Dec 17, 2013

New Staff Instructions On Same Sex Marriages -- Not Much Decided

     Social Security has issued new staff instructions dealing with situations where a claimant has married a person of the same sex in a foreign country where such marriages are legal but is now living in one of the United States that refuses to recognize such marriages. Social Security's position is that it will not recognize such marriages, that it must go by the law of the state in which the claimant is domiciled. However, Social Security is not ready to announce what it will do in the vastly more common case of a person who enters into a same sex marriage within the United States in one of the states where such marriages are legal but who then moves to another state which refuses to recognize same sex marriages. Social Security is still holding such claims waiting for the Department of Justice to tell them what to do.
     I'm starting to wonder whether the Department of Justice is waiting for one of the Courts of Appeals to rule that state laws forbidding recognition of same sex marriages contracted in other states are unconstitutional. Maybe, Justice expects Social Security to just hold these claims for the next year and a half until the Supreme Court considers the issue.


Anonymous said...

Would you rather SSA pick a way and run the coin-flip risk that they get it wrong, only to have to undo or reconcile their mistake? Then, I'm sure, we'd be reading your and others' gripes about that process.

We all know SCOTUS is going to take up same sex marriage broadly at some point in the near future. Funny how usually you seem to champion agency prudence and waiting for better information/guidance (when it suits claimants), but now are all up in arms that SSA isn't blazing a policy trail all willy-nilly with the very limited court/federal guidance exisiting right now.

Anonymous said...

This is nothing now that the door is being opened to legalized polygamy. Imagine trying to process spouse/widow claims with 3-4-5 current spouses and maybe 10-15 surviving spouses. Not to mention all of the children from these polyamorous unions. the time has come to eliminate benefits based on relationship, which is the driving force behind all of this.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point 10:40 PM. Multiple problems arise when you design a program with a set of definitions, establish a method to collect money to pay for it according to those definitions, then at some point throw the definitions away it someone feels left out. Remember Prouty claims and why they came into existence? Remember when social security benefits became taxable? When you change rules for eligibility and payment, then change rules for financing in order to preserve solvency and retain buy in from the public for the social insurance program to continue both financially and politically. Unfortunately, social security lost its balance on both counts years ago and the bill is becoming due. Let us not speed its crash.