When we think of marriage equality, we often think about the fight LGBT couples face, but another minority group must deal with the stark reality that they are often better off living alone or in long-term committed relationships, without marriage. These couples are denied more than 1,100 rights afforded to married couples. They have been denied access into their loved ones hospital rooms, faced family disputes over wills and have been denied spousal benefits from their partners workplace or the government in the event of their partners death. These are people with disabilities.
Many people rely on the government for medical assistance. Without this insurance they would have no way to live independently. They would be forced into nursing homes; as some already have been, which costs the government significantly more than providing services in community settings. At the same time, this assistance comes with a price. The government expects married couples to share income and the marriage affects the couple’s eligibility for services. For many, their spouse makes too much, even if they both receive meager SSI payments. For some married couples, a nondisabled partner makes too much to allow them to qualify for medical assistance but not enough account for benefits lost. When a person with a disability can work, access to quality medical insurance is hard to find because only Medicaid covers many disability-related expenses.
Programs that marriage can impact include: SSI, SSDI (including Adult Child Benefits program), Medicaid, Section 8 housing, and Medicare, which is often lost when SSDI is lost for Adult Children Beneficiaries.
With the increased attention on marriage inequity, the group Marriage Equality for People with Disabilities and other advocates hope legislators will enact changes to laws and policies that currently discourage or prevent marriage of individuals with disabilities.
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