Disability and Aging: Historical and Contemporary Views

  • Peter Blanck


The seeds of modern disability and aging policy may be traced to the legacy of the American Civil War and its expansive disability pension scheme. Though not a rehabilitation, aging, or welfare scheme per se, the Civil War pension laws set out America’s first large-scale policy of compensation for select men and “worthy disabled,” and led to a medical model of disability and America’s first comprehensive federal retirement program. The post-Civil War shift toward the classification of disability laid the groundwork for subsequent federal policies. This chapter overviews the pension scheme, discusses our related investigation of veterans with disabilities as they aged, and examines the implications of this study for attitudes and policy toward persons with disabilities, with emphasis on the disabled as they age in workplaces, as today’s veterans, and as global citizens.


Disability Pension Pension System Turnover Intention Mental Disability Pension Scheme 
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Author’s Note: University Professor and Chairman Burton Blatt Institute (BBI), Syracuse University; Ph.D. Psychology, Harvard University; J.D., Stanford Law School. The program of research described herein is supported in part by grants from: (a) The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), US Department of Education, for (i) “The Asset Accumulation and Economic Self-Sufficiency Project,” Grant No. H133A090014; (ii) “Demand Side Employment Placement Models,” Grant No. H133A060033; (iii) “Southeast Disability & Business Technical Assistance Center,” Grant No. H133A060094; and (iv) “Center on Effective Delivery of Rehabilitation Technology by Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies,” Grant No. H133A090004; (b) The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) for “Technical Assistance and Continuing Education (TACE) Center Region IV (Southeast TACE),” Grant No. H264A080021, (c) the US Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), for the “Disability Case Study Research Consortium on Employer Organizational Practices in Employing People with Disabilities,” Grant/Contract #E-9-4-6-0107, (d) the US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for “New York’s Comprehensive Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (MIG),” Grant #1QACMS030318. I gratefully acknowledge the support of NIH/NIA grant number P01 AG10120, “Early Indicators of Later Work Levels, Disease and Death” – Robert Fogel, principal investigator. Colleagues at the Nebraska Symposium on Disability and Aging, particularly Rich Wiener, as well as Larry Logue, William Myhill, and research assistants at BBI provided most helpful comments. This article summarizes research with many colleagues, with relevant articles at Portions are drawn from Blanck (2008).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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