“Know Your Rights Initiative” Awarded $245,000 Grant from The California Wellness Foundation   

News Release

LGBT elders and their families across California will be provided with extensive education, regarding benefits available to many same-sex couples since the historic Supreme Court Windsor decision, through the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation’s Know Your Rights Initiative funded by a grant from The California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness). Created in 1992 as a private independent foundation, Cal Wellness’ mission is to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.

The grant will support Town Hall meetings with Social Security policy and government experts in various regions throughout California and will feature two webinars over the course of the 15-month grant period. Sacramento, San Jose, Oakland, Palm Springs/Riverside, Orange County and San Diego will be the sites for more than a dozen events, each of which will feature participation by senior executive leadership from the Social Security Administration. In addition, Leadership Outreach Events will be presented in each community several weeks prior to each Town Hall, to educate government and community leaders on the LGBT community’s new benefits and to engage them and their constituents in the future Town Halls. The first Leadership Outreach event is anticipated in Sacramento in early 2015, and the first Town Halls in Northern California are expected in the spring of 2015. Additionally, two webinars will be held to further the reach of the initiative making the information available to seniors who are geographically or physically impaired in attending the Town Halls.

“We are thrilled that The California Wellness Foundation has recognized the important outreach work we are doing and has formed a partnership with us to expand our educational reach in the state with the highest LGBT population in the nation,” said Ellen Morgenstern, Director of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation. “We want people to get the increased monthly Social Security benefits that they maybe entitled to – in some cases as much as $500 a month.”

The Know Your Rights Initiative/California is motivated by:

  • A general lack of public information about federal benefits now available to same-sex married couples and the need to reach people of color and underserved populations;
  • Recent data that suggests that a large proportion of LGBT elders live in socio-economic conditions that are below the level of their heterosexual counterparts;
  • Increased monthly financial resources could improve their health as they age and reduce pressures on social service and government counterparts;
  • The urgency of this education and outreach campaign is driven by the need to encourage individuals who meet basic eligibility requirements to file for benefits as soon as possible.  The filing date serves as a marker to protect individuals from the loss of benefits from that point forward while their claim is adjudicated.

Social Security benefits provide $73 billion each year to California’s economy and cumulatively $863 billion to all fifty states. The average monthly retirement benefit for men is $1,417 and for women $1,103.

Ari Gutiérrez Arámbula, a member of the National Committee Foundation Board and co-founder of the Los Angeles based Latino Equality Alliance remarked, “Now that marriage rights for same-sex couples have been restored in California, it’s appropriate that our community applies to receive the federal benefits it fought so hard to gain. The Know Your Rights Initiative will be important in reaching Californians who will benefit the most especially same-sex couples who have low incomes and live in communities of color”.

The mission of the National Committee Foundation, founded in 2008, is to protect, promote, and ensure the financial security, health, and well being of current and future generations of older Americans through research, analysis, and public education. Previous successful Foundation projects include Living Outside the Safety Net: LGBT Families and Social Security in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign, Patients Aware, educating Medicare beneficiaries about their new benefits through the Affordable Care Act, and the latest research report, “Chained CPI; Shackling America’s Economic Recovery.”  The Foundation is chaired by Dr. Carroll Estes, Professor and Founding Director of the Institute for Health & Aging at the University of California San Francisco.


Media Inquiries to:

Brad Wright 202-216-8352/802-279-5679

[email protected]     @bradwright28