Bob Casey, Elizabeth Warren, and More Address Loophole in SSA’s Same-Sex Marriage Benefits

Bob Casey and Elizabeth Warren

Bob Casey and Elizabeth Warren

A loophole in the Social Security Administration’s benefit administration has caused many same-sex married couples to be penalized by the SSA, and a growing host of Congressional lawmakers are encouraging that the agency do something about it.

Senators Bob Casey, Elizabeth Warren, and over 120 of their colleagues signed a letter to Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn Colvin and Attorney Genera Loretta Lynch on Monday, inquiring “about the steps Social Security Administration is taking to ensure it can correctly account for marital status and administer benefits fairly to all individuals.” The letter goes on to request that the SSA not penalize married same-sex couples who received Supplemental Security (SSI) overpayments “due to SSA’s delayed implementation of the law following the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision.”

“We are concerned to hear that, for some time after the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, SSA continued to issue benefits to Supplemental Security Income recipients in same-sex marriages as though these individuals were single, and that for some SSI recipients, SSA is still doing so,” the letter states. “SSA should not penalize people who are poor, elderly or disabled because SSA continued issuing benefits to these married individuals as though they were single. According to SSA’s statute and regulations, SSA shall avoid penalizing an individual for overpayment if the individual is without fault and if recovery of the overpayment would be against equity and good conscience. [We] urge SSA to issue a blanket waiver for recovery of overpayment for all of these individuals automatically – especially since SSA’s inability to update its systems resulted in SSA’s continuing to apply Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act long after the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional.”

The letter asks the SSA how many notices has the SSA sent seeking to recoup overpayments from individuals married to someone of the same sex, and if they are recouping any money in these circumstances. The lawmakers also ask for information about how the SSA is updating its systems and processes so that they can “correctly take martial status into account and administer benefits fairly to all individuals.”

You can read the full letter here.