Same-Sex Marriage Legalization and Social Security Disability Insurance

Same-sex marriage has been recognized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 2004, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued its opinion on the landmark case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. While this was a great stride forward for same-sex couples, it did not mean that they could file joint federal tax returns or claim other federal benefits as a married couple since the Defense of Marriage Act allowed the federal government and other states to not recognize same-sex marriages, even if they were entered into in a state in which same-same sex marriage was legal.

writing-a-check-2-701013-mIn other words, it was a law that overturned the full faith and credit clause of the constitution with respect to same-sex couples and their marriages. It was not until the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, that the Defense of Marriage Act, was struck down as unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, including the Full Faith and Credit Clause, as well as reasons involving equal protection for all Americans.

This ruling means that no state can deny a couple the right to marry based upon their sexual orientation, and these newly recognized couples would be entitled to any federal benefits and programs available for married couples. This means that same-sex couples that are married can fail a joint married tax return. According to a recent news article from the International Business Times, a same-couple is now entitled to spousal benefits for a spouse receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), as long as they meet the required criteria under Social Security Administration (SSA) regulations.

As our Boston disability attorneys can explain, there is also the issue of how a household income is calculated and this can lead to additional complications. In cases involving Supplemental Security Income, SSA has long been requiring a claimant to claim his or spouse’s income to determine if a person in income eligible for benefits. For same-sex couples, this means SSA would include the other spouse’s income, but would not provide spousal benefits. However, in some cases, they would not count the spouse’s income, as their marriage was not recognized in federal law. While this may sound like a good thing, now that same-sex marriage is legal, there have been reports of SSA asking to be paid back for benefits paid out to same-sex couples.

This may seem somewhat complicated, and, in reality, it is very complicated, and it is not something you should try doing on your own, as consulting with an experienced disability benefits attorney would greatly increase your chance of a successful outcome. However, it should be noted that all cases are different, as the facts are never the same, and you should speak with your attorney about your situation. There is currently a case filed in federal court by Massachusetts residents who have been asked to repay benefits, and it will be interesting to see how that case is ultimately resolved and how the most recent Supreme Court may affect things.

If you are seeking Social Security Disability benefits in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Marriage Equality 2015: Same Sex Couple Benefits Extended Nationwide, Including Veterans And Disabled, Loretta Lynch Announces, July 9, 2015, International Business Times

More Blog Entries:

SSDI Approvals Lowest in Five Years, June 20, 2014, Boston Social Security Disability Lawyers Blog

Contact Information