Tag Archives: Social Security

Trans People, Marriage, and Social Security

social security cardAfter sustained lobbying by the National Center for Transgender Equality and others and after Robina Asti’s public statement (see http://www.grayprideparade.com/2014/01/29/i-was-shocked-i-was-shamed/), the Social Security Administration has finally issued guidance telling staff to automatically assume that most marriages involving transgender people are valid.

Of course, given the mish-mash we currently have with some states refusing to recognize other states’ “same-sex” marriages and some states’ bad decisions concerning the legal gender of transgender people, the guidance is complicated.  The guidance now requires Social Security staff to determine where the marriage was performed and if the sex change took place before or after the marriage.  If the sex change took place before the marriage and the transgender person currently lives in (or died in) American Samoa, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Texas, or the Virgin Islands, a legal opinion about the validity of the marriage is still required.  Otherwise, marriages involving transgender people are to be treated under existing rules for opposite-sex and same-sex marriages, bypassing the current procedure of referring all marriages involving transgender people to legal counsel.

The actual bureaucratic memo is available at https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/public/reference.nsf/links/03252014040307PM  (Trigger warning: in discussing sample cases, the memo uses typical bureaucratizee about applicants “alleging” personal facts.)

“I Was Shocked, I Was Shamed”

Robina Asti 92 yo transwomanThat’s how Robina Asti, 92, described her response when the Social Security Administration denied her benefits as the widow of Norwood Patton.

Although Robina transitioned genders decades before her marriage to Patton in 2004, the Social Security Administration ruled her marriage wasn’t valid when it was entered into because “she was not legally a woman,” and so denied her request.

While the case itself is important enough to write about, what is really remarkable is the 7-1/2 minute video Lambda Legal made of Robina.  This lovely portrait beautifully highlights her love of flying as well as her occupational and romantic history.  She says, “I have lived a very private life, but the SSA is forcing me to speak out.  I don’t want other people to have to experience this.”

Lambda Legal is representing her in her struggle with the Social Security Administration, an effort that will benefit many, many marriages involving trans people and their partners when it is — as it inevitably must be — won.  In the meantime, however, Robina and Lambda Legal deserve many thanks for a really remarkable oral history.  Make sure you check it out:  http://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20140129_robina-asti-92-year-old-transgender-widow

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

2012 Genny Awards Announced

Stu Maddux, the producer of the acclaimed LGBT aging documentary, Gen Silent, has issued his 2012 Genny Awards to recognize the year’s most important changes towards a greater quality of life for LGBT older people.

From his website (http://stumaddux.com/gen_silent_Gennys_Ballot.html?utm_source=CONTACT+FORMS+AS+OF+120412&utm_campaign=b1d0c2bfa3-Gennys_Announcement_12_26_2012&utm_medium=email) Continue reading

DC Rally on Behalf of Social Security Equity

If you can be in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 11:00 a.m., you can witness a stellar cast of LGBT advocates in the flesh at a rally being held to mark the introduction into Congress of The Social Security Equality Act of 2012, a bill to ensure that any couple that has any type of registered permanent partnership has access to survivor benefits under Social Security.

The new bill is being introduced by Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA), and she has lined up quite a list of leaders to celebrate the new bill, including:

  • Actor and LGBT activist George Takei
  • LA Gay and Lesbian Center CEO Lorri L. Jean
  • NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey
  • SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams
  • AIDS Community Action Foundation President Craig R. Miller
  • Rock for Equality Spokeswoman Alice Herman

The press conference and rally will be held in what’s called the House Triangle, which is located on the House side of the Capitol’s east front.  You can access a map with the spot marked by going to http://www.thedccenter.org/blog/2012/04/athe-social-security-equality-act-of-2012.html and clicking on their link to a map.

Trans Rights Advances in 2011

Transgender people have never seen a year like 2011 – nearly every month brought news of a major advance. 

It began with a clarification that any physician can certify that a passport applicant has had appropriate treatment for a gender transition, all that is now needed for a transgender person to obtain a passport in their correct name and gender.   Since passports are one of the few “gatekeeper” documents that can be used to change other forms of identification like driver’s licenses, this change has huge implications for lowering the rate at which trans people are involuntarily outed and thereby exposed to prejudice.

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