The June 26th Supreme Court decision that same-sex couples have a right to marry in all states has significantly impacted the landscape of Social Security claiming decisions.
Prior to this decision, Social Security benefits were made available to same-sex couples based on a combination of legal factors. Now the legal confusion centers on whether non-legal civil arrangements other than marriage qualify as marriage under the rules of claiming Social Security benefits. The core issues before the Social Security administration (SSA) will center on what constitutes marriage, and when was the marriage effective.
The SSA website states: “We are working with the Department of Justice to analyze the decision and provide instructions for processing claims. We will update this website as new information becomes available.”
Issues to for Same Sex Couples to Consider
The primary areas of change for claimants focus on 3 areas of Social Security benefits – spousal benefits, survivor benefits and auxiliary benefits. Auxiliary benefits include family members, including children and adopted children and “spousal benefits” for those who are caring for dependent children of a social security insured individual. Divorced spousal benefits and divorced survivor benefits will also be available to claimants, subject to the existing 10 year requirement for marriage.
The SSA website addresses some of these issues at www.ssa.gov. These are some of the frequently asked questions and answers:
Q: 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?
SSA Answer: SS 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. We encourage you to apply right away for benefits, even if you aren’t sure you are eligible. Applying now will protect you against the loss of any potential benefits.
Q: If you are receiving SS benefits and are in a civil union or other non-marital legal relationship, do you need to disclose that to the SS Administration?
SSA Answer: Yes, as this may affect eligibility for other benefits
Q: How does the recent Supreme Court decision about same-sex marriage affect an individual’s enrollment in Medicare?
SSA Answer: Medicare is managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS). SSA works with CMA 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.
Q: Will Social Security recognize a same-sex marriage if the ceremony took place in a foreign country?
SSA Answer: We are now able to recognize some foreign same-sex marriages for purposes of determining entitlement to benefits.
To have these or any other social security issues reviewed, please consider visiting a professional to see what options you have for your unique social security retirement choices whether you are single, married, widowed or divorced.
Vincent J. Catania, CFP®, MBA is a Registered Representative with, and securities offered through, LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC
The content of this article is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The preceding are hypothetical examples and are not representative of any specific scenarios. Your results may vary.