How Social Security Recognizes Same-Sex Spousal Benefits

Same-Sex Marriage
Find out if you are living in a state that makes you eligible for same-sex spousal or survivor Social Security benefits

The proposed 2016 President Obama budget ( includes a major change to Social Security that would allow same-sex couples to receive spousal benefits if they live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages. The Obama proposal could cost as much as $14 billion over a ten-year period and has to be passed by a Republican-led Congress.

Public sentiment towards same-sex marriage has rapidly changed. According to the Pew Research Center ( 52 percent of Americans are in favor of gay marriages (in 2004 about 31 percent of Americans were in favor of same-sex marriages).

Today the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes Same-Sex Marriages in some states (for details see The following shows how easy or difficult claiming spousal or survivor benefits will be for same-sex couples. Here are a few examples of how spousal benefits vary by state:

1. California recognizes same-sex marriage as valid from June 16, 2008 to present. If a claimant married a Social Security eligible worker in California on October 2008 and the worker dies while living in California on October 30, 2011. The SSA would recognize the marriage has having a duration of three-years when calculating survivor and / or lump sum death benefits.

2. Two individuals enter into a same-sex marriage in Michigan on March 21, 2014. The couple then move to Massachusetts and establish their home. While in Massachusetts one partner applies for spousal retirement benefits based on the other partners’ work record. The SSA will determine that the marriage was valid in Michigan and recognized by Massachusetts at the time of application. The SSA will recognize the marriage for the purposes of spousal benefits. (SSA Sources: GN00210.002 Same-Sex Marriage-Determining Marital Status for Title II and Medicate Benefits and EM-14052 Changes to Policy Involving Same-Sex Marriage in Michigan One-Time-Only instruction)

3. In Indiana, a claim for same-sex marriage survivor benefits for an eligible worker who died between June 28, 2014 and October 5, 2014 must be sent via Email to the SSA with a subject line: “Windsor Claim Hold- Indiana” and the SSN of the deceased worker in the body of the message.

For more information see the following chart from the SSA ( This graph indicates which states have laws permitting same-sex marriage (Column I), the date when the state listed permitted same-sex marriages (Column II) and the dates states recognized same-sex marriages from other states (III). This chart is useful for gaining an understanding of eligibility for same-sex spousal or survivor Social Security benefits. For information about your individual application status check with your local Social Security Representative.

Same-Sex Spousal Benefits

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Need Your Social Security SSA-1099 to File Taxes? Now You can Get it Instantly Online

taxes_2015The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently announced that they are offering a new online service to help people who receive Social Security benefits have the information they need to file their tax returns. If you didn’t receive or misplaced your SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, you can now use an online my Social Security account to get an instant replacement for tax purposes. Setting up an account is easy, secure, and convenient. You just need to go to Getting your replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S is just a few minutes away with your my Social Security account.

Learn what else you can do with a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity/myaccount.

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January 31, 2015 Marks the 75th Anniversary of the First Social Security Check

Social Security Anniversary January 31, 2015 is the 75th anniversary of the first Social Security benefit check providing a $22.54 monthly payment made to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vt.

In 2014, over 59 million Americans received $863 billion in Social Security Benefits. For more information about Social Security retirement benefits visit the Social Security Administration Web site located at

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2015 Social Security Updates and Information


The following are a few of the updates you can expect for 2015

1.The Full Retirement Age (FRA) maximum 2015 benefit is more than the 2014 maximum benefit amount. The highest 2015 Social Security retirement amount is $2,663 per month (that’s $31,956 per year). In 2014 the maximum Social Security retirement amount was $2,642 ($31,704 per year).

The FRA is 66 for individuals born between 1943 and 1954. It does not include reductions for early retirement or increases, called Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) for individuals who apply for Social Security benefits after FRA. To estimate your own retirement benefit amount use, the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculator located at the Social Security Benefits Quick Calculator

2.This January 2015 Social Security retirement beneficiaries will enjoy a 1.7 percent Cost-of-Living increase, called a COLA increase. According to U.S. News (October 2014) the average Social Security claimant receives $1,306. This increase will result in an average increase of $22 more per month. This will make the new average Social Security payment $1,326 per month. The average increase for a couple will be $38 per month. This will result in a new average for couples of $2,178 per month.

