On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states and have their marriage recognized by other states. This decision made it possible for more same-sex couples and their families to benefit from our programs.
Benefits for Same-Sex Couples
Your marital status is important in determining your entitlement to retirement, survivors, Medicare, and disability benefits. You or your spouse could be entitled to benefits, or a higher benefit amount, based on your marital relationship. Your children or stepchildren could also be entitled to benefits. For some surviving spouses, divorced spouses, and adults who developed a qualifying disability during childhood, benefits could end if they marry. Marriage may also affect your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility or payment amount.
In some cases, people who are in non-marital legal relationships like civil unions or domestic partnerships may also be entitled to benefits as a married person.
To get more information about benefits for same-sex couples read What Same-Sex Couples Need to Know.
Survivors Benefits for Same-Sex Partners and Spouses
Surviving same-sex partners and spouses previously excluded from receiving Social Security survivors benefits may now qualify for benefits. If you were in a same-sex relationship with a partner or spouse who passed away, you may qualify for benefits based on your partner’s or spouse’s record.
You may qualify for survivors benefits if either of the following are true:
- You would have been married at the time of your partner’s death if unconstitutional state laws hadn’t prevented you from doing so.
- You would have been married longer if not for unconstitutional state laws that prevented you from marrying earlier.
If you think you may qualify based on the categories above, please contact us to apply. Even if you were previously denied survivors benefits because you did not meet the marriage requirement due to unconstitutional laws, you can ask us to reopen, or take another look at, your claim. If you were previously denied and we find that you qualify for benefits, you may be due retroactive benefits. For more information, visit Survivors Benefits for Same-Sex Partners and Spouses.
Inform Us of Changes
If you already receive Social Security benefits or SSI, you must tell us if you get married, enter a non-marital legal relationship, or divorce. These changes could affect your entitlement to Social Security benefits or your SSI eligibility or payment amount.
Whenever you change your name, be sure to report the change to us. Otherwise, your earnings may not be recorded properly, and you may not receive all the benefits you are due. We will provide you with an updated Social Security card. For more information read Your Social Security Number and Card.
Also, if you are paying a higher Medicare premium for Part B and Part D, you could be eligible for a new initial determination based on a life-changing event of marriage. If you amended your tax return and changed the income we used to determine your premium, let us know. We call the additional premium amount the “income-related monthly adjustment amount” (IRMAA). To report these changes in your income, use the Medicare Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount – Life-Changing Event form.
If you and your same-sex partner have a child, we can place both parents’ names on your child’s Social Security number record. You will need to provide proof that you are the legal parents of the child. For more information read Social Security Numbers for Children. When you are ready to apply for an SSN for your child, contact us.
If you have a personal my Social Security account, you can get an estimate of your personal retirement benefits and see the effects of different retirement age scenarios. If you don’t have a personal my Social Security account, create one at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.
How to Apply
When you are ready to apply for benefits, you can:
- Apply online (retirement, spouse’s, Medicare, disability, SSI).
- Apply by phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contacting your local Social Security office.
The application for survivors benefits is not available online. If you think you may be entitled to survivors benefits, we encourage you to contact us right away. If you previously applied and were denied survivors benefits, you should contact us. You should apply even if you are not sure if you are entitled.
Note: You will not receive a penalty or fine if Social Security denies your claim because you do not qualify for benefits. If you appeal that decision or apply again, you will not receive a penalty or a fine.