The Social Security Administration has issued guidance concerning same-sex couples who were married in one state but now reside in a state where same-sex marriage isn’t recognized. Under the Social Security Act, marriage is defined by the state law of the state where the applicant resides: “To decide your relationship as the insured’s wife or husband we look to the laws of the State where the insured had a permanent home when you applied for wife’s or husband’s benefits.” 20 CFR 404.345. Residence at time of the insured’s death has been the determining factor in considering applications for widow’s and widower’s benefits. Under 20 CFR 404.346, there is a way to establish a “deemed valid marriage.”
The SSA publishes detailed guidance to the local agencies which are called the POMS – Program Operations Manual Systems. The
SSD has just released a new POMS concerning the processing of applications for benefits for people in a same-sex marriage. As stated in the SSA’s introduction to GN 00210, “On June 26, 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in United States v. Windsor. Because of the decision, we are no longer prohibited from recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes of determining benefits.” The POMS begins at http://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0200210000.