Each applicant who seeks Social Security benefits faces his or her own set of unique challenges. Those challenges can be especially substantial when the applicant is seeking survivor’s benefits and the applicant’s spouse was a person of the same sex as the applicant. Recent changes in caselaw have helped the cause of same-sex spouses but, as one Pennsylvania widower’s case demonstrated, success may still require diligence and determination. To make sure you get the benefits to which you are entitled, retain an experienced Pennsylvania Social Security attorney.
The widower, J., entered into a committed, exclusive, lifetime relationship with B. in the summer of 1990. Of course, because they were a same-sex couple and it was 1990, they did not have the option of marrying. The men lived together as committed partners from 1990 until late 2015, when Bernard passed away. Shortly before Bernard died, a federal court in Pennsylvania invalidated the state’s ban on same-sex marriages and the couple wed.
After B. passed, J. applied for Social Security benefits, including widower’s insurance benefits based upon his marriage to B.. In his application for benefits, John stated that he and B. had shared a common-law marriage dating back to 1990. The Social Security Administration, however, did not grant the application and did not award widower’s benefits to J.