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Social Security Offers Limited Services During Government Shut Down

 

Important Information About the Federal Government Shutdown

Due to the Federal Government Shutdown, Social Security field offices are open with limited services. Hearings offices remain open to conduct hearings before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Social Security card centers are closed.

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments to beneficiaries will continue with no change in payment dates.

Due to Congressional inaction to prevent the Government shutdown, we will only provide the following services at Social Security field offices:

  1. Help you apply for benefits
  2. Assist you in requesting an appeal
  3. Change your address or direct deposit information
  4. Accept reports of death
  5. Verify or change your citizenship status
  6. Replace a lost or missing Social Security payment
  7. Issue a critical payment
  8. Change a representative payee
  9. Process a change in your living arrangement or income (SSI recipients only)

We cannot provide the following services:

  1. Issue new or replacement Social Security cards
  2. Replace your Medicare card
  3. Issue a proof of income letter

If your visit involves any Social Security-related service not listed above, we regret we are unable to assist you. We regret any inconvenience. Our online services will remain open.


SSA recognizes benefits for same sex couples

SSA Begins Processing Claims for Same-Sex Couples

When the U.S. Supreme Court held that section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional, United States v. Windsor, et al., 570 U.S. __, 133 S.Ct. 2884 (2013), many spouses, survivors, and children of same sex couples became potentially eligible for Social Security benefits. See article in June 2013 NOSSCR Social Security Forum. President Obama directed the Attorney General of the United States to determine the impact of the Court’s decision on all Federal benefit programs, including those administered by the Social Security Administration. SSA is now working with the Department of Justice to determine how the Windsor decision affects its programs and benefits and to develop appropriate instructions for processing the claims. 

SSA is encouraging all potential recipients to apply for benefits now, in order establish a protective filing date. SSA employees have been instructed to accept all claims, including those from couples who not only have been married but are in civil unions or registered domestic partnerships. The SSA instructions encourage individuals to apply if they believe they may be eligible.

Currently, SSA is processing claims for spouses of retired workers if the couple is married and currently domiciled in a state that recognizes same sex marriages. For all other claims, potential recipients are encouraged to apply to preserve a filing date, but their claims will be held and not processed until SSA issues further instructions on processing and paying these claims.  All instructions from SSA must first be approved by the Department of Justice.

SSA intends to take an incremental approach to processing and paying claims for same sex spouses, and their children, beginning with retirement benefits, and moving to survivor and lump sum death payments.

SSA’s website has a link to information for same sex couples: www.ssa.gov/doma.  This page has a link to SSA’s POMS instructions for processing claims of same sex couples.  The relevant instructions can be found in POMS GN 00210.000 – GN 00210.100 on processing “Windsor Same-Sex Marriage Claims” (Aug. 9, 2013) and EM-13022 REV (August 9, 2013). SSA’s DOMA website also includes “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs). http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/topic_landing/c/237.  SSA also held an August 9 conference call for advocates, which NOSSCR participated in.  On the same day, a press release from Acting Commissioner Colvin was published at http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/pr/doma-statement-pr.html.

Some of the questions that have arisen are answered below:

Q1: What should a claimant who may be eligible for benefits due to a same-sex marriage do right now?

A1: Anyone who may be eligible for benefits, is encouraged to apply right away.  Applying now will preserve a protective filing date.

 

Q2: When will SSA begin paying benefits to same sex couples?

A2: SSA has begun paying retirement benefits to eligible same sex couples who were married in, and currently reside in, a state that recognizes same sex marriage. Other claims will be processed as instructions are issued.

Q3: What evidence is needed to show that a same sex couple is legally married?

A3: The evidence needed to prove a marriage is the same for the same sex couple as it has been for an opposite sex couple. Evidence will include an original marriage certificate, or an acceptable public or religious record of marriage. See POMS GN 00305.020 – .025, Preferred or Secondary Proof of Ceremonial Marriage and RS 00202.065 – .070 for proof of marriage for spousal benefits.

 

Q4: If a couple marries in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, but then moves to a state that only recognizes civil union before applying for benefits, which law will apply?

A4: There is not yet policy on which state law will apply. These claims will be held pending further instruction.

 

Q5: If a couple crosses state lines only to marry, but has always resided in a state that does not recognize same sex marriage, will they be eligible for spousal benefits? 

A5: There is not yet policy on which state law will apply. These claims will be held pending further instruction.

 

Q6:  How will the length of a couple’s marriage be determined?

A6: To develop duration of marriage, see instructions in POMS RS 00202.001B.  Adjudicators should rely on the date the couple was married, not the date of the Windsor decision. POMS GN 00210.100.  This POMS section also has a chart listing the date same-sex marriages were permitted in each state.

 

Q7: Why is it taking so long for SSA to establish a new policy for processing these claims?

A7: Anything SSA does must be first be approved by DOJ. This includes language for press releases and internal instructions, as well as how the claims will actually be processed.

 

Claims that can be processed. POMS GN 00210.100 provides some examples of claims that can be currently adjudicated:

 

1. Examples of approvals:

The following are examples of claims that you can adjudicate under the rules in this section.

