Social Security payments currently dependent on partners’ residency

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The Social Security Administration is restricting the payment of claims for legally married same-sex couples to partners who currently reside in a state that recognizes marriage equality.

The policy means that claims from couples who were married in a state with marriage equality but now domiciled in a state that does not recognize equal marriage rights are having their applications put on hold.

A new section named the “Windsor Same-Sex Marriage Claims” was added to the Social Security Administration’s Program Operations Manual System, which the agency describes as the chief source of information used by Social Security employees to process claims for benefits.

According to BuzzFeed, the claims’ processing instructions “allow for payment of claims” when the claimant “was married in a state that permits same-sex marriage” and “is domiciled at the time of application, or while the claim is pending a final determination, in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.”

In a press release, acting commissioner of the agency, Carolyn Colvin, said that the ruling of the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA “helps to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally, with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

As analysts await the policies to be undertaken from bodies such as the IRS, the Social Security Administration’s stance is the first major implementation by the federal government after Windsor in which marriage benefits recognition is tied to the state of domicile rather than the place of celebration.

The inconsistency in this area is evidenced by the fact that benefits to federal employees offered through the Office of Personnel Management do not apply to those in civil unions, a position that affects states like Hawaii and Colorado.

429Magazine

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