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Thanks to the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor, same-sex married couples can now enjoy two of the cornerstones of retirement planning – Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Now that same-sex couples are eligible to receive benefits from these two government programs, which have been integral parts of most Americans’ retirement planning for decades, the door is open to more comprehensive retirement planning. This will hopefully help alleviate financial strains for couples in the 13 states and Washington, D.C. that recognize same-sex marriage.
Same-sex couples will now be eligible for valuable spousal and survivor benefits that may provide each household with thousands of dollars in income, and financial security in their retirement years.
Despite President Barack Obama’s promise to have all relevant federal benefits and obligations implemented “swiftly and smoothly,” it will be no easy task. Once the federal benefits are implemented, same-sex couples who are married in New York and in the other states that recognize same-sex marriage will be able to incorporate Social Security and Medicare benefits into their retirement planning.
Unfortunately for same-sex couples who live in states that accept only same-sex civil unions, the federal benefits will not extend federal-worker benefits to domestic partners who are not legally married. This restriction applies to civil unions in Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey.
Although Social Security and Medicare benefits are only a piece of the full retirement planning puzzle, they are very important pieces. Access to these benefits will help shape the long-term goals and current realities of same-sex couples who are now retired or hope to one day retire. Once these benefits are implemented it is important for same-sex couples to review and adjust their retirement plans.
By Eric J. Einhart, Esq. – Guest Blogger