Ask Larry

Can This Widow Be Helped?

Local TV story about widow being denied Social Security widow benefit because missed 9 month marriage requirement by 1 day. Can you help her?



This certainly is a sad story and I'm very sympathetic to this widow, but I didn't see anything in the coverage that indicates that the Social Security Administration's (SSA) determination to disallow widow's benefits was incorrect. It's interesting that the TV station called this a Social Security snafu, when SSA is actually just administering the laws mandated by Congress. Congress didn't empower SSA to make exceptions on an as-needed basis, even if common sense would indicate that it's the right thing to do. Congress did include specific exceptions to the law requiring a 9-month duration of marriage requirement for entitlement to widow's benefits (, but none of those were addressed in the TV story.

Unfortunately, California doesn't recognize common-law marriage, so this couple's relationship prior to their ceremonial marriage is likely irrelevant under the law. The story did say that they were together for 11 years, but didn't address why they chose not to get married sooner.

Best, Jerry

Sep 24 2016 - 1:45pm
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