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Social Security benefits for same-sex partners now available

In August 2013, same-sex marriages were legalized in Minnesota, which conferred many theretofore unavailable legal rights to same-sex partners. Now, same-sex couples are entitled to Social Security benefits that a spouse has earned through his or her employment. After a divorce, the law provides same-sex partners with eligibility for many benefits, such as death benefits, disability or retirement claims and so on. A surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage can now apply for the benefits that may be available on the Social Security Administration's website.

Once the surviving spouse of a same-sex couple or heterosexual couple applies for benefits, the date of filing determines the start date of any potential benefits. If the same-sex couple lives in a state in which same-sex marriage is prohibited, but they were married in a state that does offer legally valid same-sex marriage, then the surviving spouse should apply for benefits. The U.S. Department of Justice is working on the issue and applying now will prevent the loss of any benefits.

If a person receives Supplemental Security Income, then the individual must tell the Social Security Administration that he or she is in a same-sex marriage. Even if the marriage was annulled, the Social Security Administration must be informed. This information can affect the payment amount or eligibility for the SSI program. If a former spouse of a same-sex couple applies for Social Security benefits, but is not entitled to these benefits, then he or she will not be fined simply for applying. Appeals of any negative decisions also can be made without penalty.

A same-sex couple interested in more useful information can visit the SSA's website. Individuals may also call on the following number: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). All calls are treated confidentially.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Important Information About Social Security Benefits For Same-Sex Couples," accessed Dec. 23, 2014

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