While many other federal agencies have already established their stances on same-sex couples, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has yet to rule on whether or not to extend to spousal benefits to couples in same-sex marriages in St. Louis and across the country. It appears to some that what’s holding up the current discussion is deciding on how to handle those cases in states that do not recognize the validity of same-sex marriages, as the SSA currently follows a “place-of-residence” model in determining spousal benefits.
However, this lack of a clear-cut stance on the issue hasn’t stopped the SSA from encouraging same-sex couples to apply for benefits anyway. One might assume from this open invitation that a ruling on the matter is expected in the near future. To that end, communications from the SSA have given a timeline of weeks to months to have a decision in place. Those who’ve already applied and are approved under any new guidelines may actually be considered eligible retroactive to their filing dates.
This invitation has also been extended to same-sex couples in domestic partnerships and civil unions, as well as to those in states that do not yet recognize same-sex marriage. The conclusion one may draw from this is that the SSA plans on following a policy similar to that recently established by the IRS, who recognizes married couples filing as married as actually being married, regardless of the couples sexual orientation or, perhaps more importantly, the state in which they live.
As the SSA continues to grow and evolve to support both a growing retirement and disability base, one may continue to expect qualification criteria for SSA benefits to remain fluid. To stay updated on recent changes with the SSA, one may wish to consult with a social security lawyer.
Source: The New York Times “Same-Sex Couples Are Urged to Apply for Social Security Spousal Benefits” Ann Carrns, Sep. 17, 2013