What Is Know Your Rights?
Inspired by the landmark June 26, 2013 Supreme Court Windsor decision, striking down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which opened a plethora of federal benefits to same-sex married couples, The National Committee Foundation (NCF) developed a public education outreach campaign designed to educate LGBT elders about their potential eligibility for increased benefits from the Social Security Administration. Through a series of Town Hall meetings, the Know Your Rights Initiative seeks to motivate same-sex couples to file for enhanced benefits if they meet eligibility requirements and reside in a state that recognizes their marriage. Social Security benefits serve as not only a vital economic boost to individual/couples but also serve as a significant economic stimulus to their communities. Under spousal benefits alone, same-sex married couples could receive an additional $600-700 per month if they meet certain eligibility requirements and file a claim with the Social Security Administration.
With funding from the Marin Community Foundation, Sonoma County Human Services Department/ Adult and Aging Services Division, and the Horizons Foundation, the National Committee Foundation launched a successful pilot program in the San Francisco Bay Area in the fall of 2013. Partners for this pilot included Spectrum LGBT Center and Openhouse. The pilot utilized the Town Hall format bringing together local government officials and LGBT and aging experts to inform the public of the potential benefit increases they may now be entitled.
In March, 2014 with funding from The California Wellness Foundation and Archstone Foundation, the National Committee Foundation held three Town Hall meetings in the Los Angeles area. Our partners in Los Angeles included the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, Latino Equality Alliance, API Equality-LA and the Center/Long Beach. Successful Town Halls were held in East LA (Boyle Heights), Hollywood and Long Beach.
In June 2014, on the eve of the first anniversary of the Windsor decision, Know Your Rights held its first East Coast Town Hall in Boston at the Fenway Institute. Representatives of the Social Security Administration were actively engaged with attendees answering questions and helping to establish on-line MySSA accounts for people who needed assistance.
In 2015, the Know Your Rights Initiative returned to California as a unique collaboration between the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation, the Social Security Administration and The California Wellness Foundation, looking to focus on six key sites within the state. Three very successful Town Halls were held in Sacramento, San Jose, and Oakland in April, and Know Your Rights /California will be visiting Orange County (Sept 28th), Riverside/Palm Springs (Sept 29th), and San Diego (Sept 30th).