Survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) are among the most important types of income the agency provides. When a high-earning spouse passes away, the surviving spouse isn’t going to be left in the lurch financially.
Because they were unable to legally marry the partner of their choice for many years, millions of Americans have been denied access to survivor benefits. Since same-sex marriage wasn’t legalized until it was too late for many older LGBTQ people, this is the predicament they’ve been thrust into.
The good news is that the SSA has now allowed some widowed partners who were denied full marriage rights to receive survivor benefits. You need to know the details of this new procedure.
When it comes to Social Security survivor benefits, here’s how and why it works for LGBTQ couples.
To be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits, you must have been married to your spouse at the time of their death and for at least nine months prior to that. It is also possible to qualify if you have been divorced for at least ten years without remarrying and are under the age of sixty (or age 50 if disabled).
Because of this, many long-term committed relationships between people of the same sex did not end in marriage, and as a result, they were not eligible for survivor benefits. There have been some successful attempts to change the Social Security rule that prevents people from marrying.
Those who had lost their same-s*x partners before they were able to legally wed formed two class-action lawsuits.
Ely v. Saul and Thorton v. Commissioner of Social Security were two cases that successfully challenged current rules and argued that survivors’ benefits should be extended to those denied the right to wed their partners, which they were.
Due to a change in policy under the Biden administration, Social Security Administration in November dropped both appeals against class-action lawsuits brought by the Trump administration.
This means that the Social Security Administration now allows same-sex partners to receive Social Security survivor benefits, even if they weren’t married or weren’t married for the required nine months. T
o be eligible for these benefits, one must be in a committed relationship with a deceased same-sex partner who died before the application deadline.
In addition to a shared home, commitment ceremony, joint bank accounts, mortgages or leases, as well as photographs and letters, this evidence can be used to support the relationship.
Claiming survivor benefits can provide an important income source for seniors
In cases where one of the partners had a higher income, survivors’ benefits can provide a substantial boost to a senior’s monthly budget.
As early as age 50 for disabled spouses and even younger when caring for a minor child of a deceased partner, they are also available earlier than Social Security retirement benefits.
There could be a huge financial benefit to the fact that same-sex partners can now take advantage of these new benefits, as well.
If you fall into this category and were denied the right to marry, it’s critical that you learn about your new legal responsibilities and that you file a claim for any benefits you are entitled to by providing the Social Security Administration with proof of your marriage.