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Marriage Equality

Lawmakers: Same-Sex Couples Shouldn't Pay for Social Security's Mistake

Lawmakers: Same-Sex Couples Shouldn't Pay for Social Security's Mistake

Takano and Warren
Mark Takano and Elizabeth Warren

The agency overpaid some beneficiaries because it didn't recognize their marriages — and it should stop seeking reimbursement in these cases, say 121 congressional Democrats.

More than 100 members of Congress are calling on the Social Security Administration to cease demanding that same-sex couples reimburse the agency for benefits that were overpaid because the SSA delayed updating its policies for such couples.

After the U.S. v. Windsor ruling in June 2013, which allowed the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages, the SSA continued, in some cases for a year or more, to pay supplemental security income to recipients in such marriages as if they were single, often resulting in higher benefits. The SSA subsequently began seeking reimbursement of the overpayments.

Some recipients have sued the SSA over the matter, and in a Monday letter, 38 senators and 83 representatives demanded that the agency quit trying to collect the overpayments, The Huffington Post reports.

"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," the letter reads. "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."

The letter is addressed to Acting SSA Commissioner Carolyn Colvin and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The legislators who sent it, all Democrats, are led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Mark Takano of California.

The lawmakers further ask how many overpayment notices the SSA has sent, whether the agency is currently recouping any money from overpaid individuals, and what is being done to update SSA systems and procedures.

In March, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, along with Justice in Aging and the law firm of Foley Hoag LLP, filed a class action suit on behalf of those who had been subjected to reimbursement demands. A federal judge dismissed the suit in August, saying the plaintiffs hadn't exhausted all administrative remedies, and the decision is on appeal, the Washington Blade reports. The SSA also put a temporary hold on reimbursement notices, according to GLAD.

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