Same-sex couples inch closer to full Social Security benefits

Attorney General implements Supreme Court ruling throughout government.

Jul 9, 2015 @ 1:06 pm

By Mary Beth Franklin

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday that federal marriage benefits soon will be available to same-sex couples nationwide following the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26.

“Following the Supreme Court's historic decision in Obergefell that every couple has the same right to participate in the institution of marriage, whether the partners are of the same-sex or opposite sexes, I directed Justice Department staff to work with the agencies to ensure that the ruling be given full effect across the federal government,” Ms. Lynch said in a statement.

“Thanks to their leadership and the quick work of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, today I am proud to announce that the critical programs for veterans and elderly and disabled Americans, which previously could not give effect to the marriages of couples living in states that did not recognize those marriages, will now provide federal recognition for all marriages nationwide,” she said.

Prior to the Obergefell decision, 13 states did not allow same-sex marriages. They were Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Missouri.

The attorney general said federal agencies are currently working toward providing guidance to implement this change in law.

In an e-mail statement, the SSA said it continues to take claims from same-sex couples and is working with the Justice Department to analyze the decision and provide instructions for processing claims.

"In the meantime, if you're a spouse, divorced spouse, or surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage or non-marital legal same-sex relationship, we encourage you to apply right away for benefits. Applying now will preserve your filing date, which will protect you against the loss of any potential benefits," according to the SSA's statement.

SSA is also working closely with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to develop and implement policy and processing instructions for Medicare entitlement and enrollment.

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