Please view this page frequently. It will be in constant revision. The page is NOT to be construed as giving legal advice. It is simply sharing information We have gathered regarding issues those with disabilities face as adults who wish to marry. If you have evidence or other information you feel may be helpful please send to: Martha Kate Downey marriagebenefits@mkdowney.com All thoughts, reactions, collaborative material or documentation gratefully accepted!

Due to the fact that we have new information about persons with disabilities and their rights to maintain child's/dependant's benefits after marriage, some of the information on this page is no longer relevant. The mission now is to get clarification about the laws already on the books.We will be further exploring these issues. You may help greatly by sending your information or responses from your congressmen to us, so that we may get clarification/consensus on this issue. It may mean that the wording of the Social Security Act itself needs to be reworked. Please send questions or information to:marriagebenefits@mkdowney.com

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Campaign to Maintain Social Security Benefits After Marriage       
[New Quest for Clarification]  [Why this is important]  [SSA: What you need to know when you get disability benefits]  [Protective Marriages]  [Notes for building a case]  [Progress made]  [Original Mission]  [Intial Letter to US Congress]  [Replies to Initial Letters]  [E-mail alerts]  [Form letters]



New Quest for Clarification


The original mission was to alert the public and lawmakers about the difficulties those who have disabilities must face when they marry. The major issue in the fall of 2003 seemed to be calling for new legislation regarding the dependent/child's benefits from the death or retirement of a parent.

With new information in March 2004, the mission has evolved from one requesting new or changing existing legislation in the Social Security Act to one of better understanding it. It also is to include efforts of alerting those involved (the couple wishing to marry, their families and advisors) to the child's benefits provided for by The Social Security Act.

At this time we encourage those seeking information to call or visit the Social Security Administration offices in their states. Request clear, written information about benefits for a "disabled worker" (person receiving SSI) who wished to marrying another "disabled worker". The statement should include information about their rights to continue to receive "child's" benefits after marriage. Since the act allows child's benefits to continue if the disabled worker is marrying another disabled worker, but NOT if the disabled worker is marrying a person who is not elegible to receive benefits from SS, you must state this clearly. The confusion in our case came from that important piece of information not being included. In the initial inquiry, it was only finding out if our daughter could get child's benefits after marriage. The person responding did not know that she was hoping to marry another person who was also disabled.

This site does NOT intend to be explaining the law, the Social Security Act or interpreting anything that was said, it merely acts as a force to work toward the betterment of the lives of those individuals who have exceptional challenges.

While our mission has evolved, we remain resolute in helping those individuals attain the opportunities to live long and fruitful lives.

See this important New information with documentation



Why this is so important:


A significant case may be made for marriage, but the scope is broader than that. We have a tendency to see things in a black or white fashion. Being Completely cared for versus being Completely independent. But how many of us actually live completely independent lives? I don't! Someone else ensures that my car's oil is changed regularly and makes sure the yard gets fertilizer.

Earlier this week a wise teacher reminded me that freedom and security are at opposite ends of a spectrum. To gain one, you lose a little of the other. Throughout our life times we move along that continuum, depending on our age, health, and resources. By the time we are 80 and our children are 50,we will likely need more security than they will. No one will ever have the same mix of security and freedom as another person. It depends on their skills, their life experiences, their built in support system, their motivation, independent living skills, need for freedom.

Our expectations now greatly affect the opportunities those we love will have. We must see each person as unique. We must value their ideas and choices. Yes, we must plan for their security, but we must plan for their quality of life, too. Shelter, food, safety are primary issues, but in addition, a person needs to have something to do that gives their life meaning, gives them a reason to get out of bed each morning and begin again. They need people in their lives who care about their well being and their happiness. More than just keeping them fed and housed, they need someone who cares about their interests, shares common friendships, knew the family member who recently died, remembers your dog, or at least knew you had a dog. Shared history.

Picture your life at 60 having no one you live with sharing those memories with you. Marriage will not be the choice or option for all, but life-long friendships need to be fostered and respected. Consideration should be given when we are planning for living arrangements. The desire to be free and unfettered maybe what our young adults desire now, but in later years, I know they value stability and being loved and needed. We are planning now for decades in the future. Our children will probably long outlive us. We need to consider more than just who will feed and house them, we need to consider who will share those decades with them. It is common for those who outlive spouses and friends in their 80's and 90's to be living solitary lives, but let us not unknowingly allow our children to begin that stage decades earlier. Whether because of marriage or our fostering of long friendships let us make that part of our planning for our children as they become adults.



