US allows social security benefits for same-sex spouses

By MoneyTimes

Aug 25, 2015 01:37 AM EDT

Gay couples can now collect their Social Security benefits, the government announced Thursday.

According to the advisory, same-sex married couples who resides in states that haven't yet legalized their unions and who have filed claims for their Social Security benefits can now get those payments.

The Justice Department advised lawyers of plaintiffs who want their benefits that the Social Security Administration is to apply the June ruling of the Supreme Court where married was considered a constitutional right, Obergefell v Hodges. But it will be applied for gay couples who previously filed claims and are now pending in the administrative process.

The Obergefell case stemmed from the famous Windsor decision in 2014, where the court ruled that same-sex married couples are entitled to their federal benefits. Despite the ruling, many gay couples still didn't receive what is due to them from their Social Security benefits.

The Social Security Administration determines the marital status of a couple based on the state, which is why couples who lived in states that does not recognize same-sex marriage were not considered eligible to get their spousal-related benefits.

Last year, Lambda Legal filed cases for Kathy Murphy and Dave Williams, a widow and a widower who reside in states that didn't recognize same-sex marriage when their partners died. Before the ruling, there were 11 states that didn't recognize gay marriage.  

There are no exact details, however, on when the Social Security Administration will enact this policy. But the Justice system is working with the Social Security office to update the processing instructions.

Susan Sommer, the director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal said, when this policy is implemented, they are hopeful that widows, widowers, ad retirees, will soon get their hard-earned Social Security spousal benefits.

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