3.As a general rule, the amount you can earn and still get benefits changes each year. If you are younger than full retirement age and make more than the yearly earnings limit, your earnings may reduce your benefit amount. (If you were born between 1/2/1943 and 1/1/1955, your full retirement age is 66 years.)
• If you are under full retirement age for the entire year, SSA will deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit. For 2015, that limit is $15,720.
• In the year you reach full retirement age, SSA will deduct $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above a different limit. In 2015, the limit on your earnings is $41,880 but SSA will only count earnings before the month you reach your FRA.

To get a better hold of the impact of your decision of when you retire and start claiming your Social Security benefits go to Calcualate the Effect of Early or Late Retirement at

4.The SSA in September 2014 announced that it will begin sending via the U.S. Postal Service individual Social Security statements The SSA plans to send benefit statements to workers every five-years. If you turn age 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, or 60 and do not have a Social Security online account, you can expect to receive a paper Social Security statement. After age 60 workers will receive paper Social Security statements on an annual basis. Statements include the amount of Social Security taxes paid and estimates of future retirement benefits.

SSA is quick to point out that you probably plan to receive Social Security benefits someday. Maybe you already do. Either way, you’ll want to create an individual online SSA account to:
• Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;
• Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;
• Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and
• Manage your benefits:
• Change your address; and
• Start or change your direct deposit.

At this time there are over 14 million individuals who have personalized accounts with Social Security. Set-up your personalized online account go to My Account.

5.In 2015 the ceiling on earnings subject to Social Security payroll tax is $118,500. In 2014 the maximum was $117,000. According to the SSA of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security payroll taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of this increase. If you are earning above the annual maximum level you will stop paying Social Security taxes.
The Social Security payroll tax for employer and employee is 7.65 percent. The self-employed Social Security payroll tax is 15.30 percent. Medicare payroll taxes continues on all earnings. The Medicare tax rate is 1.45 percent on all earnings.

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Are Your Social Security Benefits Taxable?


Taxable Social Security Benefits

Will you Pay Taxes on Your Social Security Benefits?

According to AARP ( in 2012 Social Security claimants paid a total of $45.9 billion in income taxes on their benefits. The Social Security Trust Funds, from which benefits are paid, received $27. 3 billion and the Medicare Hospital Insurance Fund (HI) received $18.6 billion. This blog provides an easy way to determine if your Social Security benefits are taxable.

About 15 million Social Security recipients pay Federal taxes on their benefits. Most states do not tax Social Security benefits. Specifically, 27 states and DC do not tax Social Security benefits. To see if your state taxes your Social Security payout go to the Tax Foundation at

Generally, if your only source of income is your Social Security benefits  you won’t have to pay taxes. A quick way to determine if you have to pay taxes on your benefits is to determine your Modified Adjusted Gross Income.

What’s Included in Your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI)

According to Turbo Tax ( to calculate your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI), take your adjusted gross income (AGI) and add back certain deductions. Many of these deductions are rare, so it’s possible your AGI and MAGI will be the same. To sum it up, your MAGI is your AGI with the addition of the following deductions, if applicable:

  • Student loan interest
  • One-half of self-employment tax
  • Qualified tuition expenses
  • Tuition and fees deduction
  • Passive loss or passive income
  • IRA contributions, taxable social security payments
  • The exclusion for income from U.S. savings bonds
  • The exclusion under 137 for adoption expenses
  • Rental losses
  • Any overall loss from a publicly traded partnership

Determining How Much You Will Be Taxed

A simplified overview of the MAGI calculation is: AGI + tax-free interest (such as, municipal bonds, U.S. savings bonds, etc.) + 50 percent of your Social Security benefits + any tax free benefits and exclusions (such as, foreign income).  If this amount exceeds certain break points you will have to pay taxes.

Taxable MAGI for Singles

For singles with MAGIs of less than $25,000 your benefits are not taxable, (2) for singles between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits, and (3) singles with MAGI’s of $34,000 and greater, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.

