Recognizing LGBT History Month

Recognizing LGBT History Month

Photo of Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay

Courtesy: Social Security Administration

October is National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Month — a month intended to encourage honesty and openness about being LGBT. First celebrated in 1994 to coincide with National Coming Out Day, the month has evolved to include a more diverse range of people who identify as LGBT.

On June 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same-sex couple have a constitutional right to marry in all states. As a result, more same-sex couples will be recognized as married for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits or eligibility for Supplemental Security Income payments.

Since a previous Supreme Court decision in 2013, Social Security has been able to recognize some same-sex marriages and non-marital legal same-sex relationships for purposes of determining entitlement to or eligibility for benefits. We also consider same-sex marriage when processing claims for SSI. Marriage may affect your SSI eligibility or payment amount.

We’re working closely with the Department of Justice to develop and implement policy and processing instructions to implement the June 26, 2015, Supreme Court decision. As we have additional information, we’ll update our website and issue instructions to our staff. You can read more about important information for same-sex couples at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/same-sexcouples.

In the meantime, if you’re a spouse, divorced spouse or surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage or non-marital legal same-sex relationship, we encourage you to apply right away for benefits. Applying now will preserve your filing date, which will protect you against the loss of any potential benefits.

If you have any questions about how to apply for benefits, call toll-free 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Generally, you’ll have a shorter wait time if you call during the week after Tuesday. We treat all calls confidentially.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/people/same-sexcouples to learn more.

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public affairs specialist in Hawai‘i.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

GENERAL

Question:  Is it illegal to laminate your Social Security card?

Answer:  No, it is not illegal, but we discourage it. It’s best not to laminate your card. Laminated cards make it difficult — sometimes even impossible — to detect important security features and an employer may refuse to accept them. The Social Security Act requires the Commissioner of Social Security to issue cards that cannot be counterfeited. We incorporate many features that protect the card’s integrity. They include highly specialized paper and printing techniques, some of which are visible to the naked eye. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

RETIREMENT

Question:  I have two minor children at home and I plan to retire this fall. Will my children be eligible for monthly Social Security benefits after I retire?

Answer:  Monthly Social Security payments may be made to your children if:

They are unmarried and under age 18;

Age 18 or 19 and still in high school; or

Age 18 or older, became disabled before age 22 and continue to be disabled.

Children who may qualify include a biological child, adopted child or dependent stepchild. (In some cases, your grandchild also could be eligible for benefits on your record if you are supporting them.) For more information, see our online publication, Benefits For Children, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Question:  Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that affect me?

Answer:  It depends on your age. If you are full retirement age and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can choose to file and receive benefits on just your spouse’s Social Security record and delay filing for benefits on your own record up until age 70. By filing for just benefits as a spouse, you may receive a higher retirement benefit on your own record later based on the effect of delayed retirement credits. You can earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70 as long as you do not collect your own benefits — and those credits can increase your benefit by as much as 8 percent for each year you delay. You can use our online Retirement Estimator to test out different scenarios. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public affairs specialist in Hawai‘i.

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