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SSA Stops Collecting Overpayments for Same-Sex Couples

June 23, 2015

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced it will hold all Supplemental Security Income (SSI) actions that would result in an overpayment due to deeming of income or resources based on recognition of a same-sex marriage, or applying the couple’s payment rate or resource limit to a member of a same-sex couple.  Emergency Message (EM)-15016, issued May 6, 2015, provides that future SSI can be reduced or terminated based on the income or resources of a same-sex spouse, but not prior months.  https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/reference.nsf/links05052015024754PM.  No new overpayment notices will be issued to SSI recipients married to persons of the same sex.

The Emergency Message follows the filing of a lawsuit to stop the agency from collecting overpayments from married couples of the same sex receiving SSI benefits.  As reported in the March edition of the Disability Law News, Justice in Aging, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and Foley Hoag LLP filed a class action lawsuit charging that SSA discriminated against married individuals of the same sex who receive SSI by failing to recognize their legal marriages.  Held v. Colvin, filed as a nation-wide class-action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, challenged SSA’s continuing to issue benefits as if the recipients were single even after the Windsor decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Well after United States v. Windsor, –– U.S. ––, 133 S.Ct. 2675, 2695, 186 L.Ed.2d 808 (2013), SSA did not recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, even in cases where SSI recipients informed SSA they were married.  SSI benefits for unmarried individuals are higher than for married individuals, but SSA continued to issue benefits as if the married individuals were single.  But when SSA finally began recognizing those marriages in 2014, it also began issuing overpayment notices for the prior months, even though many of the recipients had informed SSA of their status.  Under the new EM, no new overpayment notices will be issued.

If you know any LGBT SSI recipients in this situation who have already received notices of overpayment, they could be potential class members in the case.  Please contact Justice in Aging Litigation Director, Anna Rich, at arich@justiceinaging.org.

 





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