Dear Commissioner Astrue:
Thank you for your continued leadership of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and demonstrated commitment to improve SSA’S service to the public. l commend your agency for the website’s recognition by the American Customer Satisfaction Index and your maintenance of over 50 informational publications available to the public
I write today today to request your attention to a gap in Social Security’s otherwise extensive public communication. Recently, my office was contacted by a concerned constituent who is in the process of gender transition. My constituent visited her local Social Security field office to inquire how to update her gender data with the SSA. The representative at the window orally explained the established policy as my constituent stood in the public waiting room.
Unfortunately, this interaction proved embarrassing to my constituent who regards her gander status as a private medical matter. She was made uncomfortable by SSA employees who spoke loudly enough that other waiting beneficiaries heard her inquiry. Since that time, my constituent has been contacted by the Office of Public Inquires who graciously provided her the guidance she needed.
As you already know, the SSA has no informational publication on its policy regarding gender data change for Social Security staff to share with inquiring beneficiaries or the public to access online. The language used by Social Security employees in the Programs Operations Manual System (POMS) is technical and is not written for a public audience. Additionally, POMS does not provide Social Security staff the training necessary to discuss the sensitive personal and medical information required to update one’s gender data.
To enhance the Social Security Administration’s current public communication l encourage the Administration to create an easily accessible publication that provides a plain-English explanation of your gender data change policy, and that you make this publication available to beneficiaries in your field offices and to the public online.
I expect that such a publication may reduce the potential for the type of embarrassment my constituent experienced. Additionally, this publication could be an important resource both for employers who compare gender data when verifying their employee’s identity and for treating physicians who need guidance on the type of documentation patients need to comply With SSA’S gender data change policy.
I look forward to working with you to address this issue and to develop a strategy that establishes easily accessible guidance about Social Security’s gender data change policy. Thank you for your time and attention to these concerns.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator
Marti Abernathey is the founder of the Transadvocate and the previous managing editor.
Abernathey has worn many different hats, including that of podcaster, activist, and radiologic technologist.
She’s been a part of various internet radio ventures such as TSR Live!, The T-Party, and The Radical Trannies, TransFM, and Sodium Pentathol Sunday.
As an advocate she’s previously been involved with the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance, Rock Indiana Campaign for Equality, and the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition. She’s taken vital roles as a grass roots community organizer in The Indianapolis Tax Day Protest (2003), The Indy Pride HRC Protest (2004), Transgender Day of Remembrance (2004), Indiana’s Witch Hunt (2005), and the Rally At The Statehouse (the largest ever GLBT protest in Indiana – 3/2005).
In 2008 she was a delegate from Indiana to the Democratic National Convention and a member of Barack Obama’s LGBT Steering and Policy Committee.