SSA: What you need to know when you get disability benefits


What You Need To Know When You Get Disability Benefits SSA Publication No. 05-10153, February 2003, ICN 480165



Protective Marriages


March 20, 2004, an official with the SSA told about something called a "protective marriage". On March 15, the representative referred to a marriage between two disabled persons currently receiving SS benefits as a "protective marriage", but the person March 22, who showed me actual documentation was not aware of that term. She thought it might just be a term the other representative used personally. Neither she nor I could find the term used in the handbook or the act itself. It is important to note, however, that all of the representatives from SSA to whom I have spoken to on the phone are giving consistent information about the benefits.
See this important New information with documentation



Notes for building a case:


  • With medical technology, we now have a disabled population that is living much longer.
  • Healthy marriages leads to healthier people both physically and mentally (much documentation regarding that issue is available.
  • As a government we are not promoting family values if we encourage adults not to marry but rather live without that commitment.
  • Reduced depression is found with those who have meaningful, loving relationships
  • Less chance of becoming involved with the judicial system
  • The federal government has given us IDEA but stipulated that it is only available to unmarried people with disabilities.
  • This population has already been identified as having special needs, it only follows that there will need to be accommodations for this population.
  • The loss of medical benefits but will have greater chance of costing the system because without adequate medical care they become emergency room dependent for non-emergency medical care.
  • Percentage of sexually transmitted diseases higher in single population than married population
  • If they married in the past, this legislation could provide crucial care for those whom married in the past and consequently lost benefits and now as aging adults trying to live without the support of family or governmental programs.

Can you add to this list? Please contact Martha Kate Downey marriagebenefits@mkdowney.com if you have evidence or other information helpful. All collaborative material or documentation gratefully accepted!



Progress made:


October 29, 2003 Letter to Congressmen sent by Martha Kate Downey to Texas Congressman: Representative Michael C. Burgess, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Senator John Cornyn

November 13, 2003 Letter received from Representative Michael C. Burgess requesting consent forms to be sign so that he may initiate a Congressional Inquiry on our behalf.

November 14, 2003 Letter with signed Inquiry form sent by Martha Kate Downey to Rep. Burgess

January 7, 2004 Letter received from Senator John Cornyn, stating that they will lose dependency rights if they marry, but they may apply for SSI. (Kate already receives SSI)

January 7, 2004 Kim Lopez of Congressman Michael Burgess' office sent request to new legislation office in Washington. It is no longer a state issue.

January 23, 2003 from Representative Michael C. Burgess stating inquiry was answered and included the letter from Associate Commissioner in the Office of Public Inquiries of the Social Security Adminstation stating clearly how the Social Security Act declares a person who marries as "presumed" independent and therefore unqualified to receive benefits from a retired or death of a parent. It is the very law we are attempted to have changed. (Excellent way to begin the campaign!)

February 2,2004 Requested appointment with Congressman Michael C. Burgess. (Looking for a champion for our cause. He and his staff are efficient, knowledgable and thorough!)

February 10, 2004 Email Alert requesting letter to Congress and President be sent

March 2004 Posts and telephone calls coming from all over the United States with pictures and/or stories of couples who hope to marry if this mission is successful

March 2004 Information given to Martha Kate Downey via telephone visit with Social Security Administration office. Explained about Protective Marriages. Work toward finding written documentation about protective marriages begun.

March 15, 2004, an official with the SSA told about something called a "protective marriage". He stated it was a marriage between two disabled persons currently receiving SS benefits. Another official in the SSA did not know that term, however she shared the same information.

March 22, 2004 Spoke via telephone with official of SSA who showed me actual documentation showing that two people, both disabled prior to age 22 and currently receiving SS benefits are indeed entitled to "child's benefits if they are "disabled workers" receiving SSI.
See this important New information with documentation



Original Mission:


In the Social Security Act a person who marries is no longer eligible to receive benefits as a dependent.

"The purpose of Social Security child's benefits is to replace support lost when the parent retires, becomes disabled, or dies. The Social Security Act requires that a child be unmarried in order to qualify for benefits because a child who is married is presumed not to be dependent on the parent. The Act does not provide exceptions to this provision, and we cannot "waive" this provision of law." Letter addressed to The Honorable Michael Burgess, Member, U.S. House of Representatives. Letter written by Annie White, Associate Commissioner, Office of Public Inquiries with the Social Security Administration.

The mission is to change the law to reflect the changing needs and expectations for adults who have disabilities. While the person with disabilities may maintain SSI after marriage, they are ineligible for the better benefits provided by those of the retiredment or death of a parent. The medical care is much better through Social Security benefits (Medicare) than SSI (Medicaid). The mission is not to claim both SSI and Social Security dependent benefits, but rather stay eligible after marriage for either.


Initial Letter to US Congressional Representatives (House and Senate):


Letter of Request to maintain dependent benefits after marriage 10-29-2003

Request presented in letters to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator John Cornyn and Representative to Congress Michael C. Burgess, M.D.

Our daughter is 21 years old, a voter and a contributor to her community. She would like to be married to a young man who is also 21 years old, a voter and a contributor to his community. They have the skills necessary to make and continue a long term commitment. They understand loyalty, caring and they have the willingness and determination to work through problems. They are fun-loving, civic minded, positive people each working on the necessary skills to live as independently as possible. We support our daughterís desire to marry as her boyfriendís parents support their son's desire to marry.

So, "What's the problem?" you ask.

Our daughter has autism. Her boyfriend has Down Syndrome.

