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Same Sex Marriage - The Social Security Impact

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, and held that the United States Constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to two people of the same sex and to recognize a same sex marriage lawfully licensed and performed in another state.

The Social Security Administration is working with the U.S. Department of Justice to determine how this decision affects Social Security programs, and to develop appropriate processing instructions. Recognition of same sex marriage may cause individuals to be eligible for Social Security, Medicare and/or Medicaid benefits, based upon this decision. An individual's status as a married person is relevant for determining eligibility for benefits, such as the following:

  • Enhanced Social Security benefits based upon your spouse's or deceased spouse's earnings;
  • Premium free Medicare Part A benefits;
  • Medicaid coverage of nursing home expenses or expenses of other long-term services and support;
  • Social Security survivor benefits (if the spouse has died).

In some situations, status as a married person may be particularly important for the determination of benefits, such as the following:

  • The spouse has earned more income;
  • The individual does not have enough work history for Medicare Part A;
  • The individual is paying for Medicare Part A and the spouse lives in a nursing home or receives other types of long-term services or support;
  • The spouse passed away 9 months after they were married.

Additionally, same sex marriage can also have a significant impact on Supplemental Security Income cases. While marriage has definite benefits for family members in Title II cases, the same cannot be said for SSI. Two individuals who are eligible for SSI and are married, only receive 150% of the SSI benefits for an individual, not two times the individual benefit. Further, there is spousal deeming so that SSI benefits are likely to be affected by the other spouse's income.

If this situation applies to you, please feel free to contact our office to discuss your circumstances or check with your local Social Security office to determine what specific benefits may be available to you as a married couple.

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