Bill and Harvey were together for 32 years, and they were registered domestic partners in California. That ended in the summer of 2009 when Harvey died unexpectedly. Harvey was a television producer and loved his job - he worked nearly until his death, even though he hit retirement age more than a year before he died. He was collecting the maximum Social Security benefit of almost $2,400.
Bill also enjoys his work. That’s a good thing, since he’ll have to work well past the retirement age he’ll hit in 2011. Bill has never earned as much as Harvey, so his Social Security benefit won’t be nearly as much as Harvey’s either. Instead of Harvey’s monthly $2400 benefit, he’ll probably get about $500.
If Bill were “Billy Jeane” a woman, and s/he and Harvey were allowed to do what they always wanted to do and marry - Bill would hit his retirement age in 2011 and his benefit would be lifted to the same amount as Harvey’s. In other words, Bill’s $500 monthly benefit would convert to a total of $2,400. Would he be allowed to collect both his benefit and Harvey’s? No. But he would be able to claim the higher of the two. When this plan was established, the thought was that, by providing the larger of the two benefits to a surviving partner, the federal government was doing its part to help ensure the financial stability of that survivor. This put the “security”in “social security” and kept widows and widowers from falling into poverty that would in turn drain other sectors of the economy. It was not only humane, it was smart.
Bill says, “We were a team – just like any married couple. And we built something wonderful together. I just want what all those other teams get – nothing more.”
Bill doesn’t want a hand-out, or special treatment. Bill wants the benefit of a safety net that other Americans take for granted. Bill wants YOU to join him and Rock for Equality so that, together, we can end Social Security discrimination.