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Volunteer Susan L. Sweet says “You’ve Earned a Say”

Veteran activist and organizer will play a key role in

AARP Rhode Island’s effort to protect Social Security and Medicare



PROVIDENCE – AARP Rhode Island announced today that Susan L. Sweet has volunteered to help coordinate a series of “community conversations” aimed at promoting a dialogue on the future of Social Security and Medicare.

Regional events – free and open to the public -- will be scheduled for this summer into the fall as Congress and the President weigh changes in these critical programs.

“Susan has a remarkable knack for encouraging people to become actively engaged in matters that deserve public attention and involvement,” said AARP State Director Kathleen Connell. “We are fortunate that she has agreed to take this on. She will bring great energy to AARP’s ‘You’ve Earned a Say’ outreach and engagement efforts. The fate of Social Security and Medicare is important to all Rhode Islanders and we hope many will take part in our forums. Working with our staff and other AARP volunteers, Susan will be a tremendous asset. She is a force of nature.”

A veteran of the civil rights movement and the War on Poverty, Sweet joined the state Department of Community Affairs in 1972, where she founded and led numerous R. I. Division of Women’s programs.  She worked with the General Assembly to secure the first R. I. state funding for Domestic Violence Shelters.  While at the Department of Community Affairs, she also wrote a grant, funded by federal dollars, to establish community health centers throughout the state.

In the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Sweet was Associate Director of the R. I. Department of Elderly Affairs, creating and developing a number of award winning programs, including the RI Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Elderly Program, popularly known as RIPAE.  She initiated a statewide Elder Housing Security program and various legislative and programmatic initiatives to assist elders in the state.

Sweet initiated, planned, organized, managed and directed the RI Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Elderly Program (RIPAE), assisting 32,000 Rhode Island limited income elders with state co-payment assistance for prescription medication. After leaving the DEA, three attempts were made by sitting governors to eliminate the program and Susan led all three successful campaigns to restore RIPAE in the state budget.

 Since retiring as Associate Director of the Department of Elderly Affairs in 2000, Sweet has been a consultant and lobbyist for nonprofit agencies and an advocate for vulnerable populations and issues such as immigrants, domestic violence, homeless and elders. Clients have included the Senior Centers Directors Association, the Alliance for Better Long Term Care, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

After years of paying into Medicare and Social Security, AARP believes 50+ Americans deserves a voice in their future. You've Earned a Say is a national conversation committed to providing people with information about the proposals on the table in Washington — without the political jargon and spin.

President Obama and Congress are trying to reach a budget deal that would cut $127 billion from Social Security benefits over the next ten years, hurting many older Americans who are already living on tight budgets stretched by prescriptions, utilities, and health care costs. The fact is Social Security is a self-financed program, not a piggy bank for deficit reduction. 

Millions of Americans have paid into Medicare their entire lives. They expect their elected representatives in Washington to secure Medicare for future generations and keep the promise they've made to seniors -- yet too many politicians say the only way to strengthen Medicare is to cut benefits or make seniors pay more.

There's a better way. AARP is facilitating a dialogue about responsible solutions that keep Medicare strong. Instead of harmful cuts we need to improve care, reduce health care costs, fight fraud and find real savings for taxpayers.

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