  • Liz (the claimant) and Allison (the wage-earner or SSN number holder, i.e., NH) marry in Massachusetts (MA) after MA recognizes same-sex marriage. They are domiciled in MA. Liz files for wife’s benefits on Allison’s record while they are domiciled in MA. They meet all other factors of entitlement. Approve the claim. 

  • Liz (the claimant) and Allison (the NH) marry in MA after MA recognizes same-sex marriage. Liz moves and becomes domiciled in California (CA). Allison remains domiciled in MA. Liz files for wife’s benefits on Allison’s record. They meet all other factors of entitlement. Approve the claim. 

  • Liz (the claimant) and Allison (the NH) marry in MA after MA recognizes same-sex marriage. Liz and Allison move and become domiciled in California (CA). Liz files for wife’s benefits on Allison’s record. They meet all other factors of entitlement. Approve the claim. 

  • Liz (the claimant) and Allison (the NH) marry in MA after MA recognizes same-sex marriage. Liz moves and becomes domiciled in Texas (TX). Allison remains domiciled in MA. Liz files for wife’s benefits on Allison’s record. They meet all other factors of entitlement. Approve the claim. 

  • Liz (the claimant) and Allison (the NH) are domiciled and marry in MA after MA recognizes same-sex marriage. Liz files for wife’s benefits on Allison’s record while domiciled in MA. While the application is pending, Liz and Allison move to and become domiciled in Texas (TX). They meet all other factors of entitlement. Approve the claim because when the claim was filed, Liz and Allison were domiciled in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. Use the date of filing in MA to determine month of entitlement.

  • Liz (the claimant) and Allison (the NH) are domiciled in TX and marry while on vacation in MA after MA recognizes same-sex marriage. Liz files for wife’s benefits on Allison’s record while domiciled in TX. While the application is pending, Liz and Allison move to and become domiciled in MA. They meet all other factors of entitlement. Approve the claim because while the claim was pending a final determination Liz and Allison became domiciled in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. Use the date of filing in TX to determine month of entitlement.

 

Claims that will be held.  The POMS and EM explain that currently most claims will be held for further processing information. Examples of cases that will be held:

  • Bill (the claimant) and Bob (the NH) marry in MA after MA recognizes same-sex marriage. They were domiciled in MA. They move to and become domiciled in Texas (TX). Bill files for husband’s benefits on Bob’s record while they are domiciled in TX. They meet all other factors of entitlement. Hold the claim.

  • Bill (the claimant) and Bob (the NH) marry in MA after MA recognizes same-sex marriage. They were domiciled in MA. Bob then moves and becomes domiciled in TX while Bill remains domiciled in MA. Bill files for husband’s benefits on Bob’s record. They meet all other factors of entitlement. Hold the claim.

  • Bill (the claimant) and Bob (the NH) marry in MA after MA recognizes same-sex marriage, but are domiciled Texas (TX). Bill files for husband’s benefits on Bob’s record. They meet all other factors of entitlement. Hold the claim.

  • If the couple married in a state that currently recognizes same-sex marriages, but the couple was married before the date the state permitted same-sex marriages.

  • If the couple resides in a state that converted same-sex civil unions to marriages, and the couple initially entered a civil union.

  • If the couple alleges that they were married in a non-ceremonial marriage. 

  • If a member of the couple alleges a prior civil union to an individual other than his or her current spouse. 


Mystery ALJ Policy Ends April 20, 2013

 
Mystery ALJ Policy Ends April 20, 2013

NOSSCR is delighted to report that ODAR will, once again, provide the name of the ALJ assigned to each case beginning April 20, 2013.

Congressional interest in advocating that the policy of non-disclosure of ALJ names be rescinded was very important. We thank all of you who brought this matter to your Congressional delegation.
...
It is clear that successful FOIA litigation increased the pressure to rescind the policy.

The email we received from ODAR follows:

As we discussed this morning, we have reviewed our decision to not disclose the name of the ALJ assigned to hear a case until the day of the hearing. We are making the following changes as a result of our review:
• Beginning on April 20, the agency will resume disclosing the name of the ALJ assigned to a hearing when it sends out a Notice of Hearing. (Note: Under our rules, we must send out this Notice at least twenty days before the hearing, but typically we send it out 60-90 days prior to the hearing.)
• In addition, beginning on April 20, we will add the ALJ's name to the Appointed Representative Services (ARS) internet application. ARS users represent claimants in about 85% of all represented cases currently pending in ODAR.
• We encourage representatives who are not signed up for ARS to ask about registering in their local hearing office. Registered ARS users can access up-to-date electronic folders for their clients, download hearing recordings, and access case status and scheduling information in one convenient location.

Tiffany T. Woodward
Jill W. Warren

912 East Brainerd Street
Pensacola, Florida  32503    
Tele.: 850.439.0011
Fac.:  850.439.0039

Office Hours
Mon. - Thurs.  8:30 - 5:00
Friday           8:30 - 12:00
Closed Daily  12:00 - 1:00

 

 

DISCLAIMER
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.