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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Same-sex Marriage Couples Still Await for Clarity in Social Security Benefits

After a certain section in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was repealed several weeks ago, the entire federal government is expected to comply with the said Supreme Court ruling. Meaning, each government agency is required to develop its policy to abide with the new law.

For Social Security benefits, in order to eligible for your spouse’s benefits, you have to prove that you are legally married to an eligible wage earner. 

Unfortunately, right from the start, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not recognize same-sex marriage despite recognition in several states.

Subsequently, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Section 3 of DOMA, everything has changed. Since the day DOMA has been repealed, the SSA has been coordinating with the Justice Department to come up with rules on how to properly handle claims involving same-sex marriage couples.

While deciding for a new policy, the SSA already accepted benefit claims from same-sex marriage spouses but held the claims for a while until this new policy has arrived.

According to the new policy published by the SSA:

•    A retirement-age spouse can claim benefits provided that the couple was married in a state that acknowledges same-sex marriage and resides in a state that also recognizes same-sex marriage at the time of claiming.

•    A non-biological child of a same-sex marriage spouse can be eligible for child’s benefits provided that the state’s intestacy laws recognize the child as a potential heir.

•    For transgender claims, the agency follows state law on whether the marriage is valid following the gender alteration.

So far, that agency does not have a clear policy on the following types of claim:

•    Same-sex spouse’s survivor’s claim.

•    Younger than retirement age same-sex spouse’s claim for caring for an eligible child; domestic partnership.

Meanwhile, a Los Angeles permanent disability lawyer believes that coming up with a new policy requires sufficient time and comprehensive thinking. Therefore, it might probably take a few weeks or even months before the SSA arrived to a final resolution.