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Same-Sex Couples Seeking Survivor Benefits Win in District Court

by | Dec 17, 2021 | Social Security Disability |

A Federal Judge in the Western District of Washington adopted the recommendation of a magistrate judge and struck down as unconstitutional the exclusion of some widows and widowers from Social Security survivor programs.

This class action lawsuit included plaintiffs whose same-sex partner died before same-sex marriage was legal in their state and who had applied for survivor’s benefits from the Social Security Administration. In Thornton v. Saul, Helen Thornton represented the class.  Ms. Thornton sought benefits based on her 27-year relationship with her partner who died in 2006, 6 years before same-sex marriage was legal in Washington.

In a separate class action, Ely v. Saul, Plaintiffs were successful in establishing a right to survivor benefits for widows or widowers who married their same-sex spouse once it was legal in their state but who experienced the death of one spouse in less than the nine months required for survivor’s benefits.

In both cases, the government dismissed its right to appeal and will be providing relief for these widows and widowers.

If you have questions about survivor benefits or Social Security disability benefits, contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today at 251-343-1111 for a free case evaluation. Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. represents Social Security disability claimants in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana at all levels of the disability process from initial application to appeals to Federal Court.

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