SSA is encouraging all potential recipients to apply for benefits now, in order establish a protective filing date. SSA employees have been instructed to accept all claims, including those from couples who not only have been married but are in civil unions or registered domestic partnerships. The SSA instructions encourage individuals to apply if they believe they may be eligible.
Currently, SSA is processing claims for spouses of retired workers if the couple is married and currently domiciled in a state that recognizes same sex marriages. For all other claims, potential recipients are encouraged to apply to preserve a filing date, but their claims will be held and not processed until SSA issues further instructions on processing and paying these claims. All instructions from SSA must first be approved by the Department of Justice.
SSA intends to take an incremental approach to processing and paying claims for same sex spouses, and their children, beginning with retirement benefits, and moving to survivor and lump sum death payments.
SSA’s website has a link to information for same sex couples: http://www.ssa.gov/doma.