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Gay/Lesbian Groups at White House
Social Security Conference

NGLTF, HRC & P-FLAG Help Lay Groundwork for the Elderly

Addressing Ageism & Monetary Crisis Facing the Current System

Compiled by GayToday

retire.gif - 2.78 KWashington, D.C.-- The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), The Human Rights Campaign(HRC), Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG) were among the gay and lesbian organizations invited to participate in a White House Conference this week on Social Security. The December 8-9 conference was held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The conference was convened with the intent of laying the groundwork for comprehensive, bipartisan Social Security reform next year.

Since its creation more than 60 years ago, Social Security has provided benefits for the elderly, children, the poor, and people with disabilities. According to recent reports, after 2032 the Social Security system will only have enough resources to cover 72 cents on the dollar of current benefits.

Approximately 240 policy makers and advocates from around the country attended the meeting, as did President Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Senator Rick Santorum, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, and Representative Clay Shaw.

A NGLTF statement Outing Age, A Working Paper on Policy Issues Facing Old Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People will be released by the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 1999.

Authored by Jane Goldschmidt the report, in part, says that:

"We are in a time in which entitlements guaranteed to Americans to alleviate poverty and provide assistance and health care to the elderly and the disabled are being reconsidered and reformed. Welfare, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are programs that have, with varying degrees of success, provided basic security to America's poorest populations. These programs provide assistance to old people, the disabled, the unemployed, and children. Now, as they undergo major changes, it is vital that the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community be more involved and vocal about the changes being proposed. The quality of our own future and the lives of GLBT elders today depend on our involvement."

The NGLTF leadership also points out that:

"One of the most invisible populations in the GLBT community is old people. Estimates of the GLBT senior population range from one million to more than one and three quarters million. As the GLBT baby boomers age, this population will grow. GLBT people confront very specific problems as they age, stemming from the intersections of ageism, homophobia, racism and classism which also face their younger counterparts and with which all GLBT people struggle throughout life. As GLBT people grow older, we enter a world of services that may not be familiar with openly gay people. We also encounter the ageism of our own communities.

"Movement activists need a working knowledge of the struggles which concern all aging people. These include economic anxiety, poverty, healthcare, finding suitable housing, employment, and HIV/AIDS. We must also appreciate that for old GLBT people, these struggles are compounded by the homophobia that exists in social service organizations that assume their clients to be heterosexual.

"A number of the problems faced by old GLBT people also stem from the fact that we often do not have the same family safety nets as heterosexual people, and the fact that our families are not yet recognized by law. As long as many of the programs which ensure comfort and adequate financial resources and health care in old age are filtered through family structures which privilege heterosexual people, GLBT old people will continue to face unfair obstacles in their aging processes.

"As medical professionals and service organizations become more involved in the personal lives of GLBT people, complex situations arise which may result in the families of GLBT being unable to make important decisions and many of our choices not being honored. Family-related issues, which affect GLBT people throughout life, take on new dimensions as we age."

hrc.gif - 5.50 K Human Rights Campaign officials stated that "The Social Security system is projected to be in deficit early in the next century unless changes are made to the program which will accommodate the influx of retirees from the baby boom generation."

"Maintaining current payroll tax levels and current benefit levels will lead to insolvency, although when that insolvency will occur depends on the growth rate of the economy. The pending crisis has led to various proposals to reform the Social Security system, including changing the program to a fully funded system whereby current beneficiaries are paid from their past savings. Another proposal would change the system from a defined benefits program to a defined contribution program, much like a 401(k) plan."

The Human Rights Campaign has not yet taken an official position on such systemic changes to the Social Security program. However, as an organization representing the interests of gay and lesbian people and many people living with HIV and AIDS, it is supportive of policy changes that should be considered in any overall reform of the Social Security system.

A national dialogue on Social Security reform, says HRC, should address the definition of "survivor" when a beneficiary dies. The discussion should also address the loss of health care benefits, which occurs when a recipient of social security disability insurance (SSDI) or supplemental security income (SSI) returns to work.

"While these issues may not be central to the larger issue of keeping the Social Security system solvent, they are important issues to keep in mind as we engage in a broad discussion of reform. The Social Security system has meant longer and more healthy lives for millions of Americans. As we enter the next century, we hope not only to keep the system working, but to make the system better and more accessible to more people."
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