DearColleague.us

Letter

From: The Honorable Mark Takano
Sent By: amanda.eaton@mail.house.gov
Bill: H.R. 5182
Date: 7/31/2014

Cosponsors (14): Becerra, Cicilline, Esty, Higgins, Himes, Honda, Kind, Lee, Levin, Lowenthal, McDermott, McGovern, Polis, Schiff

Endorsed By: AFL-CIO, HRC, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, National Senior Citizens Law Center, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), Social Security Works

Dear Colleague:

Last month marked the one year anniversary of the Windsor decision, which overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. We’ve come a long way since that historic day; however, the Department of Justice’s interpretation of existing law still means that some same-sex couples who live in discriminatory states could be denied Social Security or Medicare benefits through no fault of their own. Please join me in supporting H.R. 5182, the Social Security and Medicare Parity Act of 2014, to guarantee that all married couples get the Social Security and Medicare spouse and survivor benefits they have earned.

After a year-long review process, the DOJ announced that certain provisions of the Social Security Act prohibit the federal government from paying validly married individuals their earned Social Security and Medicare benefits if the state in which the individual is living at the time of application does not recognize that marriage. My bill would remove the final barriers to earned Social Security and Medicare family benefits for all married Americans by repealing these discriminatory provisions, and instead allow the SSA to recognize any marriage that was valid at the time the benefits were awarded.

The Social Security Act also requires couples to be married for nine months before they can qualify for Social Security survivor benefits, or twelve months for a retired spouse to receive benefits. This can mean that couples who have been in a committed relationship for years, but have been prevented from getting married due to discriminatory laws, are denied benefits if they fail to meet the time requirement. My bill would allow couples whose marriage was delayed due to discriminatory marriage-recognition laws to meet the duration-of-marriage requirement by using a combination of marriage time and time in a domestic partnership prior to the change in law to qualify for benefits.

Finally, the federal government needs to do more to guarantee that same-sex couples know about and understand the new rights and benefits that are available to them. The Social Security and Medicare Parity Act of 2014, would require the Social Security Administration to notify Americans of the new policies and conduct a comprehensive outreach campaign to encourage same-sex couples to apply for the benefits they are owed.

For more information or to become an original cosponsor, please contact Amanda Eaton at amanda.eaton@mail.house.gov or 202-225-2305.

Sincerely,

Mark Takano

Member of Congress

Co-Chair, LGBT Equality Caucus