The same Social Security spousal and survivor benefits apply to all married couples today. But since some same-sex couples were prevented in the past from marrying by unconstitutional state laws, many surviving same-sex partners may be able to claim retroactive survivor benefits.
Since 1939, nonworking spouses of covered workers have received a spousal benefit equal to 50% of the working spouse’s-primary insurance amount (PIA). If the worker's spouse dies, the spouse may receive a survivor benefit generally equal to the amount the deceased spouse was receiving at the time of death.
The original legislation called the spousal benefit a “wife’s benefit.” This was based on the assumption that all marriages were between a husband and wife, the wife generally did not work. But Social Security has always been gender-neutral: any benefit payable to a wife could, under the same
Here’s what the Social Security Administration ("SSA") says:
More surviving same-sex partners may now qualify for Social Security survivor benefits. If you were in a same-sex relationship with a partner who passed away, you may qualify for Social Security survivor’s benefits based on your partner’s record. You may qualify for survivor benefits if either of the following is true:
- You would have been married at the time of your partner’s death if constitutional state laws hadn’t prevented you from doing so.
- You would have been married longer if not for unconstitutional state laws that prevented you from marrying earlier.
If you think you may qualify based on the categories above, please feel free to contact us to apply. Even if you were previously denied survivor benefits because you did not meet the marriage requirement due to unconstitutional laws, you can ask us ("SSA") to reopen or take another look at, your claim. If you were previously denied and we find that you qualify for benefits, you may be due retroactive benefits. For more information, visit
Survivors Benefits for Same-Sex Partners and Spouses