Laws around equal access and treatment of LGBTQ people, including same-gender couples, continues to evolve and change, some for the better, and some for the worse. The following information is a resource provided by Disability Benefits Help, an independent organization dedicated to helping people of all ages receive Social Security benefits. If you have any questions on your family’s eligibility for auxiliary benefits or how Social Security works in general, feel free to reach out to their team at [email protected].
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If you’re currently receiving Social Security disability or Social Security retirement benefits, your family may be eligible for additional financial resources. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly benefits for dependent family members of disability or retirement recipients. Obgerfell v. Hodges made gay marriage legal in all 50 states, meaning LGBT married couples are now eligible for additional financial planning options through the SSA.
What Benefits Are Available?
Benefits for your family members are known as auxiliary benefits. Spouses, children, and even parents can receive auxiliary benefits. Who can receive benefits will vary depending on the type of Social Security you’re drawing from yourself.
For Those on Retirement or Disability Benefits
If you’ve retired or disabled and started drawing Social Security, your spouse will qualify for auxiliary benefits under your account. Your spouse can receive up to 50% of your own retirement benefits on top of your monthly benefits as soon as your spouse turns 62. If you’re receiving retirement benefits, any minor children* will be eligible for 50% of your benefits until age 18. You will have a household maximum income limit of around 180% of your entitlement, meaning that even if your spouse and multiple children are eligible for 50% of your benefits, your monthly payment will be capped.
*Who counts as a “child” to the SSA? Biological, adopted, and step children will all qualify. You will not need to adopt your spouse’s child if he or she was adopted or is from another marriage, but you will need to wait one year after marriage before applying for auxiliary benefits on behalf of a stepchild.
Your child could be eligible for auxiliary benefits well beyond age 18 if he or she has a disability that began before age 22, such as autism or cerebral palsy.
If you or your spouse were to pass away, additional benefits will be available to your family. Surviving spouses are eligible for between 75%-100% of a deceased spouse’s benefits starting at age 60. Minor children are also eligible for 75% of a parent’s benefits until age 18.
Your parents would also be eligible for survivors’ benefits if you were to pass away so long as your parents are over age 62 and were dependent on you for at least 50% for their daily living expenses.
What Benefits Can’t Be Claimed?
The only benefits that can’t be claimed by the LGBT community (yet) are auxiliary benefits from a disabled or retired spouse after divorce. Typically you can claim 50% of a spouse’s entitlement after a divorce once you’re over age 62, so long as you had been married for 10 years and did not remarry before age 60. Because the Supreme Court did not recognize gay marriage until 2015, it’s unlikely anyone in the LGBT community will be eligible for these resources until 2025 at the earliest.
Starting Your Application
If you need to add beneficiaries to your account, you’ll unfortunately only be able to do so at your closest Social Security office. To make an appointment to fill out the paperwork in person, simply call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.
The SSA’s Website: https://www.ssa.gov/
Types of Beneficiaries: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/progdata/types.html
SSA Offices Across the Country: https://www.disability-benefits-help.org/social-security-disability-locations