Forced Annuitization and the Grim Realities of Racial Health Disparities
“You just get out what they put in/But they never put in enough” —Stephen Merritt, The Magnetic Fields
Social Security redistributes money from African-Americans to white Americans. This claim might sound outrageous to those with prejudiced views of public benefits and those who understand the effects of Social Security’s progressive benefits formula, but it nonetheless is true, according to a 2013 paper by C Eugene Steurle, Karen E. Smith, and Caleb Quakenbush of the Urban Institute.
Bread for the City has written extensively on this blog about the 2004 Language Access Act, and most notably, the DC Department of Human Services’ (DHS) repeated failures to follow the law. Senior Supervising Attorney Allison Miles-Lee testified before the DC Council on July 1st in support of the Language Access for Education Amendment Act, and about what she is witnessing on the front lines each day.
The SSI Resource Limit and Home Ownership Exclusion
Ms. Smith, a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient, came to me with a writ of restitution. That meant that her landlord would soon show up at her door with Federal Marshalls and a moving crew to throw her and her stuff out on the street.
In 2011, the District announced that it would implement lifetime time limits for receipt of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
TANF is a federal benefit intended to provide income assistance, job training, and other services to low-income families with children. Before 2011, D.C. used local money to continue to provide the benefit for needy families even after they reached the 60-month limit covered by federal dollars.
After a series of gradual reductions, by October 2015 the District plans to terminate all TANF benefits for households who have received TANF for more than 60 months over the course of their lives. Without further action, more than 13,000 children in the District will fall deeper into poverty.
At her open house in February, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that she would be hosting a series of three Budget Engagement Forums throughout the city.
The purpose of these forums was to let residents know about the proposed items in her budget, and also to hear directly from residents about what things they would like to see her prioritize.
Sargent Shriver, President Johnson’s personal choice to lead the War on Poverty, was once asked which anti-poverty program he considered the most important.
“My favorite is Head Start because it was my idea,” he answered. “But I am proudest of Legal Services because I recognized that it had the greatest potential for changing the system under which people’s lives were being exploited.”
The human service world is full of gatekeepers – individuals or organizations that control access to resources. Gatekeepers manifest in countless ways: they can look like staff who determine eligibility criteria, place people on wait lists, or restrict days and hours that someone can access services.
We recognize that some of this is unavoidable and at times important. We are all working with limited resources that make structure and guidelines necessary. However, for individuals using services, the gates can feel restrictive, endless, and oppressive. We have been thinking about the role that social service providers inadvertently play in perpetuating these systems of oppression. We think that folks accessing services deserve better. We think that as providers, we have a responsibility to do better.
For years, the Language Access Coalition, on which I serve as Bread for the City’s representative, has been talking about amending the Language Access Act to give it more “teeth.” Under the current law, a person who has been denied language access can file a complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR). The problem is that even if OHR determines that the government agency violated the Act, OHR has no power to force the agency to make changes or to compensate the complainant. As a result, we’ve seen agencies violate the Act over and over again with no sign of changing.