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Social Security Changes Affecting the LGBT Community

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2014 | LGBTQ Legal Issues |


The Social Security Administration (SSA) has made two announcements this year that affect the LGBT community.

First, the SSA announced it was changing its policy with regard to the ability of transgender individuals to receive benefits through their spouses.  Prior to yesterday’s announcement, any marriage-based claims filed by or involving a transgender individual was referred to the Regional Chief Counsel for a legal opinion, and were often denied.  Under the new policy, most claims will be processed in a straightforward manner, without the need for a legal opinion.  Presumably, this means most claims of this nature will not be summarily denied.

Lambda Legal, who had been advocating for this change on behalf of a 92-year-old transgender individual (and veteran) after the SSA denied her survivor benefits claim following the death of her husband, hailed the policy change, explaining, “This is a critical development for all married transgender people, but is especially important for transgender older adults, who rely on the safety net of Social Security benefits.”  To read more about the case that helped prompt this change, go here.

Second, the SSA announced in January that it would begin considering same-sex marriages when processing Social Security Supplemental Income claims.  SSI is a program based on financial need, and the SSA will now consider the income and resources of the recipient and his or her same-sex spouse when determining eligibility and monthly payment.  To read more about this policy change, go here.