Taxable MAGI for You and Your Spouse Filing a Joint Return

For couples filing a joint return with a combined MAGI  below $32,000, your benefits are not taxable, (2) if you and your spouse file a joint return with a combined MAGI between $32,000 and $44,000 up to 50 percent of your benefits may be taxable, and (3) if you and your spouse file a joint return with a combined MAGI that is greater than $44,000 up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable

Note: If you receive a $255 lump-sum death benefit it is not taxable and you should not include it on your tax return.

Example a Social Security Tax Calculation

Kiplinger ( provides this example of how the taxation of Social Security benefits works: Let’s say that your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $30,000 and you have $4,000 in tax-free interest from municipal bonds and $5,000 in Social Security benefits. Adding your AGI ($30,000), you tax-exempt interest ($4,000) and half of your Social Security benefits ($2,500). Your total MAGI is $36,500. You are now $4,500 over the $32,000 limit for joint returns. Since half of that amount ($2,250) is less than half of your benefits ($2,500), the smaller amount becomes taxable income. If you are in the 15 percent tax bracket, the $2,250 will cost $337.50 in extra Federal income tax ($2,250 X .15 = $337.50).

How Will You Know the  Exact Amount of Your Social Security Benefits?

Each January you will receive a Social Security Benefit Statement(Form SSA-1099) showing the amount of benefits you received in the previous year. You can use this SSA-1099 when you complete your Federal income tax return to find out if your benefits are subject to tax.

Your Options if Your Social Security Benefits are Taxable

If you do have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits, you can make quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS or choose to have Federal taxes withheld from your benefits. For more information about taxation of benefits, read page 14 of the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Benefits booklet or refer to the Internal Revenue Services’ IRS Publication 915.


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Expect a 1.7 percent Increase in 2015 Social Security Benefits


social security benefitsSocial Security Claimants get a Bigger Check in 2015

Monthly Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for nearly 64 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2015, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 58 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2015.  Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2014. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated.  To read more, please visit

Some Individuals will Pay More Social Security Taxes in 2015

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages.  Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $118,500 from $117,000.  Of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of the increase in the taxable maximum.

Medicare Costs Will Basically Remain the Same in 2015 

Details about 2015 Medicare are available at . The following is an overview of Medicare costs for 2014 and 2015:

A Comparison of 2014 and 2015 Medicare Costs
Part B premium Most people pay $104.90 each month.(This amount won’t change in 2015.)
Part B deductible $147 per year. (This amount won’t change in 2015.)
Part A premium Most people don’t pay a monthly premium for Part A. If you buy Part A, you’ll pay up to $426 each month. (Reduced to $407 in 2015.)
Part A hospital inpatient deductible  You pay:

  • $1,216 deductible for each benefit period ($1,260 in 2015)
  • Days 1-60: $0 coinsurance for each benefit period ($0 in 2015)
  • Days 61-90: $304 coinsurance per day of each benefit period ($315 in 2015)
  • Days 91 and beyond: $608 coinsurance per each “lifetime reserve day” after day 90 for each benefit period (up to 60 days over your lifetime) ($630 in 2015)
  • Beyond lifetime reserve days: all costs


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Get Free Financial Help from the Experts!

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5th Annual Metro Washington Financial Planning Day

In today’s uncertain economy, planning for you financial future is more important than ever.  If you have financial questions or concerns, or would like to learn how to better manage your finances, District of Columbia and Mayor Vincent C. Gray invite you to attend the 5th Annual Metro Washington Financial Planning Day, where you’ll have an opportunity to receive free, personalized, confidential answers from professional financial planners.  The event will be held on Saturday, October 25, 2014 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm at Columbia Heights Educational Campus in Washington, DC.

Metro Washington Financial Planning Day is organized by the District of Columbia in partnership with the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area and is part of Financial Planning Days – a first-of-its-kind national initiative to provide free financial education and programming to people across the country.  Financial Planning Days was created by four national non-profit organizations – Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Financial Planning Association, Foundation for Financial Planning, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

At the event, highly qualified Certified Financial Planner™ professionals will be stationed at tables and will meet with you one-on-one to offer free personalized advice on a variety of financial topics, including – getting out of debt, retirement planning, investment strategies, tax issues, insurance, and estate planning, among many others.

There are no strings attached! All financial planners are participating as volunteers and they will not be selling products or services, or giving out business cards.  Come as you are, or come prepared with any financial paperwork related to your questions.  And, you can consult with as many different financial planners as you need.

