When the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare Foundation (PSSMF) first launched its “Know Your Rights” campaign in San Francisco late last year, they found something fascinating among newly wedded LGBT couples: most had no idea they were now eligible for a plethora of social security (SS) benefits simply because they had been so used to living without them for so long.
Now, PSSMF is hosting a series of town halls throughout L.A. County—including one right here in Long Beach—to equip LGBT couples with the knowledge needed to capitalize upon newly granted SS benefits.
“Four hundred people attended the San Francisco town halls—and many couples just don’t know what they were eligible for,” said Brad Wright of PSSMF. “Many even view the whole thing as a massive, bureaucratic maze and they didn't want to be involved unless they absolutely had to.”
Wright quickly noted a simple example: an LGBT couple has children, when suddenly the breadwinner of the couple passes. Those children are now entitled to thousands of dollars in SS benefits that, prior to the Windsor decision, would have been inaccessible for them. Given there an estimated 250,000 children being raised within an LGBT home, such small examples equate to large effects nationwide: according to the Social Security Administration in 2012, 4.4M children received $2.4B each month based on their parents’ SS record.
The case of the United States v. Windsor was paramount in the legal battle for marriage equality, where the U.S. Supreme court ruled in 2013 that restricting the federal definition of marriage to heterosexuals per the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional.
Prior to this decision—and despite their contributions to society—same-sex couples and their children were denied SS benefits, placing an already vulnerable population at a higher risk of slipping into poverty or increasingly unhealthy lives.
With the Windsor decision, those benefits are now open and accessible—and there are many benefits, from adult child disability benefits to survivor benefits for spouses.
“We are trying to do help people understand two things,” Wright said. “One, the possibiliteis of increased benefits; and two, the process of getting them. In a lot of cases, some of these older, retired folks who have been married for, say, five years… Their situation might need to be changed to amend their social security filing.”
California has served as the pilot area for the project, with PSSMF hoping to take the project nationally. Boston will most likely be next though the timing remains unsure.
PSSMF’s town hall will be held on Wednesday, March 19 at Bixby Park Community Center on 2nd Street between Junipero and Cherry Avenues. The event will begin with a reception at 6PM, followed by the program at 6:30. The event is free and open to the public, however, RSVPs should be sent Porter Gilberg at 562-434-4455, ext. 245.