Social Security & VA: Financial Boost for Same-sex Couples?

Posted on Jun 30, 2015

In a historic ruling released on June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court extended constitutional protection to all same sex marriages in America. This decision will mean, aside from major societal changes in our country, enormous financial benefits for many same sex couples. This is especially true when it comes to Social Security and VA benefits. Dailyfinance.com states, “Recognition of same-sex marriage in all 50 states will guarantee access to Social Security's spousal and survivor benefits, which are the most valuable features of the program.” Just how valuable can they be?  Daily Finance goes on to say, “according to a report by Financial Engines, a Sunnyvale, California-based investment advisory firm, the ruling could add anywhere from $20,000 to more than $250,000 in lifetime benefits to same-sex couples.”

“From a Social Security (or VA)-claiming perspective, these unions ... will be no different than traditional marriages," says Stephen Stellhorn, president and CEO of MSM Capital Management in Tampa as quoted by USA Today. "The rules of Social Security and the benefits it provides will apply to both spouses as well as any children they may have. And not understanding the basics of Social Security could cause you to leave thousands of dollars on the table over your lifetime."  The federal government concurs.  Published on the ssa.gov website is this statement: “On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. As a result, Social Security is no longer prevented from recognizing same-sex marriages in determining entitlement to Social Security benefits or eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.”  The VA announced on Monday, June 29 it would extend earned benefits to spouses and children of all veterans in all same-sex marriages. "VA may (now) recognize the same-sex marriage of all veterans, where the veteran or the veteran's spouse resided anywhere in the United States or its territories at the time of the marriage or at the time of the application of benefits," says a statement issued by the agency.

Exactly when the VA and SSA will begin paying benefits to same sex couples and surviving spouses, is a bit fuzzy right now. However, the generally held belief is that both the VA and Social Security should be able to issue new rules to its field offices very quickly. If you are a spouse in a same sex marriage, we at Cuddigan Law, encourage you to consult with a financial advisor on how best to maximize your benefits.

If you believe you may be eligible for VA benefits, retirement or survivors benefits, or SSI, we encourage you to apply now to protect you against the loss of any potential benefits.  One cautionary note: If you are already receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and get married, part of your husband’s or wife’s income might be considered available to you by SSA which could lower your monthly benefits payment or maybe even make you ineligible. Bear in mind that SSI recipients must report changes in marital status and address to SSA.

If you are considering applying for SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance or have been turned down for either of these disability programs or turned down for VA disability benefits, you can get a free evaluation of your case from the disability experts at Cuddigan Law.

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Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska