The Social Security Administration announced it has started processing claims and paying death benefits due the surviving spouses of same-sex couples.
"I am pleased to announce that [the] Social Security is processing some widow’s and widower’s claims by surviving members of same-sex marriages and paying benefits where they are due,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, acting commissioner of Social Security, in a statement on Monday. “In addition, we are able to pay some one-time lump sum death benefit claims to surviving same-sex spouses.”
The action comes after the June Supreme Court decision ruled unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act, which did not recognize same-sex marriages.
A surviving spouse must have been married to the deceased for at least nine months to be eligible for benefits, unless exceptions are met, such as that the death was accidental at work or happened in the line of military duty.
Under current rules, the Social Security Administration can only pay benefits to same-sex spouses if they live in a state where such marriages are legal. The agency is in the process of updating the rules so any couple legally married would be eligible, no matter where they lived.
Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.
If eligible, a surviving spouse would receive benefits equal to that would have been paid had the partner lived. Colvin also said surviving spouses also could apply for a lump-sum payment of $255.
Colvin urged those who believe they are entitled to benefits to apply now to ensure they meet any deadlines.