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SSA stops seeking repayment for 'Windsor' SSI overpayments

In general, recipients who qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have few financial resources. Due to the federal legal guidelines for the program, SSI recipients must show that they have very little income and almost no assets. Thus, for some New Jersey beneficiaries of the program, it may have been a surprise to learn that the government wanted them to repay money they received due to the government's own mistake.

When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the decision in the U.S. v. Windsor case in 2013, it found a federal statute prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages as unconstitutional, which in turn, put those marriages on the same footing as heterosexual marriages throughout the country, instead of only in certain states as had been the case previously. This included for the purposes of federal governmental benefits. People who had been legally married in those jurisdictions that allowed it were suddenly recognized as spouses for a host of federal purposes, among them, SSI.

Unfortunately, for some lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender couples, this meant that their combined income exceeded the standards for receiving SSI, so benefits were stopped. But it took time for the government to re-determine the eligibility of many recipients, in some cases over two years, to whom benefits were paid in the meantime. The Social Security Administration (SSA) then began requesting repayment of what it considered overages in benefits back to the first month after the Windsor decision. Those who had received them, however, were the most likely not to able to pay such costs.

Luckily, due to a letter from over 100 members of the U.S. Congress, and a decision by the SSA's acting commissioner, these individuals will now have any overpayment waived for this period of time. The administration will no longer pursue such cases of overpayments from vulnerable New Jersey residents. Anyone with questions about his or her SSI benefits may wish to consider consulting a disability attorney.

Source: Huffington Post, "A New LGBTQ Victory Is a Victory for All of Us: The Social Security Administration Does the Right Thing," Nancy Altman, April 15, 2016

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