Gerontology Professor Encourages LGBT Community to 'Know Your Rights' on Social Security

Published: July 9, 2014

On June 25, Gerontology @ UMass Boston, The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), LGBT Aging Project, and the Fenway Institute presented a town hall meeting regarding Social Security benefits and the LGBT community. Panelists including Associate Professor of Gerontology Edward Miller addressed important changes to Social Security following the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) one year ago. The purpose of the meeting was to inform people in the LGBT community of their constitutional rights of marriage equality, which includes their eligibility for spousal Social Security benefits.

The discussion began with one of Senator Warren’s staff members speaking on her behalf. He shared her statement regarding her support of the event and Respect for Marriage Act with the audience. Then panelist Linda Dorn shared a brief overview of Social Security and urged attendees to sign up for their personalized online account through the Social Security website, where people can apply for benefits for free and are not penalized for being denied. Since DOMA was struck down, 300 same-sex Social Security claims have been filed in Boston and 72% of them processed.

Panelist Jason Wu explained GLAD’s involvement in the fight for marriage equality, explaining their lawsuit against DOMA and belief that same-sex eligibility for Social Security spousal benefits provides same-sex couples with a safety net, just like their heterosexual counterparts. Professor Miller explained the role of Social Security, including Medicare coverage, in the health and financial safety of older adults, a fundamental right that should not be limited to heterosexual older adults.

As part of a series of town hall meetings around the country, this event held at Fenway Health was informative and action oriented as the speakers repeatedly urged guests to apply for benefits no matter where they live and to spread the word to other LGBT families. Representatives from the Social Security Administration attended the event and were available for consultations.

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