With the recent proliferation of laws recognizing the legality of same-sex marriages across the United States, many same-sex couple are now enjoying access to the same types of financial benefits from their spouses that had only been available to married heterosexual couples in the past. Those include insurance and healthcare benefits, hospital visitation rights, and so forth.
While the decision to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples remains with the individual states, the federal government has enacted new policies aimed at making federal benefits available to same-sex couples, most recently extending veterans benefits to married same-sex spouses. While only applicable in those states that recognize same-sex marriages, this move, done on the heels of the IRS saying that same-sex couples are now treated as married for federal tax purposes, is the federal government’s way of tackling some of the issues that arose after the Supreme Court ruled to nullify parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Yet regarding same-sex access to federal benefits, the 800-lbs. gorilla in the room remains Social Security, which has not yet been addressed. Current Social Security guidelines grant access to benefits for those legally married according to the laws of the states in which they reside. While this follows the same model as the recent ruling regarding veteran’s benefits, it’s believed that changing rules regarding the Social Security Administration would require action from Congress, as many of those rules are written into law.
As the SSA requirements determining who has access to Social Security benefits change, one may be left to wonder if those benefits will be available to him or her when they’re needed. A Social Security lawyer may help in answering those questions.
Source: Wall Street Journal “U.S. to Provide Veterans Benefits to Gay Married Couples” Devlin Barrett, Sep. 04, 2013