Jul 27, 2013

Why No Action On Same Sex Marriages?

     The Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented Social Security from recognizing same sex marriages, was unconstitutional on June 26, 2013. That was more than a month ago. While Social Security has sent out a press release saying it is "taking" claims for benefits based upon same sex marriages, it has instructed its staff to do NOTHING with these claims. How much longer will it be before Social Security starts to act on these claims? 
     The dodge of saying "we're taking claims" can't work much longer. Eventually, the main stream media will figure out that simply "taking claims" is meaningless. It's what you do with the claims that counts. Holding them for months and months is little different from denying them. The main stream media will be asking questions in the near future. The agency and the administration can't just think about this subject for the next six months or so.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Get off your soapbox, Charles.

The behemoth that is SSA takes a long time to make minor tweaks and ensure those tweaks work within all its systems. Are you really going hard in the paint for SSA taking a while to effectuate something that is going to mess with all manner of aspects of numerous programs (just think of SSI by itself--the deeming, household, etc. etc. procedures that must be changed/added)?

Look, we all know you're the People's (who have any problems with SSA, deserved or otherwise) Champ; quit harping on and on about this issue.

Trina Brown said...

I agree Charles. This "do nothing" approach is garbage. Equality under the law. What's so hard about that? Hire more people already!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Anonymous. They had to wait and see how the SC ruled before any actions can be taken. There are discussions at the WH level going on to coordinate what can be done by the executive (at all agencies, not just SSA) versus what requires a reg or law change. And agencies are proposing law and reg changes but need the OK to go ahead. Just what is to be done by SSA when the couple lives in a DOMA state, and so based on state law, which guides our policy, they aren't married? What are the consequences to other policies if we just ignore state law? Have we been approached by possible litigants (who want DOMA at the state) if we do that?

I vote unreasonable to pick on SSA; if you really want to pick on someone, pick on the WH.

Now let's talk systems programming, the surface edits, relationship edits and coding that needs to be redone. There are issues of writing the instructions, the POMS, any new training on possible systems work arounds.

Anonymous said...

In addition to all the systems and instructional issues already mentioned, there are obviously still some complex legal issues. One involves SSA's use of domicile to determine which State's laws to apply in a particular situation. This is pertinent in a situation where the individuals were married in a state recognizing same sex marriages but at the time a claim is filed are domiciled in a state that does not recognize them.

Also, would the Supreme Court decision have automatically invalidated the way husband and wife are defined automatically invalidated he definitions of husband and wife in Section 216 of the Social Security Act? Those definitions are gender specific. As the SS law is currently written, a same sex partner does not meet the definition of a husband or wife for SS benefit purposes and hasn't since well before DOMA was even enacted.

I'm not an attorney, but is it possible that the constitutionality of how SSA defines a husband and wife for benefit purposes is still to be resolved? Recognizing the validity of a marriage is not necessarily the same as saying the relationship meets the requirement for wife or husband benefits.

Anonymous said...

Edit - The second paragraph of the above comment should have read:

Also, would the Supreme Court decision have automatically invalidated the definitions of husband and wife in Section 216 of the Social Security Act? Those definitions are gender specific. As the SS Act is currently written, a same sex partner does not meet the definition of either a husband or wife for SS benefit purposes, and hasn't since well before DOMA was even enacted.

Anonymous said...

It took three years to implement what should be a simple change to the claims withdrawal process.

Anonymous said...

I am curious about what they're going to tell us to do about same sex couples on SSI where presumably we will have to reduce their benefits because instead of being paid as two individuals, they now would get about 1/3 less as a couple.

Anonymous said...

oh come on....just do it. Charles says it's easy, so it's easy. changing a Federal Statute, changing the regs and poms, reducing same sex couples SSI, an outdated computer system that won't accept same sex couples inputs, dealing with locality issues between states that have same sex marriage and those that don't....noting complicated at all. Better to act and get it wrong, than delay to get it right...according to charles.

Anonymous said...

By encouraging people to apply now instead of waiting until all these issues are resolved, is not SSA working to make people better off. If it takes 6 mos to figure this out, won't applicants get paid as of the date of application, not the date it all got worked out?