One of the most intriguing standing committees in Congress is the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. While it began as only a temporary committee, it has been a permanent fixture in the U.S. Senate since 1977.
The Committee has played a vital part in protecting the rights of older Americans, and its role will only become more important as we move forward. There are currently more than 46 million adults who are 65 or older in the United States. By 2030, nearly 20 percent of the US population is expected to be in that age range, and by 2050, a projected 90 million Americans will be that old.
In this article, attorney Sam Dewey discusses the history of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
The History of the Committee
In 1961, the Senate Special Committee on Aging was created as a temporary committee. Members of the Committee were initially tasked with studying healthcare insurance policies for older Americans. Four years later, Medicare was created as a way to provide health coverage for Americans who are 65 years old or older.
Today, its primary areas of focus are oversight of Medicare as well as the Older Americans Act and the Social Security program.
The Roles of the Committee
As a special committee, the Senate Special Committee on Aging has no legislative jurisdiction. Instead, it is tasked with studying issues related to elder Americans and making recommendations to the full Senate.
The Committee’s work has been influential in the past, covering issues such as elder health insurance coverage, age discrimination protections, prescription drug pricing, and conditions in various nursing homes. On an almost annual basis, the Senate Special Committee on Aging examines the Medicare program to ensure it is running properly and serving the elderly population in the US appropriately.
It also reviews employment opportunities and pension coverage for the elderly, conducts oversight of Social Security, and has uncovered fraud targeting federal programs on which older Americans rely.
Over the years, the Committee has played an integral role in reauthorizing the Older Americans Act, which was done in both 2016 and 2020. The latest reauthorization included new provisions that support older Americans and programs they rely on every day.
While the Committee’s work is always focused on a single age demographic in the United States, the characteristics and needs of that group are always changing. That is why the work of the Senate Special Committee on Aging is forging forward with investigations into challenges, fraud, and abuse elderly Americans may face. Few people know more about this subject than Samuel Dewey, who served as a Chief Investigation & Counsel to the Committee for several years.
Because the Committee lacks legislative jurisdiction and exists only to study and inquire it can be utilized by its Chair and Ranking Member as one of the more powerful investigative Committees in the Senate. To this end, it is one of the few standing Senate Committees with Staff Deposition authority. The Committee’s multi-year investigations into prescription drug pricing and nursing homes are often cited.
About Sam Dewey
Sam Dewey is a successful lawyer and former Senior Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee and Chief Investigator and Counsel to the US Senate Special Committee on Aging. Mr. Dewey specializes in: (1) white-collar investigations, compliance, and litigation; (2) regulatory compliance and litigation; and (3) complex public policy matters. Within these fields, Mr. Dewey is considered an expert in Congressional investigations and attendant matters. Mr. Dewey has a BA in Political Science, a JD from Harvard, and is admitted to practice law in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.