December 01, 2015

Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill to Assist Eugenics Victims with State Compensation Payments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced that the Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act, excluding payments from state eugenics compensation programs from consideration in determining federal benefits. Without this legislation, many eugenics victims who receive compensation payments from states, including Virginia and North Carolina, could see their federal benefits reduced or even have their eligibility eliminated. 

The legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously on Monday night, will help assist living eugenics victims receiving compensation payments by excluding their payments from being used in determining eligibility for, or the amount of, federal public benefits such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, and Social Security disability payments. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Richard Burr (R-NC) are original co-sponsors of the legislation.

In 2002, then-Governor Warner formally apologized for Virginia’s decision to forcibly sterilize nearly 7,500 Virginians between 1924 and 1979. His apology was the first by the governor of any of the more than 30 states that conducted eugenics sterilizations on a combined 60,000 citizens. Gov. Warner’s act coincided with the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Buck v. Bell decision upholding Virginia's eugenics sterilization law. Earlier this year, Virginia became the second state to pass legislation compensating the victims of a state-run eugenics program. Virginia will award $25,000 to each individual who was involuntarily sterilized and was still alive as of February 1, 2015. 

“This shameful period in Virginia’s history is thankfully in the past, but there are still living victims who are suffering from its dark legacy,” said Sen. Warner. “Receiving just compensation for this horrible injustice should not unintentionally prevent victims from receiving federal assistance they’re entitled to. I’m pleased that this bill has passed the Senate and encourage the House to right this wrong by doing the same.”

“Largely unnoticed, forced sterilizations and state-run eugenics programs represent one of the darkest episodes of human rights violations and injustices of our country’s past,” said Sen. Kaine. “Today, I am pleased to see the Senate take a major step to right this historical wrong by passing the bipartisan Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act. This bill excludes payments from state eugenics compensation programs from consideration in determining federal benefits. I’m glad that Virginia has begun the process of compensating victims, but there is still more we must do.”

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