Thoughts on applying for SSDI after the end of DOMA

Rally at front of Vallejo City Hall
Rally at front of Vallejo City Hall

“Are you married?”  This is the question I asked today of my client when we were filling out her form for disability insurance benefits.  In the past, I would not bother asking that question when my client was in a same-sex relationship; I always indicated “single,” on the application.  Today I paused.  I asked my client and her partner when they got married.  It turns out they were married in California during that short window of time in 2008 when it was legal.  Now it is legal again.
The US Supreme Court today struck down the Defense of Marriage Act  (“DOMA”), a law that denied federal benefits to same-sex partners.  They also found a ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional by deciding that supporters of Proposition 8 did not have standing to appeal a federal district court ruling that struck the ban down.  By their decision, the
justices permitted a  lower-court ruling to stand that had found the ban
unconstitutional.  It is a coincidence that I happened to see my clients today, on the same day the Supreme Court issued their decisions.
I later had to call Social Security about this case.  The claims representative asked me why my client was not applying for SSI.  I explained that her partner was working and earned too much money – was over the resource limit.  I could tell he was puzzled by all of this.   Well, you take the bad with the good. Some individuals who may have otherwise been eligible for SSI because they were indigent, may no longer be if they are married and their partner is working.
My client does not want to be applying for disability at this point in her life.  She would be rather be working and she is extremely depressed.  Nevertheless, saying that she was “married,’ brought a smile to her face.  Mine too.

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