Social Security Administration (SSA) Policy and Same-Sex Marriages
In June, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that states must both issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and recognize lawful marriages of same-sex couples who were married in a different state. The decision holds that state discrimination against same-sex marriages on the basis of their same-sex nature, is unlawful.
The SSA has been busy navigating these new legal waters in determining how this decision affects eligibility for benefits. In the wake of the ruling, the SSA issued an Emergency Message (EM-15027) stating that it was working in conjunction with the Department of Justice integrate the ramifications of the Court’s ruling into SSA policy.
Even though the integration process is far from complete, there are some benefits now available to members of same-sex married couples. They include:
-Benefits based on a spouse’s (or deceased spouse’s) earnings
-Medicaid coverage of certain long-term care and support services
-Medicare Part A benefits (premium free)
-Social Security survivor benefits (if the spouse is deceased)
Some of the same-sex benefit eligibility issues that still need to be resolved in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling include:
-How children of same-sex marriages are to be considered
-The role of marriage in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cases
-Date of marriage recognition
While the SSA works to integrate the ruling into policy, members of same-sex married couples who believe they may be eligible for benefits are encouraged to apply now in order to begin receiving any applicable benefits as soon as possible.