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Social Security Spousal And Family Protections (POD Rule)

Fact Sheet


SSA is using the "place of domicile" rule to determine whether a marriage is recognized for Social Security purposes.  However, Senators Mark Udall and Patty Murray have introduced the Social Security and Marriage Equality Act in Congress that would recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, regardless of where they live.

SSA is processing spousal retirement claims for same-sex married couples when the number holder is domiciled at the time of the application, or while the claim is pending, in a place that recognizes the marriage.

SSA is processing surviving spouses' claims and appeals, including Medicare-only claims, when the individual who paid into Social Security was domiciled at the time of death in a place that recognized the marriage.

SSA also provided guidance for processing lump-sum death benefits.

Anyone who was or is married to a spouse of the same sex and thinks they may be eligible for a Social Security benefit, should apply immediately to preserve their rights to benefits.  

SSA has updated their policy so that they no longer need to consult with Regional Chief Counsel on marriage-based claims involving transgender individuals. Some specific changes include: a definition of "transgender" and "intersex"; an advisory to not use the "sex" field data on SSA records to determine the validity of marriage if there is evidence of a change in sex; a step-by-step guide to determining when to process claims under existing instructions for opposite-sex marriages or Windsor instructions for same-sex marriages.

SSA issued guidance for processing claims involving a non-marital relationship, such as a civil union, domestic partnership or reciprocal beneficiary.  SSA will recognize a claimant for a spousal-based benefit provided the law of the state where the couple resides or where the number holder died would allow the claimant to inherit property from his or her partner on the same terms as a spouse could inherit if the partner died without a will.

SSA released guidance on how to process claims that involve a marriage entered into in a foreign jurisdiction.  The guidance also provides instructions for obtaining a legal opinion on the validity of the foreign marriage

SSA released guidance for interviewing individuals with claims involving same-sex relationships so as to provide sensitive service to all individuals and to treat individuals with dignity and respect.