Social Security grants SSI waivers for same-sex marriages

Senator Elizabeth Warren Senator Elizabeth Warren. Photo credit: "Elizabeth Warren and Tim Murray" photo by Tim Pierce (licensed CC-BY-2.0)

The Social Security Administration has adopted a streamlined process for waivers to fix errors in its treatment of people in same-sex marriages who are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

The change was made after U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and 120 other Members of Congress sent a letter to Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, and Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General of the United States, alerting them to the error. A lawsuit was also filed by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) on behalf of the beneficiaries.

The letter from Members of Congress, sent in October 2015, noted that Social Security had continued to pay benefits to SSI recipients in same-sex marriages as if they were unmarried, which resulted in higher benefits than the married individuals were entitled to. Social Security then issued overpayment notices, though the individuals were not at fault.

Social Security has now adopted a streamlined process for these individuals to avoid having to pay a penalty for the agency’s mistake. The new process assumes that each beneficiary has requested a waiver of recovery of the overpayment, and that the individual is without fault.

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