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U.S. Social Security Benefits and Same Sex Marriages Q & A

By Sexual Diversity - 2014-10-21 - Updated: 2014-12-03

Summary

Questions and answers regarding same-sex marriages and claiming Social Security benifits in the United States.

"Social Security encourages you to apply right away for benefits, even if you aren't sure you qualify. Applying now will protect you against the loss of any potential benefits."

Main Document

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Therefore, Social Security no longer is prevented from recognizing same-sex marriages to determine entitlement or payment amount.

Listed Below are Some Facts in the Form of Q&A From the U.S. Department of Social Security:

Do I qualify for benefits if I live in a place that prohibits or does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, or other non-marital legal same-sex relationships?

Social Security encourages you to apply right away for benefits, even if you aren't sure you qualify. Applying now will protect you against the loss of any potential benefits.

I am in a same-sex marriage. Could that affect my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment?

Your spouse’s income and resources may affect your SSI eligibility or payment amount.

Do I qualify for benefits as a spouse if I am now in, or the surviving spouse of, a civil union or other non-marital legal relationship?

Social Security is now processing some retirement, surviving spouse and lump-sum death payment claims for same-sex couples in non-marital legal relationships and paying benefits where they are due.

I am receiving Social Security benefits. Must I tell Social Security I am in a civil union or other non-marital legal relationship?

Your status in a civil union or other non-marital legal relationship may affect your entitlement to benefits. You must tell Social Security if you are in a civil union or other non-marital legal relationship.

When will Social Security begin paying benefits to same-sex married couples and surviving spouses?

Social Security is now processing some retirement, surviving spouse and lump-sum death payment claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due. Social Security are also considering same-sex marriages when processing some claims for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security are working with the Department of Justice to develop and implement additional policy and processing instructions. If you believe you may be eligible for retirement or survivors benefits or SSI, Social Security encourages you to apply now to protect you against the loss of any potential benefits. Social Security will then process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized.

What if I apply but Social Security decides I do not qualify for benefits? Will I receive a penalty or fine?

No, you will not receive a penalty or fine if Social Security denies your claim because you do not qualify for benefits. Likewise, if you appeal that decision or apply again, you will not receive a penalty or a fine.

Will Social Security recognize a same-sex marriage if the ceremony took place in a foreign country?

Social Security are now able to recognize some foreign same-sex marriages for purposes of determining entitlement to benefits.

If you believe you may be eligible for Social Security benefits, Social Security encourages you to apply now to protect you against the loss of any potential benefits.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is now recognizing my same-sex marriage and allowing me to file my income tax return as married filing jointly, can I have my IRMAA removed?

You could be eligible for a new initial determination based on a life-changing event of marriage. You will need to provide Social Security proof of your marriage and an estimate of what your income will be for the tax year you are requesting Social Security use.

I am amending my tax return for previous years when I filed my tax return as single but I was in a same-sex marriage, can I have my IRMAA changed for those years too?

If you amend your tax return and it changes the income Social Security counted to determine the income-related monthly adjustment amounts, let Social Security know. Social Security needs to see a copy of the amended tax return you filed and your acknowledgment receipt from IRS. Social Security will then update their records with the information you provide, and correct or remove your income-related monthly adjustment amounts, as appropriate

I get Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Must I tell Social Security I am in a same-sex marriage?

Yes. You must tell Social Security if you are married, separated or divorced, or if your marriage was annulled. This information could affect your SSI eligibility or payment amount.

How does the recent Supreme Court decision about the Defense of Marriage Act affect Social Security benefits?

Social Security is now processing some retirement, surviving spouse and lump-sum death payment claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due. Social Security are also considering same-sex marriages when processing some claims for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security are working with the Department of Justice to develop and implement additional policy and processing instructions. If you believe you may be eligible for benefits, Social Security encourages you to apply now to protect you against the loss of any potential benefits. Social Security will then process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized.

How does the recent Supreme Court decision about the Defense of Marriage Act affect my enrollment in Medicare?

Medicare is managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS). SSA works with CMS by determining eligibility for and enrolling people in Medicare. You can find information regarding Medicare eligibility and enrollment for same-sex couples at www.medicare.gov

NOTES:

1) If you have further questions about how a same-sex marriage may affect your claim, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office.

2) Advocates, members of the media, and others with general questions about same-sex marriage or non-marital legal relationship, and Social Security Administration programs, may contact their local Regional Communications Director.

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