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8 posts from August 2013

August 27, 2013

What Does the DOMA Decision Mean for Same-Sex Couples?

Tom Sciacca, Esq.
Today’s guest author is Thomas Sciacca, a principal at the Law Offices of Thomas Sciacca, PLLC, and a longtime SAGE volunteer and supporter. In the wake of the Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, many same-sex couples are wondering how the law will impact them. Tom offers insights on the decisions, and five points for couples to consider in an article originally posted on SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. Below is an excerpt from the article; read the full piece here. Note: While these tips are aimed at New Yorkers, the main points here apply to older same-sex couples in other states where marriage equality has passed.


On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. In ruling for the basic equality and dignity of all people, the Court held that the Federal government could not lawfully discriminate against same-sex married couples by declining to provide them with the same rights Federal law affords to opposite-sex married couples.

Bands[T]he Court’s recent decisions are certainly cause for celebration. However, the savvy reader may inquire—how does this decision affect the legal affairs of the legally-married LGBT New Yorker? To respond to that, I humbly offer five legal tips that should help start an informed conversation between you and your attorney, financial advisor, and tax preparer:

1. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to consider getting married. Under the yoke of DOMA, LGBT married couples faced a level of discriminatory hurdles while interacting with the Federal government. New York State recognized their marriages and afforded them all available rights, while the Federal government regarded them differently. With the Supreme Court ruling Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, much of the disparate treatment has fallen by the wayside.

2. Same-sex couples can now file joint Federal income tax returns. Here is something you never had before—a reason to get excited when filing your 1040! Since 2011, New York’s same-sex married couples could file a joint NYS income tax return, but not a joint Federal income tax return. Often, this resulted in couples preparing two sets of tax returns listing different marital status on each, with all the resulting frustration and cost. Effective immediately same-sex married couples can file a single return, or, if it is to their financial benefit, file as “married filing separately.” Couples should also review their previous Federal income tax returns (since their marriage)—it may be in their interest to file amended Federal income tax returns if it will result in a larger refund. Additionally, a surviving spouse may wish to file an amended Federal estate tax return if it will produce a refund.

3. Be wary when traveling or relocating to a state that does not recognize marriage equality. As mentioned above, the Supreme Court only invalidated Section 3 of DOMA, which regulates Federal recognition of valid same-sex marriages. It did not invalidate Section 2, which allows states to not recognize your marriage, and, essentially, deny you with all of the rights of a married couple. Think twice before moving to a state that bans same-sex marriage, and, if you do, consult your attorney to make sure you have a Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Living Will in place to protect your legal status. Sometimes, the lost civil liberties greatly outweigh the lower taxes or nicer weather.

4. Check beneficiaries on retirement accounts. A Federal law known as ERISA governs all retirement accounts, including most 401(k), 403(b), SEP, SIMPLE, and IRA programs. This law requires that your spouse inherit a minimum of half of the qualified retirement account, unless he or she consents to an alternate distribution by signing the beneficiary designation form before a Notary Public. Often, people choose to name non-spouse beneficiaries (younger relatives, charities, etc.) on these accounts because of the significant tax advantages offered by such a designation. If those are your wishes, make sure your spouse signs the consent. In the past, this was not necessary, as DOMA prevented the Federal government from recognizing all same-sex relationships. A simple check on the form will save hassle/aggravation later.

5. Review your Wills. In general, one should review his or her Will (and other estate planning documents) every 2-3 years. Under New York law, a subsequent marriage may automatically revoke some or all of an existing Will. In general, a Will that lists an individual by name is more effective than one that lists an individual by relationship (such as “to my domestic partner”—especially if that person is now a spouse). Spend a few minutes reviewing these documents, and speak to your attorney about whether or not they still reflect your wishes fully. Now that same-sex spouses can transfer assets between each other free of estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax, now may also be a good time to review the tax planning in those documents to ensure you can take advantage of all available rules.

Of course, these tips are not a substitute for a meeting with the appropriate professional, who can tailor his or her advice to your specific needs.

And remember—it is a time to celebrate!

August 21, 2013

Victories Large and Small: Five Years of Program Wins for LGBT Older Adults

Today’s post is from Catherine Thurston, Senior Director for Programs at SAGE.

