Social Security is very important because in Puerto Rico … a large majority of the population thinks of Social Security as their retirement. When you have someone who’s surviving on a meager pension and Social Security and has to pay $3.50, $4, $5, and $10, or whatever a day for one pill, not taking into consideration physician fees and hospitals, it can be challenging. The issues are the same, if not stronger, in Puerto Rico.