Obtaining Full Survivor’s Benefits for Class Action Member in Same-Sex Relationship Following Landmark Win

We assisted a class member in recovering Social Security survivor’s benefits following the district court decision that the Social Security Administration violated the U.S. Constitution in denying survivor’s benefits to same-sex couples who were unable to marry under discriminatory state laws.

Working with co-counsel Lambda Legal, we prosecuted a class action challenge to the denial of social security survivor’s benefits to same-sex couples who were prohibited from marrying by discriminatory state laws. In 2020, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington concluded that the denial of social security benefits to the plaintiffs violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

In 2021, the Social Security Administration entered into a global settlement resulting in the Administration’s dismissal of its appeals from the district court judgment.

More recently, we represented a pro bono client in her application for survivor’s benefits. In March 2022, the Social Security Administration advised her that it approved her application, but limited back payments to November 2020 – the date of the district court judgment in Thornton. We filed a Request for Reconsideration of the back payment date, arguing that our client should receive benefits back to the date of her initial application following the death of her partner of 50 years. In May of 2022, Social Security determined that our client was owed back payments to 2015, which will result in tens of thousands of additional benefits.

This landmark civil rights decision has led to greater economic protection for a population with higher poverty rates than American adults overall. Loss of one’s romantic and economic partner is not only emotionally devastating, but also a huge financial hardship for any individual. There are likely many thousands of people who were in long-term, same-sex relationships and never bothered to apply for survivor’s benefits because they thought it was futile. These individuals are now able to apply for Social Security survivor’s benefits.

For additional information on how one may seek protection under this ruling, please click here.

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