SageMatters_summer2013This past June, the LGBT community across the country (and around the world) celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In the days following the decision, I heard many SAGE constituents say that this was as seminal a moment for the LGBT civil rights movement as the Stonewall Riots 45 years ago—and that they felt privileged to have witnessed both events. There is no doubt that this is true, and we at SAGE celebrated that victory joyously, especially because we have a long and deep relationship with the wonderful Edie Windsor. Yet as I thought about what SAGE has accomplished in these last five years, I realized that for the LGBT older adults we engage, SAGE has led victories that, while not as publicized, have been life-changing all the same. Here are four areas where LGBT older adults have seen—and helped make—significant  changes in their lives and in their systems of support:

Continue reading "Victories Large and Small: Five Years of Program Wins for LGBT Older Adults" »

August 19, 2013

LGBT Housing Surveys Now Underway

It seems that affordable housing for LGBT older people is one of today’s hottest topics. Finding affordable housing is a challenge for many older adults, especially for LGBT older people who are less financially secure than older people in general.  Often, LGBT elders find that they cannot afford to live in the communities that have been their homes for many years.

Advocates and real estate developers are mobilizing to address this challenge.  In June, SAGE and Enterprise Community Partners Inc. presented a popular national conference call,” LGBT Inclusive Older Adult Housing with Services,” on LGBT affordable older adult housing opportunities and challenges; the call, attended by more than 200 people, featured housing experts and representatives from several LGBT older adult housing developments. If you missed this incredibly informative call, you can listen to it now. In addition, more and more affordable LGBT older adult housing developments have been springing up around the country; for an overview of these developments, check out the article, “Affordable Housing for LGBT Older Adults,” in the latest SAGEMatters.

These new developments are much needed, and other cities are now looking to address the affordable housing issue—whether through building their own developments or improving the quality of current elder housing. Recently three SAGE affiliates—in Portland, Oregon, St. Louis, Missouri and Salt Lake City, Utah—kicked off efforts to ensure that LGBT older adults in their cities have access to safe and affordable housing.

  • To ensure that LGBT older adults feel comfortable no matter where live, SAGE Metro Portland has launched the “LGBT Equality Survey for Senior Housing” to assess residential facilities, retirement communities, assisted living and nursing homes on how welcoming they are to LGBT residents. The aim is to connect LGBT older adults with LGBT-friendly housing utilizing a new multifaceted assessment tool that assists in discovering the culture, policies, diversity of staff, and outreach efforts of a particular senior housing establishment. If you are a senior housing facility in the Portland interested in participating in the survey for an opportunity to join the program, please contact the SAGE Metro Portland Coordinator at (503) 224-2640, email sage@friendlyhouseinc.org or take the online survey. On-site consultations can be scheduled if assistance is needed to complete the survey.
  • SAGE Metro St. Louis is now seeking the input of community individuals who are age 18 and older to better understand the current and future housing and retirement needs of St. Louis LGBT older adults. This information will help the organization when planning and developing services to support the St. Louis LGBT community. SAGE Metro St. Louis’ efforts are part of the ongoing work they have been doing to improve the quality of housing and support for LGBT older adults in their community. (You can read more about these efforts in the Fall 2012 issue of SAGEMatters). The survey is anonymous and confidential. If you’re in the St. Louis area, you can find more information and take the survey online here. If you would prefer to complete the survey in paper form, please contact the SAGE office at (314) 772-5887 or email ewebb@sagemetrostl.org and a survey will be mailed to you along with a postage paid, return envelope.
  • SAGE Utah has partnered with Salt Lake County Aging Services, AARP Utah, and the Utah state government for a multi-phase survey that will encompass senior living and retirement communities; assisted living; and long term care facilities.  They are about to launch the Phase 1 of the survey and hope to focus a spotlight on LGBT elder housing issues in the state of Utah.


August 15, 2013

HHS awards $67 million to Navigators and recognizes SAGE as part of the 'Champions for Coverage' Network

Sec-bio-picKathleen Sebelius, HHS Secretary

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced $67 million in grant awards to 105 Navigator grant applicants in Federally-facilitated and State Partnership Marketplaces. The full press release highlights new resources available to consumers to navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace. In addition to the Navigators, a full list of 'Champions for Coverage' was released. These Champions will be crucial in helping Americans with the upcoming health insurance changes.

SAGE is proud to be recognized as part of the ‘Champions for Coverage’ network—a series of organizations and business dedicated to helping people understand the options for coverage and navigating the system. We will be providing workshops and online information to help LGBT older adults understand the options in the marketplace. In the meantime, HHS is providing 24-hour helplines via the Internet and phone—with a call center staff boasting 150 different languages!

