DOMA decision affects older same sex couples

SeniorLAW Center joins the National Senior Citizens Law Center and other senior advocates nationwide in applauding the Supreme Court’s historic June 26th, 2013 decision on the Defense of Marriage Act. The decision to find DOMA unconstitutional has special significance for older same sex married couples who will now enjoy the same rights to Social Security spousal benefits as other married couples.  Without Social Security's survivor benefits, many same sex partners can easily become impoverished.

Similarly, Medicaid spousal impoverishment rules now apply to same sex married couples, meaning, for example, that if Medicaid is paying for a spouse’s long term care in a nursing home, the spouse who is living at home will not be left with little or no income or resources.

Same sex older adults are as a group less financially secure than American elders as a whole, and this lack of financial security can have serious impacts on their mental and physical health. DOMA has denied access to benefits, from Social Security to Medicare, even to legally married same-sex couples. This decision will free many same sex married couples from concerns about their economic and health care security.

Importantly, there is an opportunity for advocacy for clients who may be eligible to apply for Social Security spousal benefits now to receive possible additional retroactive benefits.

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