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SSA updates policy on survivor benefits for transgender spouses

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
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WASHINGTON — The Social Security Administration (SSA) on Tuesday updated its policies regarding the ability of transgender individuals to receive benefits through their spouses.

Robina Asti

Robina Asti

In its announcement, the SSA clarified that although its “past policy was to refer all marriage-based claims involving transgender individuals for a legal opinion from the Regional Chief Counsel,” the new policy “allows us to process most claims…without the need for a legal opinion.”

The action comes after months of advocacy by Lambda Legal on behalf of Robina Asti, a 92-year-old transgender woman who was denied survivor benefits by the SSA after her husband’s death.

“This is a critical development for all married transgender people, but is especially important for transgender older adults, who rely on the safety net of Social Security benefits,” said Karen Loewy, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney and Seniors Program Strategist.

“The extension of Social Security spousal retirement and survivor benefits to older transgender adults can be lifesaving. This new policy allows for transgender seniors to receive their benefits as quickly as possible, and to age with greater certainty and security, rather than with fear,” added Loewy.

Asti, a a World War II veteran and pilot, married Norwood Patton in 2004. Following Patton’s death in 2012, Asti was denied survivor benefits that would have increased her monthly Social Security by about $500.

The SSA had determined that Asti’s marriage was not valid because she was “legally male” at the time of her wedding.

In February, after months of advocacy, Lambda Legal announced the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid Asti, a 92-year-old transgender woman, the survivor benefits she was denied after her husband’s death.

More on Robina Asti is here.

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