Durbin, other lawmakers defend same-sex couples in Social Security agency lapse
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) and 119 other fellow legislators submitted a letter on Monday to Carolyn Colvin, acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging them to ensure that the Supreme Court’s recent landmark same-sex marriage decision is implemented into policy practices and that the Social Security Administration (SSA) treats all marriages equally.
The letter strongly suggests that the SSA refrain from penalizing same-sex married couples who have received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) overpayments as a result of SSA’s delayed implementation of the law after the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision.
“We are concerned to hear that, for some time after the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, SSA continued to issue benefits to Supplemental Security Income recipients in same-sex marriages as though these individuals were single, and that for some SSI recipients, SSA is still doing so,” the letter said. “SSA should not penalize people who are poor, elderly or disabled because SSA continued issuing benefits to these married individuals as though they were single.”
“According to SSA’s statute and regulations, SSA shall avoid penalizing an individual for overpayment if the individual is without fault and if recovery of the overpayment would be against equity and good conscience," the letter said. "(We) urge SSA to issue a blanket waiver for recovery of overpayment for all of these individuals automatically – especially since SSA’s inability to update its systems resulted in SSA’s continuing to apply Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act long after the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional.”
The letter also asks SSA to respond in a timely manner with information about methodology the agency uses to identify affected recipients, and addresses the perceived lack of effort to update systems so that benefits are administered fairly to all individuals.
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