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Grijalva to Congress: Update SSI

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Grijalva to Congress: Update SSI by Linda Valdez

The Arizona Republic | azcentral.com (5/19/2015)

Arizona’s Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva must be immune to brick walls. He’s trying to get a GOP-controlled House to show a little compassion for people.

People, not corporations!

Grijalva’s got the country’s most notable progressive – Sen. Bernie Sanders – on board.

Cue John Lennon – this is a moment to imagine what might still be possible.

A time to imagine a nation that acts on a commitment to the poor and vulnerable.

It may not be fashionable with the party controlling Congress. But it is long overdue.

So Grijalva is back with the Supplemental Security Restoration Act of 2015. (He tried this in 2013, too.) In addition to Sanders, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are on board.

It’s an effort to update Supplemental Security Income, SSI, which was created in 1972 as a way to help the elderly and/or people with disabilities. It’s based on need, not work history.

We’re not talking about welfare queens. The full monthly benefit of is $733, according to the advocacy group Justice in Aging.

Grijalva calls the current program “painfully inadequate for the elderly and disabled Americans who rely on it.” It has benefits that are “frozen in time” and layered with restrictive requirements that mean “many recipients are now subjected to the very life of poverty it was intended to prevent,” according to a press release from his office.

These are not major changes. They are basic updates.

According to Justice in Aging the bill would mean:

1) Individuals will be able to save up to $10,000 and couples will be able to save up to $15,000 for emergencies such as car repairs, new roofs, and other unexpected expenses without losing benefits.

2) Individuals will be able to receive up to $112 monthly from other sources, such as Social Security benefits or pension payments without a corresponding loss in benefits.

3) Individuals who are able to work will be able to earn up to $364 a month without being penalized.

4) Individuals who live in households with others, including family members, will no longer be penalized with lower benefits through the in-kind support and maintenance provision.

5) Individuals who transfer assets (even small amounts of money to a family member) will no longer suffer harsh penalties.

Modest, humble changes.

If the GOP cares about human dignity and vulnerable populations, this bill would be a no brainer.

But Grijalva is dealing with a brick wall. Public support could become his crash helmet. That means you.

Read full article.

Writer and Communications Associate: Emma joined Justice in Aging in December 2014 as a writer and communications associate based in the Oakland, CA office. Emma serves as blog editor for the new Justice in Aging blog and assists with all written content for the organization. She also supports the communication team’s overall engagement and social media strategy.

Social security administration faces class action lawsuit over treatment of same-sex couples

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Social security administration faces class action lawsuit over treatment of same-sex couples by Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed News (3/10/15).

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and Justice in Aging filed suit against the Social Security Administration Tuesday on behalf of same-sex spouses being told to repay SSA’s overpayments.

Two legal nonprofit groups filed a class action lawsuit against the Social Security Administration Tuesday for its treatment of married same-sex couples after the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prevented the federal government from recognizing their marriages.

For almost a year after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional in June 2013, the SSA continued to treat Hugh Held and Orion Masters as unmarried.

Despite Held asking the local Social Security branch office in Los Angeles whether the court’s ruling, in light of his 2008 marriage to Masters, would mean a change to his Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, he continued to receive his benefits of $877.40 a month.

Then, in June 2014, Held’s benefit was reduced to $308.10 a month on account of his marriage to Masters.

Held and Masters were fine with that change, but they are not OK with the $6,205 bill that the Social Security Administration (SSA) also sent Held, the amount, SSA asserts, that Held was overpaid in benefits since the Supreme Court ruling inUnited States v. Windsor.

On Tuesday, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and Justice in Aging filed a class action lawsuit against the Social Security Administration on behalf of Held and Kelley Richardson-Wright, another married person with a same-sex spouse being told to repay SSA’s overpayments, and all other people similarly affected. The lawsuit asks for the Social Security Administration to be barred from asking people to repay benefits.

“Unfortunately for married same-sex couples in marriage recognition states, SSA was completely unprepared to implement policies required of it by law after DOMA was struck down,” Gerald McIntyre, directing attorney for Justice in Aging, said in a statement. “The victims of that discrimination should not be the ones to pay for the agency’s mistake.”

Read the full article.

Writer and Communications Associate: Emma joined Justice in Aging in December 2014 as a writer and communications associate based in the Oakland, CA office. Emma serves as blog editor for the new Justice in Aging blog and assists with all written content for the organization. She also supports the communication team’s overall engagement and social media strategy.

Same-sex couples sue social security over benefits snafu

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Same-sex couples sue social security over benefits snafu by Trudy Ring, The Advocate (3/10/15).

The SSA overpaid some benefit recipients because it didn’t recognize their marriages, and now it wants the money back — but recipients say they shouldn’t pay for the agency’s mistake.

The Social Security Administration overpaid some supplemental security income recipients because it didn’t recognize their same-sex marriages when it legally should have — and now it wants the money back, but recipients say they shouldn’t be held responsible for the agency’s error.

Civil rights groups and private attorneys today filed a class action lawsuit against the SSA on behalf of SSI recipients who married someone of the same sex in or before June 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which kept the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. But the Social Security Administration “has only recently begun to treat married couples of the same sex as married for purposes of calculating their SSI benefits and eligibility,” says the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Read the full article.

Writer and Communications Associate: Emma joined Justice in Aging in December 2014 as a writer and communications associate based in the Oakland, CA office. Emma serves as blog editor for the new Justice in Aging blog and assists with all written content for the organization. She also supports the communication team’s overall engagement and social media strategy.

Lawsuit seeks to recoup social security benefits for gay couples

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Lawsuit seeks to recoup social security benefits for gay couples by Chris Johnson, Washington Blade (3/10/2015).

A new class-action lawsuit has been filed seeks to recoup Social Security benefits given to married same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.
The lawsuit, Held v. Colvin, was filed by the New England-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Justice in Aging and the D.C.-based law firm Foley Hoag LLP against the Social Security Administration on behalf of same-sex couples forced to repay Social Security benefits — or those who will be forced to repay them — on the basis of the court ruling against DOMA.
Benefits for unmarried individuals are higher than for married individuals, but even after the Supreme Court ruled against the federal prohibition on same-sex marriage, the Social Security Administration continued to issue benefits to certain individuals in same-sex marriages as if they were single. When the agency caught on, it demanded repayment.
The case, which alleges the Social Security Administration is acting in violation of the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution, is pending before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
“Unfortunately for married same-sex couples in marriage recognition states, SSA was completely unprepared to implement policies required of it by law after DOMA was struck down,” said Gerald McIntyre, directing attorney for Justice in Aging. “The victims of that discrimination should not be the ones to pay for the agency’s mistake.”

Read the full article.

Writer and Communications Associate: Emma joined Justice in Aging in December 2014 as a writer and communications associate based in the Oakland, CA office. Emma serves as blog editor for the new Justice in Aging blog and assists with all written content for the organization. She also supports the communication team’s overall engagement and social media strategy.

CALIFORNIA HEALTH REPORT

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California Health Report. Adding Insult to Injury: The Tale of the Blue Envelope (1/11/2015) In an article about Cal MediConnect and passive enrollment for dual eligibles, Justice in Aging’s Amber Cutler says of beneficiaries with mental health problems and no authorized representative, “right now they’re being defaulted into the plan because their friends, caregivers or families can’t make a choice for them,”