What’s the Status of Benefits for Same-Sex Couples?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been working to develop new policy to accommodate the June 2013 ruling by the Supreme Court that struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Consequently, many same-sex couples and their family members are now eligible for Social Security benefits.
Here is a brief update on some of the new policies regarding same-sex beneficiaries:
1. Same-sex couples that are married and currently residing in a state that legally recognizes same-sex marriage are eligible for retirement benefits, assuming they meet all other qualifications.
2. Married same-sex couples are now eligible for some lump sum death payments (LSDP) and surviving spouse benefits, assuming claimants meet all other qualifications.
3. Individuals in civil unions and domestic partnerships (non-marital legal relationships) may be eligible for some benefits in certain cases. A claimant in such a relationship can be treated as the insured worker’s spouse if the insured worker resides in a state that allows the claimant to inherit a spouse’s share of the insured worker’s personal property if the latter dies and leaves no will.
a. In order to be considered “married” under Social Security law, the SSA must find that the couple’s non-marital legal relationship was established in a state that legally recognizes such relationships and qualifies as a marital relationship in the insured worker’s state of residence.
The SSA is still developing policy regarding benefits for same-sex couples, and encourages potential beneficiaries to apply now, even if policy does not yet exist for their circumstances. SSA employees will accept and hold all claims until relevant policy has been issued.