Does Social Security Recognize Same Sex Spouses?
Due to recent changes in the law, a spouse in a same-sex marriage may consider his or her spouse’s earnings in determining Social Security entitlement and/or payment amounts. The SSA now recognizes same-sex couples’ marriages in all states – as well as some nonmarital legal relationships, such as some civil unions and domestic partnerships, to determine entitlement to Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Previously, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevented the Social Security Administration from using same-sex spouses’ marital relationship to determine Social Security benefits. However, on June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
As a result, the Social Security Administration now recognizes same-sex marriage in determining Social Security entitlement and/or payment amounts based upon a spousal relationship. And, the Social Security Administration has now published instructions that allow the agency to process claims in which SSD or SSI entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship.
Qualifying for Social Security Under Same Sex Marriage
The Social Security Administration will recognize that a claimant is in a same-sex marriage for the purpose of benefit eligibility when he or she:
• Lives with someone of the same sex; and
• Is legally married to that individual under the laws of the state of their permanent home.
Further, these new SSA instructions regarding same sex spouses may also allow the Social Security Administration to process claims in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages. However, the law on this is still a bit unclear because the Department of Justice has ruled that the Social Security Act requires the agency Social Security Administration to follow state law in Social Security cases.
In short, depending upon the State in which you live – if you were legally married to a same-sex spouse in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage – you may be eligible for Social Security benefits based upon your same-sex spouse’s earnings!
Additionally, the Social Security Administration will now also process Lump Sum Death Payment (LSDP) claims involving same-sex marriages and non-marital legal relationships.
For this reason, if you are in a same-sex marriage or non-marital legal same-sex relationship, or you are the surviving spouse (widow or widower) of a same-sex marriage, our experienced Social Security lawyers strongly encourage you to apply for benefits for which you may be eligible right away.
Our experienced Social Security lawyers are continuing to monitor the developments in Social Security benefit determination as it relates to same-sex marriage. Currently both the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice are working to develop and implement additional policy and processing instructions about how a same-sex marriage or non-marital legal relationship may affect Social Security claims.
As new regulations or instructions are released we will update this information on our website. In the meantime, while these benefits are being recognized, we encourage qualified applicants to apply as quickly as possible – in the event there is a less favorable legal decision forthcoming that changes these positive rules.
Lawyers for Same Sex Marriage Social Security Claims
If you have questions about how your same-sex marriage or non-marital legal relationship may affect your Social Security claim, call our experienced Social Security lawyers today for a free consultation.