Monthly Archives: June 2013

LGBT Nursing Home Rights

nursing homeMere days after the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a Memorandum entitled, “Reminder: Access and Visitation Rights in Long Term Care (LTC) Facilities.”

The memo addresses resident rights to access and visitation, noting that LTC facilities must “ensure that all individuals seeking to visit a resident be given full and equal visitation privileges, consistent with the resident preference and within reasonable restrictions that safeguard residents.”

The memo goes on to explain that “Residents must be notified of their rights to have visitors on a 24-hour basis, who could include, but are not limited to, spouses (including same-sex spouses), domestic partners (including same-sex domestic partners), other family members, or friends.”  “[R]easonable restrictions…such as denying access to those engaged in disruptive behavior” are permitted.

The memo is available at http://www.washingtonblade.com/content/files/2013/06/SC13-42-Access-and-Visitation-Rights.pdf

Now What? Married LGBT Elders After DOMA

Edith WindsorToday the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), meaning that federal benefits must be made available to legally married same-sex couples.

Seems simple and straight-forward, right?  Unfortunately, it’s not.  Take two of the programs most important to LGBT elders — Social Security and Medicare.  Both of these programs base their marriage eligibility criteria on the law of the state where the person lives at the time of filing for benefits.  This means that if Jane and Kathy married in Vermont (where their marriage was legal) but they actually reside in Tennessee (where their marriage is not recognized), the federal government still won’t recognize their marriage for Social Security and Medicare purposes.

It will take some time to sort out all the implications of today’s rulings, and even more time to correct some of the injustices that will remain.  In the meantime, a coalition of LGBT groups has put out a very useful series of fact sheets that individuals and advocates should review before they seek out personal legal assistance from a qualified attorney.

Social Security Spousal and Family Protections: http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/release_materials/Post-DOMA_FSS_Social-Security_v2.pdf

Medicare Spousal Protections:  http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/release_materials/Post-DOMA_Medicare_v2.pdf

Other post-DOMA fact sheets:  http://thetaskforceblog.org/2013/06/26/heres-almost-everything-you-need-to-know-now-that-doma-is-dead/

Social Security Gender Change Changes

social security cardThe Social Security Administration (SSA) recently issued new guidelines that make it far easier for transpeople to change their gender marker.

Previously, changing the gender marker on your Social Security account generally required proof of having undergone sex reassignment surgery; no more!  Now people can update their gender marker using any of four documents:

  • A U.S. passport showing the correct gender;
  • A birth certificate showing the correct gender;
  • A court order recognizing the correct gender; or
  • A signed letter from a physician stating the person “has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to (the new male or female) gender.”

The physician letter does not have to specify what clinical treatment has been done, and what is “appropriate” can remain private between the patient and their doctor.  The physician letter needs to be on the physician’s letterhead, include their medical license or certificate number and the jurisdiction that issued it, and the statement, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the foregoing is true and correct.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality has written a plain-English fact sheet that includes additional details and links for those who are interested.  It’s available at http://www.transequality.org/Resources/SSAResource_June2013.pdf