new Income graphic
 SSA Removes Hold On Some SSI Same Sex Couple Applications


In December, NSCLC learned that all Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications from people in a same sex marriage had been placed on an indefinite hold following last summer's Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor


Individual cases in California, Maine and New York were brought to our attention by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Empire Justice Center.  All of the individuals had applied for benefits prior to Windsor.  In each case, they had been determined to meet the disability standard and would satisfy the SSI financial eligibility standard, whether they were regarded as married or not. 


As a result of the delays, one individual was facing eviction, another had already been evicted.  Another person had a terminal diagnosis with only six months left to live.


NSCLC, along with GLAD and the ACLU then raised the "hold" issue with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Department of Justice, stressing the urgency of the situation in which SSI applicants often find themselves. We emphasized that people eligible for SSI are a group who, by definition, have no resources to fall back on.  Individual cases were also brought to SSA's attention. 


As a result, SSA issued instructions earlier this month that provide for processing SSI applications from individuals in a same sex marriage who reside in a marriage recognition state and were married on or after the date that the state first happened to recognize an out of state marriages.  They have also now paid each of the four hardship cases that were specifically brought to their attention.


NSCLC appreciates that SSA has responded favorably on these cases.  However, further steps need to be taken without delay.  SSI claims are still not being processed for the following groups:


  • People in a same sex marriage residing in a non-recognition state
  • People in a same sex marriage residing in a state that recognizes the marriage, but who married out of state before the state recognized same sex marriages (Edie Windsor's situation)
  • People in a same sex marriage who reside in a state that recognizes the marriage, but who resided in a non-recognition state for any month after June, 2013
  • People in registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or reciprocal beneficiary relationships no matter where they reside
  • People residing in the same household as another individual of the same sex with whom they have no legal relationship but who are holding out as married to the community
  • Children whose eligibility or payment amount is dependent on a parent's same sex marriage


While the number of SSI applications still being held under these instructions is believed to be small, the impact of holding applications is significant for these individuals and could lead to homelessness, hunger and more.  In some states Medicaid eligibility may depend on it.  


NSCLC believes that there is no justification for not processing all of these applications now.  This is a group of people whose eligibility is not the result of Windsor.  They would have been eligible before Windsor and for the most part will continue to be eligible after Windsor.


At the same time that SSA announced it would begin processing these applications, the agency announced that it would also begin processing post-eligibility actions such as redeterminations for SSI recipients in a same sex relationship if they are legally married under the laws of the state where they reside.


SSA began processing some applications for spousal benefits based on a same sex marriage in late August and started to process applications for survivor benefits and lump sum death benefits based on a same sex marriage in December.  However, the same categories of SSI applications that are on hold remain on hold for OASDI applications as well.


If you have a client who is waiting to have an SSI application processed because the applicant is in a same-sex legal relationship, please contact Gerald McIntyre at



NSCLC Feedback

National Legal Resource Center
Case consultation help for advocates
Forward this alert to a friend

NSCLC staff are available to help advocates with answers to questions about program rules and requirements, reviewing and analyzing pleadings, commenting on proposed litigation, assisting in the formulation of strategies, drafting opinion letters and providing memoranda, articles and other written materials.