Marriage Equality Decision: Some Should Take Immediate Action to Apply for Federal Benefits

Health News Alert

IMPORTANT: UNDER SUPREME COURT’S RULING IN OBERGEFELL, SOME PEOPLE WHOSE EARLIER MARRIAGE TO A PERSON OF THE SAME SEX IS NOW RECOGNIZED MAY NOW BE ELIGIBLE FOR SOCIAL SECURITY SPOUSAL OR WIDOW’S BENEFITS AND SHOULD APPLY ASAP, AND PREFERABLY BY THIS MONTH, TO MAXIMIZE BENEFITS 

BENEFITS UNDER MEDICARE AND MEDICAID MAY ALSO BE NEWLY AVAILABLE

Your clients may be eligible for Social Security, Medicare, and/or Medicaid benefits based on the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage rights.  These clients should make the relevant applications ASAP, and preferably by this month, to begin eligibility at the earliest possible date.

Immediate impact of the Obergefell Marriage Rights Decision:  Some married persons may be eligible immediately for previously inaccessible Social Security, Medicare, and/or Medicaid benefits. Please read the following to see if it applies to you:

Why should I apply now? If you are married but your marriage was not recognized prior to the Supreme Court decision, you may have had reduced eligibility for Social Security, Medicare, and/or Medicaid, because these programs have treated you as unmarried. You and your spouse now may have the right to have your marriage considered in eligibility determinations.

Why is June 30 important? The beginning date of benefits generally is based on the month of application.  A delay from June 30 to July 1 or from July 31 to August 1 might mean loss of a month of benefits, or a month of health coverage.  Don’t wait.  Apply now even if you are not sure if and when you qualify.

What kind of benefits are now available? Status as a married person is relevant for determining eligibility for benefits such as the following:

  • Enhanced Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s or deceased spouse’s earnings
  • Premium-free Medicare Part A benefits
  • Medicaid coverage of nursing home expenses, or expenses of other long-term services and supports
  • Social Security survivor benefits (if your spouse has died)

Here are some situations in which status as a married person might be particularly important for determination of benefits:

  • My spouse has earned more. If you are married to someone with a significantly higher income, you may be eligible for a higher Social Security benefit.
  • I do not have enough work history for Medicare Part A.  If your spouse receives Medicare but you do not have enough work history, you may be entitled to Medicare Part A based on your spouse’s work history.
  • I am paying for Medicare Part A.  If you are paying for Medicare Part A because you do not have enough work history, but your spouse receives Medicare, you should be eligible for Medicare based on your spouse. 
  • My spouse or I live in a nursing home or receive other types of long-term services and supports.  The Medicaid program covers nursing home care and other types of long-term services and supports.  Medicaid’s eligibility calculations allow the sick person’s spouse to receive a significant allocation of the sick person’s savings or income, before Medicaid determines what the sick person might have to contribute to his or her own health care.
  • My spouse passed away nine months after we were married.  If your spouse has died, you may be entitled to Social Security survivor benefits.


What do I need to do? For Social Security and Medicare, contact Social Security ASAP and preferably by Tuesday, June 30:

By Phone:  1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778)
In person: Find an office:
 https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp 
On line:  www.ssa.gov

Medicaid eligibility is handled by local Medicaid offices.  Contact your county or your state Medicaid agency for additional information.  Again, application should be made ASAP, and preferably by June 30.

BOTTOM LINE: Get this process started.  Contact Social Security and/or Medicaid to apply for benefits.  

Be sure to get a confirmation number or other confirmation to show when your application was filed.