U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA) and 118 of their congressional colleagues in sending a letter to Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn W. Colvin and Attorney General Loretta Lynch to make sure that the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage decisions are implemented and that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is treating all marriages equally. The letter urges SSA not to penalize married same-sex couples who received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) overpayments due to SSA’s delayed implementation of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decisions.
“We are concerned to hear that, for some time after the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, SSA continued to issue benefits to Supplemental Security Income recipients in same-sex marriages as though these individuals were single, and that for some SSI recipients, SSA is still doing so,” the members of Congress wrote. “SSA should not penalize people who are poor, elderly or disabled because SSA continued issuing benefits to these married individuals as though they were single. According to SSA’s statute and regulations, SSA shall avoid penalizing an individual for overpayment if the individual is without fault and if recovery of the overpayment would be against equity and good conscience.”
“[W]e urge SSA to issue a blanket waiver for recovery of overpayment for all of these individuals automatically – especially since SSA’s inability to update its systems resulted in SSA’s continuing to apply Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act long after the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional,” the letter states.
The members ask SSA to respond with information about how the agency is identifying affected SSI recipients and its efforts to update its systems so that benefits are administered fairly to all individuals.
Before the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v Hodges that guaranteed nationwide marriage equality, Murray had taken action to ensure all legal marriages were appropriately recognized by the SSA. In March, Murray reintroduced the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2015 to ensure all same-sex spouses receive equal treatment under the Social Security Act when applying for Social Security benefits, regardless of where they live.
In addition to Murray, Warren and Takano, the letter was signed by 36 U.S. Senators, including Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.),Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The letter also was signed by 82 U.S. Representatives, including Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Karen Bass (CA-37), Ami Bera (CA-07), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Lois Capps (CA-24), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), John Carney (DE-At Large), Matt Cartwright (PA-17), Judy Chu (CA-27), David Cicilline (RI-01), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), John Conyers Jr. (MI-13), Joe Crowley (NY-14), Susan Davis (CA-53), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Suzane DelBene (WA-01), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Ted Deutch (FL-21), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Eliot Engel (NY-16), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), John Garamendi (CA-03), Alan Grayson (FL-09), Al Green (TX-09), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Luis Gutierrez (IL-04), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Michael M. Honda (CA-17), Steve Israel (NY-03), William Keating (MA-09), Joe Kennedy (MA-04), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Ron Kind (WI-03), James Langevin (RI-02), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Sander M. Levin (MI-09), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Jim McDermott (WA-07), James McGovern (MA-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-06), Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), Scott Peters (CA-52), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Jared Polis (CO-02), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Linda T. Sanchez (CA-38), Loretta Sanchez (CA-46), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Jose E. Serrano (NY-15), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Dina Titus (NV-01), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), Chris Van Hollen (MD-08), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), and Peter Welch (VT-At Large).
Read the letter here.