Jan 13, 2016

Same Sex Marriage Battle Continues

     From CNN Money:
Kathy Phelan has been waiting more than a year for her first benefit check from Social Security, caught in a back-and-forth with the agency as it works to keep up with a changing legal landscape for same-sex couples. ...
She last heard from the agency in December and was told it could be another 12 to 18 months before a hearing is scheduled on her case. Her claim was first flatly rejected and she has since appealed.
Phelan isn't the only one stuck in limbo with the Social Security Administration.
 "The process is moving inexplicably slowly," said Susan Sommer, an attorney for Lambda Legal, a non-profit that advocates for LGBT rights. ...
 Over the past two decades, there's been a patchwork of same-sex marriage laws across the country as more and more states made it legal. It wasn't until 2013 when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that they could get federal benefits like Social Security as a married couple. But that still left some in the lurch if they were married in a different state than where they lived.
 That's what happened to Phelan. They married legally in Washington state in 2013, but lived in Arizona where same-sex marriage wasn't recognized until the middle of 2014. Since Kaye lost her battle with cancer five months before it was legal in Arizona, Social Security did not treat Phelan as her legal spouse. ...
 Why, exactly, does that impact Phelan's benefit? Because married couples are entitled to a "survivor" benefit if the higher-earning spouse died first.

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