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.
“I am pleased to announce that Social Security is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due. The recent Supreme Court decision on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, made just over a month ago, helps to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally, with the dignity and respect they deserve.
We continue to work closely with the Department of Justice. In the coming weeks and months, we will develop and implement additional policy and processing instructions. We appreciate the public’s patience as we work through the legal issues to ensure that our policy is legally sound and clear.
I encourage individuals who believe they may be eligible for Social Security benefits to apply now, to protect against the loss of any potential benefits. We will process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized.”