September 27, 2016

Warner, Kaine Bill To Protect Benefits For Eugenics Victims Heads To President’s Desk

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded today the House’s unanimous passage of the Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act (S. 1698), which would exclude eugenics victims’ compensation payments from being used in determining eligibility for, or the amount of, federal public benefits. Without this legislation, eugenics victims who receive compensation payments could see their federal benefits reduced or even have their eligibility eliminated.

The bipartisan legislation, which would protect access to federal safety net programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, and Social Security Disability Insurance, unanimously passed the Senate last year and now heads to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

“This was one of the darkest, most shameful periods in Virginia’s history. We should be doing everything in our power to ensure that the victims of this injustice have unimpeded access to the federal assistance to which they are entitled.” said Sen. Warner. “I look forward to seeing the President sign this important piece of legislation into law.”

State-run eugenics and compulsory sterilization laws victimized more than 60,000 Americans in 33 states from the 1920s to the 1970s. State governments often targeted specific groups for sterilization, including unmarried women, African-Americans, and children from poor families. Victims were often sterilized without their consent or knowledge.

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.

Last 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 is still alive as of February 1, 2015.