The event will also feature a series of free classroom-style workshop presentations addressing key areas of personal finance, including Financial Planning for Women, Real World Retirement Planning, and Investing Basics: Be a Smart Investor.

Walk-ins are welcome, but admission will be granted first to those who have registered online at or by calling toll free at 877-861-7826.  We expect a large crowd, so we encourage you to register early.

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Can Student Loan Debt Reduce Your Social Security Benefits?



Social Security Benefits can be Garnished

Banks and other creditors can’t touch your Social Security benefits. However, if you owe money to the U.S. government (for federal income taxes, federal student loans, child support and alimony, non-tax debt owed to other federal agencies, defaulted federal home loans and certain civil penalties) the federal government can garnish your Social Security benefits.

Today there are an estimated two million Americans aged 60 and older who are in debt from unpaid student loans according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In the August 2014 “Household Debt and Credit Report” by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York the number of older Americans with outstanding student loans had increased from $8 billion in loans in 2005 to $43 Billion in August 2014.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York goes on to state that at this time about 140,000 individuals have their Social Security benefits garnished to pay down student loans that are in default. In 2004 there were only 38,000 people who had their Social Security benefits garnished for student loan debt.

The average Social Security claimant receives $1,200 per month. This amount can be reduced by 15 percent ($180) to pay student loans. The most that can be garnished from your Social Security benefits is 15 percent, and your benefits should never be garnished below $750 per month. For example, let’s say your monthly benefit is $800, 15 percent won’t be taken— you’ll see just enough taken to reduce your check down to the $750 floor (the amount set by Congress in 1998). Also, only your net monthly benefit gets garnished, after deductions for things like Medicare.  According to government data the total amount garnished from Social Security benefits was $150 million last year.

What Can You Do About It?

The Web site Tuition located at has several suggestions about what to do if your Social Security benefits are garnished:

  1. As soon as you get a notice that your student loans will result in a garnishment of your Social Security benefits, you have 20-days to request a review.
  2. Apply for a hardship exemption for the garnishment. Explain why the garnishment creates a hardship. For example, if the garnishment goes forward you can’t afford necessary medication or other necessary costs.
  3. Contact the Department of Education and discover how to get your student loan out of default. Try to get access to an income based repayment plan.
  4. See if you can consolidate your loans, then apply for an income based repayment plan.

Note: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cannot be garnished under any circumstances.

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What Divorced Women Should Know About Social Security


Tips and Strategies for Divorced Women

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA) if you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if he or she has remarried) if (1) you are unmarried, (2) you are age 62 or older, (3) your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, and (4) the benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.

Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount (or disability benefit) if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age (FRA) if:

  • You remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).
  • Your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

Some women sign divorce decrees relinquishing their rights to Social Security on their ex-husband’s work record. If you were married at least 10 years, those clauses in divorce decrees are worthless and are never enforced.

If you meet the requirements listed above, were married more than once and each marriage lasted ten years or longer, and you have been divorced for at least two years, you may receive benefits from the spouse you select if you are not now married again. (Make sure to inform the SSA of all your marriages that qualify you for ex-spousal benefits.) Larry Kotlikoff of Boston University provides this example, let’s say that the low-earner ex-spouse is over 62 and the high-earner ex-spouse will be 62 in several years. You could claim ex-spousal benefits on the low-earner ex-spouses work record, then when the higher earner ex-spouse turns 62 switch to the higher earner ex-spousal benefits and increase the amount of monthly benefits you receive.

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Need a New Social Security Card?



All you Need is to Know Your Social Security Number

Have you lost your Social Security card? Do you need a new Social Security card? You probably don’t—as long as you know your number. For all intents and purposes, your number is your card. Usually providing your number and identifying information is enough. In the event that you really do want or need a replacement card, for yourself or for a child, you can find all the details you need at the “Social Security Number and Card” page at This page provides information on how to obtain a replacement card and what specific documents you need to provide. Check it out if you really need a new card. But keep in mind: You may just need to know your number. Your card is already in your head. Note: Some businesses offer Social Security name changes or cards for a fee. The Social Security Administration (SSA)  provides those services for free. Do not pay for something the SSA  will give you free of charge. 

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