Same Sex Marriage and SSI Benefits

If you are applying for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits and considering marriage (same or opposite sex), you are advised to obtain advice from an attorney about your eligibility for SSI benefits. Marital status for purposes of SSI benefits is determined under Social Security Administration (SSA) regulation based on the statutes of the State in which a married couple have primary residence at the time an application for SSI benefits is filed.

Even if the State in which the couple reside does not recognize same sex marriage, the SSA will consider a couple married for purposes of SSI benefits if, under the laws of the State in which the couple reside, the couple is able to inherit personal property from each other without a will, as would spouses in an opposite sex marriage.

SSI is a type of disability benefit paid by the SSA to a person (claimant), who applies for the benefit and who is found by the SSA to be medically and non medically eligible. To be medically eligible, a claimant must have a disease or condition which has lasted, or is expected to last 12 months, or result in death. The condition must render the claimant unable to perform any job in the national economy. To be non medically eligible to receive SSI benefits a claimant must meet certain financial criteria.

SSI benefits are paid to people with limited resources; for individuals that is $2,000 and for a couple $3,000. Income received by a claimant will reduce or offset the amount of SSI which will be paid. Depending on how a claimant uses his/her household goods, personal property and one car, the SSA will not count the household goods, personal property, and one car as resources. Furthermore, a claimant's primary home and the land on which the home is located will not be counted as resources. A claimant may also have a life insurance policy with a face value of $1,500, as well as $1,500 in a burial fund for the claimant and another $1,500 in a burial fund for a spouse without the SSA counting these funds as resources which would otherwise diminish the amount of SSI which may be paid. Burial plots for the claimant and immediate family members do not count as resources.

Marriage is generally not beneficial for a couple for purposes of receiving SSI. If both spouses receive SSI, the benefit amount will be approximately 25 percent less than the amount each person would receive if the couple lived together unmarried. However, even married, if both spouses receive SSI, the married couple may do better financially than two individuals living alone because a married couple living together share living expenses and have more money coming in each month than two individuals who each live alone. Partners who live together but do not marry may each receive the full SSI monthly amount and therefore more money per month in the household than a married couple where each spouse receives SSI. If a married couple is living in a third person's home and receiving shelter and food from the third person the SSA will deduct a portion of the SSI benefits paid to the married couple for the shelter and food given to the couple.