Published April, 2014

Processing Appeals Involving Same-Sex Marriage (United States v. Windsor), HALLEX, Social Security Administration, Issued Feb. 12, 2014

This section of the Social Security Administration (SSA) Hearings, Appeals, and Litigation Law Manual (HALLEX) sets forth temporary instructions advising Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) staff of SSA’s new policies and procedures for claims involving same-sex marriage pursuant to the June 2013 decision United States v. Windsor, in which the Supreme Court of the United States found the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.  

SSA instructs ODAR to use normal case processing procedures for cases in which all of the following apply: 1.) the number holder and claimant entered a same-sex ceremonial marriage in a state that permits same-sex marriage, 2.) the ceremonial marriage occurred on or after the date when the state permitted same-sex marriage, 3.) the number holder is domiciled (at the time of application or while the claim is pending) in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, and 4.) the claimant meets all other requirements for entitlement to spousal benefits as described in 20 C.F.R. 404.330.

However, SSA instructs ODAR to continue to hold cases on appeal that were previously denied because of non-recognition of a same-sex marriage. It sets forth instructions for staff on how to handle cases on hold at both the hearing and Appeals Council levels. SSA also instructs ODAR to hold cases involving relationships other than ceremonial marriages, including but not limited to common-law marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.

SSA states that it is working with the Department of Justice to interpret United States v. Windsor, and will continue to provide updates on SSA policies and procedures at this location, including those on hold cases.