They have known each other several years as athletes on a Special Olympics team. While they have the skills needed to make a wonderful marriage, they don't have the necessary skills to support themselves. Both are working, Kate as an aide in a classroom for teenagers with Down Syndrome and Billy has worked for a pizza restaurant for 4 to 5 years. He also tutors reading in a public school, helping those preschoolers who have Down Syndrome develop the desire to read. Kate is the editor and founder of the only newsletter in the world, written and produced by Special Olympics athletes. (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram pays for the printing)

Because of their disabilities, they will continue through adulthood to need assistance in managing their financial and medical issues; therefore, we (or someone else named by the court) will continue to be their guardians. Under the current federal guidelines, if they marry, even though they are still declared to be dependent persons by the courts, they both lose the right to receive Social Security benefits they would be entitled to from the retirement or death of their parents. They would also lose the right to the medical care those benefits would allow. Those benefits will be crucial to their being able to live in a safe, consistent environment in their elder years.

As you no doubt are aware, in the not too far past those with Down Syndrome and other life threatening conditions usually did not live long into their adult years, but because of the advances of medical care, those with such conditions are now living long, full lives...but many are living very, very lonely lives. It is so difficult to listen to adult members on our Special Olympics team tell how much they miss having family (parents have perhaps died or no longer can visit them, if there are siblings; they are often in other areas of the country and have their own families to care for.) While these individuals have friends, they tell me it is not the same thing as having family...and I can see that in their eyes. Because of our society's practices regarding those with disabilities rights to marry, they no longer have family within their generation. Family that cares which shirt they like best, whether their sunburn is getting better, whether they want to go to live somewhere else. Without being married, they become like those African Americans who were bought and sold without care being given toward keeping spouses or children with them. Our athletes are moved here or there, and if a best friend has become important to them, too bad. They are not moved to the same place. Why should they be? Without the formality of a marriage, too little consideration is given toward keeping "family" together.

Even if there are family members who remain in contact, it is so comforting to those who have special challenges to be close to someone else who truly understands the battles they face, one who understands the joys they experience. Sometimes these individuals will decide their only option is to live together without benefit of marriage, but this is usually not the first choice for these couples. Most are quite proud of their mate and would like for their families and their community to recognize their commitment to one another. Most would like to have a ceremony announcing their union, such as a wedding. Most would like to know they have Godís blessing on their commitment. They want to be considered as a married couple when they travel or look for housing. The list of missed opportunities for those couples not married goes on and on.

It is our hope that we may enable those who are working so hard to be part of this community to be afforded the same opportunities as others in their community: the opportunity to establish their own family. This is not to say that special concern should not be taken regarding procreation, but not all marriages include children. That becomes a separate issue. The issue at hand now is each individualís need to maintain their dependent benefits even though they may marry. Let them live in their community with the same options as you and I have for choosing a mate. Let us not penalize the individuals because of their challenges.

David Dennis Downey

Martha Kate Downey

Parents and legal guardians of XXXXXX

505 Anthony Dr.

Euless, TX 76039

For those interested, here are some further notes:

Kate and Billy have high expectations, and while I applaud their tenacity, I brace myself with a hard battle to come. I sincerely hope my fears are unfounded. I hope that we can join together and easily make our federal government officials understand the issues that make the request to marry one that is financially sound as well as morally right.



Replies to Initial Letters:


Letters Dated:

November 10, 2003 from Representative Michael C. Burgess requesting consent forms to be signed in order that he may initiate a Congressional Inquiry on our behalf.

December 4, 2003 from Representative Michael C. Burgess stating inquiry was begun with the Social Security Administration and requesting I contact their office again if SSA responds to us directly or if we have heard nothing from SSA by January 4, 2004.

December 5, 2003 from Senator John Cornyn stating he had contaced Social Security Ad. on our behalf.

January 6, 2004 from Senator John Cornyn, stating the SSA stated they will lose dependency rights if they marry, but they may apply for SSI. (Kate already receives SSI - SSA or Senator Corynyn, or his staff, did not understand the issues)

January 26, 2004 from Kay Bailey Hutchison. States marriage laws are under the state jurisdiction. (She or her staff did not understand it was a SSA issue.)

January 23, 2003 from Representative Michael C. Burgess stating inquiry was answered and included the letter from Anne White, Associate Commissioner, Office of Public Inquiries, Social Security Administration stating clearly how the Social Security Act declares a person who marries as "presumed" independent and therefore unqualified to receive benefits from a retired or death of a parent. It is the very law we are attempted to have changed. (Excellent way to begin the campaign!)



E-mail alerts:


February 10, 2004 Email Alert requesting letter to Congress and President be sent.



Form letters:


General Form Letters:

Form letter to be sent to Congress February 2004

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Please view this page frequently. It will be in constant revision. Please use the page as reference material for your own searc, NOT as proof of benefits for your individuals or as legal advice.
If you have evidence or other information you feel may be helpful please send to: Martha Kate Downey marriagebenefits@mkdowney.com

All thoughts, reactions, collaborative material or documentation gratefully accepted!

It is necessary that we collect the names and email addresses for all those in support of this mission. You may greatly help this cause in this easy way:Add my name and email address to your list

Last revision 3-25-2004 10:26 a.m.