The Supreme Court of the United States recently issued a decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court held same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states. The Obergefell decision has made a large impact in all aspects of the Federal government, especially in the Social Security arena. A prior Supreme Court decision in 2013 opened the door for same-sex couples to apply for spousal and survivor benefits, but only in states which recognize their union. The Obergefell decision has now made it so states such as Florida, who has traditionally refused to recognize the union of same sex spouses, may no longer be a bar to same-sex couples applying for Social Security benefits.
As mentioned in the previous post, Social Security Benefits for Spouses, in certain circumstances, individuals can apply for Social Security Disability or Retirement under the earnings records of their spouses. Now, with the Obergefell decision, same-sex spouses can apply for Social Security Disability benefits under the earnings record of their spouse, even if they live in a state who does not recognize their union.
However, there are drawbacks to this decision and its effect on Social Security, namely for those applying for or receiving Social Supplemental Income (SSI) benefits. In order to be eligible for SSI benefits, the applicant must show they they have "limited resources." For the Social Security Administration, "limited resources" means the individual may not have assets (such as cash, bank accounts, cars, etc.) which collectively amount to more than $2,000 or $3,000, if married. The Obergefell decision has resulted in the Social Security Administration now considering the assets of the same-sex marriage as a whole, as opposed to only looking to the individual applying.
Additionally, if your spouse is earning an income then Social Security will attribute some of their income to you, the individual receiving SSI benefits. So in same-sex couples where the spouse is earning income, the individual receiving SSI benefits may have those reduced based on the income that Social Security "deems" to them from their spouse's earnings.
If you have questions regarding your claim for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits, contact us today.