There are several types of spousal and widow’s benefits available from Social Security. The Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, opening the door for same-sex spouses to receive federal benefits such as Social Security. Or did it? On August 9, 2013, the Social Security Administration announced that SSA is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples. http://ssa.gov/doma/
The issue, however, is not as straight-forward or clear as one would wish. Social Security’s regulations instruct its offices to look to the “place of domicile” (residence) of the wage earner as the relevant state law for assessing who is a spouse for benefits purposes. That means that as the law stands right now, same-sex couples who live in Alabama, Mississippi, or Florida would not, as a matter of course, be eligible to receive spousal benefits from Social Security. For in depth information on this issue and a great discussion of available Social Security benefits and how they have been affected by Windsor, you can visit http://www.lambdalegal.org/publications/after-doma-social-security.
If you have general questions about spousal benefits, including widow’s and widower’s benefits, an experienced Social Security disability attorney can evaluation your particular situation and advise you about available benefits.