The Navigators will help consumers directly in providing unbiased information on a variety of health insurance and government programs in a culturally competent manner and also help enroll those consumers if needed. SAGE recognizes our Diverse Elders Coalition member, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), for being chosen as a Navigators in Dade County, Florida, and Dallas County, Texas.  NCHOA will be responsible for enrolling the uninsured Hispanic population in these two counties with a focus on members of this population that are socially isolated due to cultural and linguistic differences. A full list of Navigators can be found here.


August 14, 2013

Overcoming Barriers While Looking for Work

Howard.leifmanToday's guest post is written by Dr. Howard Leifman.  Dr. Leifman is a NYS licensed psychotherapist and career coach.  He works with individuals and corporations to assist them better themselves and their organizations.  He has been a SAGE Volunteer since 1990.  He regularly runs workshops for SAGEWorks.

Looking for work has never been easy! Somehow when we were younger, it did seem easier, but the truth is, it never was easy.  We just either cared less or didn’t seem to be aware of as much as we do now. 

The challenge is we look at ourselves and see more doubt, more possible rejections and sadly more barriers! As a therapist and professional coach I work with individuals of all ages work through these barriers, both the real and the perceived ones.

I make this distinction because yes there are some very real barriers to finding work but then there are also some barriers that we put up ourselves. I’ll share some of the most common ones I hear and how I work with people to do something about them.

1. I’m too old!

My response is too old for what? If you believe you are too old to do the job and bring that thinking into the interview then guess what, your interviewer isn’t going to try and challenge you on it.  If you don’t believe you can do the job, it is not the responsibility of the interviewer to persuade you otherwise.

One of the biggest changes I try and get clients to make is go into an interview with your strengths showing not waving a banner of your weaknesses! Once again, I am not going to say this is easy, only be careful not to sabotage yourself before you get started! 

Some of the ways to overcome this is to think about the requirements of the job that are stated in the job description.  Think about experiences you have had in the past that are similar and that you have been successful at.  Think about examples you can share with the interviewer that demonstrates where and how you have done this and what the outcomes were. Be ready to share a story that has a beginning, middle and end!  A short story not a novel! Have a point of view and come to it quickly.

2. They’re never going to hire me!

With thinking like this you are correct!  We call this the self fulfilling prophecy.  If you go into the interview already defeated there isn’t much place to go. If you go into the interview saying, I can do this, I have done this and they would be lucky to have me then you have a shot.  Don’t be cocky just confident. 

Again, here is your opportunity to share where and how you have done something like this or similar to this.  Here is your opportunity to share with them how you made a difference. 

3. There are so many people to choose from, why would they choose me?

Granted there are a lot of people, of all ages, to choose from. However, because you are more mature than many, you can bring more experience, more knowledge and more understanding to the job than many, you might also be better than most! But you have to believe it.

4. So much has changed in technology I can never learn!

The truth is learning how to go from a typewriter to a computer was more of a change than going from one format to another! While there are a number of new programs and technological skills out there, the basics still remain. Still nervous? Take a computer class or visit YouTube for a wealth of how-to tutorials and brush up on your skills.

The real key to overcoming barriers is trying, learning and practicing! If you aren’t willing to try, it won’t happen; if you are not open to learning new things, it won’t happen; and if you don’t practice it, you take your chances that it won’t be successful. 

I’m not saying it is easy, but then again, what is.  What I am saying is I see people succeeding everyday so I know it is doable!!  This is also where SAGE is so helpful.  They have the people and the resources to help you TRY, LEARN and PRACTICE!        

So I leave you today with this one thought.  Have you tried, learned and practiced something new today?  If not, contact SAGE and let them share with you how you can!


August 8, 2013

Can Senior Centers Make Us Healthier?

Catherine_thurstonWe are proud to announce that today's post (our 100th!!!) comes from Catherine Thurston, Senior Director of Programs at SAGE.

When I joined the staff of SAGE in January 2005 and began to meet the people who attended our programs, some themes emerged right away: the LGBT older adults I was meeting were far more likely to be aging alone and far less likely to reach out for help. This double whammy clearly spoke to the need to create safe, affirming spaces for LGBT older adults to come together in community and to ensure there were all types of services in the same place: social, recreational, educational and medical. Only in that way could we ensure that LGBT older adults would have a one-stop shop to take care of their needs, allowing them to age in community, safety and good health.

