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Social Security begins processing survivor benefits for same-sex spouses

Monday, December 16, 2013
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Social-Security-SSAWASHINGTON — The Social Security Administration (SSA) said Monday it has begun processing, and paying, some survivor’s benefits for married, same-sex couples.

Carolyn Colvin, acting commissioner of Social Security, said the agency is processing “some widow’s and widower’s claims by surviving members of same-sex marriages and paying benefits where they are due.”

“In addition, we are able to pay some one-time lump sum death benefit claims to surviving same-sex spouses,” said Colvin.

But the SSA also noted that it is limiting payment of claims only to those who were married in a state that permits same-sex marriage, and where the surviving spouse currently resides in a state that recognizes same sex-marriage.

Couples who were married in one of the 15 states (or District of Columbia) where same-sex marriage is currently legal, but reside in another state, will have their claims held until the agency makes a final decision in their case, or obtains more guidance from the Justice Department.

The agency’s action comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that that blocked federal recognition of same-sex marriages, leading to couples being denied federal benefits.

A similar policy was announced in August relating to retirement benefits for married, same-sex couples.

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