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Same Sex Widows and Widowers – Please Read

Many same sex couples in which one has passed may not have married because they could not under the laws at the time, and thus were denied or never applied for Social Security survivor’s benefits. In addition, some same sex couples were not married the minimum length of time (9 months) to collect their late partner’s Social Security survivor’s benefits. That has changed.

Recently, the Biden administration ended the appeals for 2 class action lawsuits about those same sex partners who were prevented from receiving their late partner’s Social Security survivor’s benefits. There was a case for each of the 2 situations: Thornton was for those who couldn’t marry, and Ely was the case for those who’d not been married the minimum time. For the most part, this would only apply to you if you are over 60 now (if not, you may be able apply later) or are 50+ and disabled. You may be asked to produce evidence of your relationship (think joint bank accounts, joint ownership of property, even revealing communications could provide evidence of your relationship). Also, this would only make sense for you to pursue if your own Social Security benefits are/would be lower than your partner’s Social Security survivor’s benefits. If you are or know someone who is in either of these situations and might be eligible to collect their late partner’s Social Security survivor’s benefits, there are some resources you may want to look into.

Here are some links explaining what’s going on – the first two are articles, the next two are FAQs created by Lambda Legal (who represented the plaintiffs in both cases), and the last two are from the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) website:

If you think either situation applies to you, use the link at the bottom of either of those last two SSA articles to find the number to call your local office. You cannot apply for these benefits on line, and they are treating claims on a case-by-case basis. If you’re not sure if this applies to you, you may want to call the SSA to find out. To make it easier for them to understand what you’re asking, you may want to mention the Thornton or Ely case that applies to you.

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