Easier said than done! After decades of advocacy on the part of hundreds of SAGE constituents over the years, we were finally able to celebrate a victory on March 1, 2012 with the opening of The SAGE Center, the nation’s first full-time senior center specifically focused on LGBT older adults, funded by the New York City Department for the Aging. We had our long-awaited home; now we needed to understand if creating the space would help us reach our desired outcomes.

Art class 2A recent report by the New York Academy of Medicine provides us with some preliminary data that appears to underscore the importance of senior centers for LGBT older adults. “Enhancing Health in New York City Senior Centers” is one of the largest studies to look at improving understanding of opportunities to enhance health promotion, care coordination and preventive care among older adults who attend Innovative Senior Centers (ISCs) in New York City. At the time of the study, The SAGE Center was one of eight ISCs (two more have since opened). Focus groups were held with center participants, staff was interviewed and 50 people from each ISC completed a participant survey. The study was especially significant for The SAGE Center, as it was the first time that the LGBT older adults who use our center were compared to a non-LGBT peer comparison group. The results were seemingly affirming and contradictory: on the one hand, the results of the study reinforce the (limited) literature that speaks to increased social isolation, increased prevalence of chronic conditions and overall poorer health status among LGBT older adults when compared to their non-LGBT peers. On the other hand, when asked questions about the number of times people socialized with their friends, the percentage of daily and weekly socializing was higher among LGBT older adults. How can people be both more isolated, and more social?

The answer lies, it seems, in the senior center. While LGBT older adults often live without family support or adult children, the support they do have comes from networks of friends and peers. As we age, we find those supports in aging programs like the one offered by SAGE. Even more interesting is the fact that the LGBT older adults who attend The SAGE Center report higher rates of accessing regular health care, and better overall health assessments than their non-LGBT peers. This is not reflected in studies of LGBT older adults in the general population, which leads us to the original question: does attending a senior center make you healthier?

While there is no way to definitively answer that without more research, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that people who attend centers are more engaged. Just come by The SAGE Center on any given night for dinner, and you will find a family with a few hundred members eating together, exercising together and creating community together—the very definition of a healthy life.

August 6, 2013

Update on Philly LGBT Older Adult Housing

This post was written by Ed Miller, Senior Programs Coordinator, SAGE Philadelphia at the William Way Community Center.


SAGE Philadelphia at the William Way Community Center (WWCC) is fully engaged with preparations for the application process for the John C. Anderson Apartments. The new six-story, fifty-six unit LGBT-friendly building is on schedule to open in early 2014. It is centrally located in the heart of the Philadelphia "gayborhood," just one block from SAGE Philadelphia at WWCC.

The highly anticipated Information Sessions to inform the community about the application process are scheduled to take place on August 6, 2013 and August 28, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. The community is working to get the word out about the sessions, especially to those who may be isolated or not connected to community news, the Internet, and social media.

Everything is coming together and you can just sense the excitement in the air. SAGE Philadelphia will implement new senior programs at the site while offering extended senior programs housed at the community center. A good deal of the work in visualizing programs and services was part of WWCC's original proposal. However, the final decision on what those programs look like will be determined by the results of a survey competed during the application process. Although this narrows our community center's window to ready itself for opening day, residents have a major stake in this venture and we want to ensure that their needs are honored and met first and foremost. This is a most exciting time for the LGBT community in Philadelphia.

To RSVP for an information session, email marketing@pennrose.com.

August 1, 2013

Age-Friendly Communities and LGBT Older Adults: Presentation & Discussion Guide

SagePfizerIn 2013, SAGE and Pfizer cohosted a series of three panel discussions on aging issues and LGBT older adults. The first discussion, available to view now, was on age-friendly communities, and how service providers, policy makers, and advocates can work together to support aging in place, particularly for vulnerable communities such as LGBT older adults. SAGE has put together a guide, designed to encourage group discussion, that includes embedded videos of the panel, discussion questions, and suggested procedures for organizing a viewing.

Please note: the PDF version of the discussion guide, found below, is for preview purposes only. You can download the full PowerPoint presentation and guide with moderator notes here. To view the videos of the panel only, visit SAGE’s YouTube playlist. The next two panel discussions, on the Affordable Care Act and HIV and aging, will be available in late summer and early fall 2013.