Are There Any Loopholes That Would Help My Friend?

Jun 13 2018 - 4:44pm

My good friend and his boyfriend have been living together for over 20 years. They finally got married just recently. They got married on or about 4/21/2018 and unfortunately, his spouse passed away on 5/20/2018. Upon initial internet research and when he walked into the SSA to ask questions, we discovered that he is ineligible to receive his belated husband's social security because of the length of their marriage. I believe they should have been married for at least 9 months? in order for my friend to receive the benefit. Do you know of any loopholes or have any advice for him?? Prior to marriage, they were "domestic partners" in everyone's eyes, but they didn't file any papers; I'm not sure how you make that arrangement legal, but they did not do that step. Please advise. He really needs answers. Thank you so much.

Hi,

You must normally be married for at least 9 months to qualify for Social Security widower benefits. Domestic partnerships don't count as marriages but can in some cases qualify a person for spousal or widower benefits depending on the laws of their state. To see if that may be possible in your friend's case, refer to the summary of state laws in the following section of Social Security's operations manual (POMS): https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200210004. From your description, though, I don't know if your friend and his partner actually had a legally defined domestic partnership.

Entitlement to widower benefits can also potentially be established based on a marriage lasting less than 9 months if the deceased's cause of death was accidental, or if some other exception to the marriage duration requirement is involved. For more information on those provisions, see the follow sections of POMS: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200305100 & https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0300207001.

One important thing to keep in mind is that your friend can always file a claim for widower's benefits even if his entitlement is doubtful. Filing a claim would force Social Security to fully evaluate your friend's eligibility, and even if they ended up disallowing his claim he would then have appeal rights.

Best, Jerry