June 25, 2015

Warner, Kaine Introduce Legislation To Assist Victims Receiving Eugenics Compensation Payments

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Richard Burr (R-NC)  to introduce the Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act, which would exclude payments from state eugenics compensation programs from consideration in determining federal benefits.

American eugenics and compulsory sterilization laws were implemented by 33 states in the early 20th century, and led to the forced sterilization of more than 60,000 citizens, often without their knowledge. Unmarried women, African-Americans, and children from poor families were among the groups specifically targeted by certain state governments.

“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 Warner. “Receiving just compensation for this horrible injustice should not unintentionally prevent victims from receiving federal assistance they’re entitled to.”

“In robbing individuals of their basic human rights and degrading entire communities, forced sterilizations and state-run eugenics programs represent one of the darkest episodes of our country’s past, and I am pleased that states like Virginia have begun to compensate victims of these crimes,” said Kaine. “I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation because victims of such atrocities deserve recompense without becoming ineligible for federal benefits. The federal government must do all that it can to aid efforts to correct injustices.”

In 2002, then-Governor Mark Warner formally apologized for Virginia’s decision to forcibly sterilize nearly 7,500 Virginians between 1924 and 1979. His apology, the first by the governor of any of the more than 30 states that conducted eugenics sterilizations, 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 is still alive as of February 1, 2015. 

The legislation introduced aims to further assist living victims receiving payments from any current or future state eugenics compensation program by excluding the compensation 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, Social Security Disability Insurance, etc.  

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