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Posted by on Sep 17, 2015 in LGBT, Senior Health |

Know Your Rights Initiative/California to Hold Local Town Hall Meetings on Sept. 30 to Educate LGBT Community About Social Security Benefits Now Available


Two Town Hall meetings will be held in San Diego for LGBT seniors and LGBT military veterans; Workshop for LGBT military veterans is first-of-its-kind in the U.S.; Acting SSA Commissioner, Carolyn W. Colvin scheduled to deliver remarks at both events

On the 80th anniversary of the Social Security Act, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare Foundation (NCF) announces two important Town Hall Meetings in San Diego to discuss Social Security benefits available to LGBT military veterans and LGBT seniors. Know Your Rights Initiative/California will hold these two Town Hall meetings on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. at the Ohr Shalom Synagogue at 2512 Third Avenue, San Diego, Calif. 92103. While the events are tailored to people ages 55 years and older, all are welcome to attend. To register for the events, please visit or call Sabrina Johnson at the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation at 619-291-3383.

Inspired by the Windsor ruling on June 26, 2013, the Know Your RightsInitiative/California aims to educate LGBT elders and military veterans about their potential enhanced benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). These Town Hall meetings are even more relevant since the June 2015 decision in Obergefell, which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

In support of the Know Your Rights Initiative/California, Acting SSA Commissioner, Carolyn W. Colvin, will offer remarks at both San Diego Town Hall meetings. Her appearance caps a very successful Town Hall series that kicked off in Northern California in April 2015 and concludes with four Town Halls in Southern California (Santa Ana, Palm Springs and San Diego) in September. Prior to the 2015 Know Your Rights Town Halls, there were six other Town Hall meetings in various parts of the state for a total of 13 Town Halls since 2013. The California Wellness Foundation generously sponsors the 2015 Know Your Rights Initiative/California program.

First of its kind in the nation, the morning Town Hall dedicated to LGBT military veterans aims to not only educate attendees about Social Security benefits, but also strengthen the relationship between older LGBT military veterans and government agencies in light of the now invalidated “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy established in February 1994. The event will bring together two high level leaders from both the Veterans Affairs (VA) as well as SSA to educate LGBT military veterans about their rights with Social Security. San Diego is a logical location for this type of effort because of the region’s large population of military veterans.

The second Town Hall meeting begins at 6 p.m., and will specifically focus on Social Security benefits for same-sex married couples and those considering a same-sex marriage. Both Town Hall meetings are designed to educate attendees and motivate those eligible to file for potentially enhanced Social Security benefits.

Each Town Hall meeting will begin with welcome remarks from Colvin. Then there will be a moderated panel featuring U.S. government officials and local San Diego area leaders. The following is a list of confirmed panelists for the morning and evening meetings (as of August 13, 2015):

  • Grace M. Kim, Regional Commissioner, Social Security Administration – San Francisco Region (morning and evening panel)
  • Steve Breen, Deputy Regional Commissioner, Social Security Administration – SanFrancisco Region (morning and evening panel)
  • Web Phillips, Senior Policy Analyst, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (morning and evening panel)
  • Patrick C. Prieb, Director, US Department of Veterans Affairs – San Diego Regional Office (morning panel)
  • Wil Quintong, Military & Veterans Affairs Officer, Office of Military & Veterans Affairs – Health & Human Services Agency (morning panel)
  • Joaquin Anguera, Professor of Gerontology, School of Social Work – San Diego State University (morning and evening panel)
  • John L. Brown, Executive Director, San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (evening panel)
  • Ellen Schmedling, M.S., MFT, Director, Aging & Independence – Health & Human Services (evening panel)
  • Timothy Caudill, LGBT Veteran and Armed Forces Advocate (morning panel)


  • Kristen Cusato, Anchor / Reporter, KUSI-TV
  • Mark Sauer, Host, The Roundtable, KPBS

Following the Windsor decision in June 2013 and the Obergefell decision in June 2015, many federal benefits became available to same-sex married couples, those most financially rewarding being Social Security. With an estimated 780,000 same-sex married couples in the U.S., the need to better understand these benefits and how to access them has increased significantly. For example, individuals who are or were members of same-sex married couples may now be entitled to spousal or survivor benefits. In 2014, the average increase in spousal benefits for same-sex couples in California was between $600 to $700 a month. Benefits as a spouse or survivor might be higher than benefits to which an individual would otherwise be entitled.

Social Security benefits serve not only as a vital economic boost to individuals and couples, but also provide significant economic stimulus to their communities. It is important for all individuals who believe they may be deserving of additional benefits to file immediately.

Every filing situation is different and many of the benefits depend on the work history of the spouses. Experts from local Social Security offices will be on-site at the event to help Town Hall attendees register on the Social Security website ( to create their accounts, which will allow them to keep up to date on their earned benefits. They will also be available after the event to answer personal questions from attendees.

For more information, visit and connect with NCF on Facebook for updates on the Town Hall meetings. To register for the San Diego area Town Hall meetings, please connect with Sabrina Johnson with San Diego Human Dignity Foundation at 619-291-3383 or visit to register online. Follow the discussion on social media at #KnowYourRightsSD