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Social Security’s Commitment With The LGBTTIQ+ Community

June is Pride Month. It’s a time to acknowledge the struggles of the LGBTTQ+ community, and celebrate diversity, love, and respect. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states and territories.

We recognize same-sex couples’ marriages in all states. In addition, some states also recognize certain non-marital legal relationships (such as some civil unions and domestic partnerships). This recognition is important to determine entitlement to benefits.

Here are various things you should know about our benefits for same-sex couples:

· Marital status is important — For Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, the union must be formalized with a marriage certificate to qualify for possible benefits. A member of a same-sex couple may be entitled to Social Security benefits when a working spouse retires, becomes disabled, or dies.

· Special provision for certain surviving spouses: Following court rulings in two class lawsuits – the Ely Class Action and the Thornton Class Action-, Social Security added special consideration for some widow(er)s. If you meet all other requirements, Social Security may also pay benefits to a widowed person who shows that they were both very interested and willing to marry legally, but the only reason they did not follow through on their plans or meet the minimum required time of marriage was because their state or territory of residence prohibited officializing the union of same-sex couples. If your partner passed away several years ago, find out about this special provision and our benefits for surviving spouses.

What type of benefits you can receive — Social Security taxes pay for three kinds of benefits: retirement, disability, and survivors. If you’re entitled to benefits, your spouse and eligible family members might receive benefits, too.

· Children may receive benefits — Your children or stepchildren could also be entitled to benefits.

· When you apply for benefits is important — Contact us to know the different requirements to qualify to our retirement, disability, dependent, and survivor’s benefits.

· Report life changes right away — If you receive Social Security benefits, you should let us know immediately if you move, marry, separate, divorce, or become the parent of a child. Don’t wait until we review your benefits to tell us about any changes.

You should report changes right away, so benefits are paid correctly.

For more information, please visit our website for same-sex couples at www.ssa.gov/people/same-sexcouples. You can also read our publication What Same-Sex Couples Need to Know at www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10014.pdf.

For more information on Social Security, please call 1-800-772-1213, access www.socialsecurity.gov, or visit your local field office (available at www.ssa.gov/locator).

By John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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