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4 ways that marriage equality changed Social Security benefits

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The road to marriage equality in the United States, which was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court one year ago today, was paved by dozens of legal actions at the local level and years of political volleying between states that recognized same-sex marriage and those that banned it.

One thing is clear in recent Social Security Administration handouts and documents regarding same-sex marriage: In light of the court’s historic move to recognize the legal rights of these couples and families, the SSA now aims to serve same-sex spouses and families in the same way that it caters to “traditional” married couples.

Keep reading to find out about four specific ways that marriage equality affected Social Security recipients and beneficiaries:

See also:

What the same-sex marriage ruling means for insurance agents

 same-sex marriage equality and Social Security

A crowd assembled outside of the U.S. Supreme Courton June 26, 2015, awaiting the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

1. Same rights for all couples

The Supreme Court’s decision on June 26, 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges affirmed the rights of same-sex married couples to the same Social Security benefits as opposite-sex married couples.

Same-sex unions are recognized as legal marriages by the Social Security Administration, and couples are eligible for the same benefits. This move added to the precedent already set by the Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, which determined that same-sex couples married in jurisdictions where such unions were legal then, were also eligible for equal consideration when it came to spousal benefits. The SSA also now considers cases in which same-sex American couples were wed outside of the country.

Source: “2016: Social Security & Medicare Facts,” by Joseph F. Stenken (The National Underwriter Co.)

Same-sex marriage equality and Social Security

(Photo: iStock)

2. Equal responsibility

A same-sex union, or civil union, can affect Social Security or Supplemental Security Income entitlement.

Recipients are expected to inform the Social Security Administration of their marital status. Just like all marriages, a same-sex spouse’s income and resources are taken into consideration when determining benefit eligibility.

Source: “2016: Social Security & Medicare Facts,” by Joseph F. Stenken (The National Underwriter Co.)

Same-sex marriage equality and social security

Earlier this year, th Social Security Administration produced a brochure entitled, “What Same-Sex Couples Need to Know.” (Photo: iStock)

3. Benefits eligibility

Same-sex spouses are now eligible to receive spousal Social Security benefits.

Although the law has been evolving to accommodate the spousal rights inherent to the Supreme Court’s decision, the Social Security Administration is now processing some retirement, surviving spouse and lump-sum benefits claims for same-sex couples in both legal and non-legal marital relationships.

The Social Security Administration suggests that anyone who is the spouse, divorced spouse or surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage promptly apply for benefits to preserve the filing date, which can affect benefits.

Source: “2016: Social Security & Medicare Facts,” by Joseph F. Stenken (The National Underwriter Co.)

Same-sex marriage equality and Social Security

Roughly 1 in 4 same-sex households in the United States includes children. (Photo: iStock)

4. Children

The Social Security Administration now lists the names of same-sex parents on a child’s social security number record.

This may be or may not be foreign to the hospital staff who assist new parents in applying for a newborn’s social security number. Same-sex parents should be prepared to provide the following documents — either originals or certified copies — so that both parents’ names can be included with their child’s Social Security records:

  • Birth certificate.
  • Amended birth certificate.
  • Final adoption decree.

Source: Social Security Administration | Same-Sex Couples


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