Retirement is a tumultuous time for everyone, as you switch from an active income to a more passive one. Every small bit helps, and Supplemental Security Income is not the smallest of bits. So when recognition of your marriage affects your SSI, you tend to take notice. Such was the case for Kathy Murphy, a 62-year-old widow in Texas. Survivor benefits are one of the major safety nets that marriage provides, but because her marriage to her partner of 32 years was not recognized by the government, Kathy’s income fell $583 a month. Had she lived a state over in New Mexico, she would have been eligible for the benefits. Inheritance of a spouse’s Social Security benefits has only recently been extended to same-sex couples, but is subject to recognition by the state level governance, unlike many other SSI programs.
While marriage equality and recognition would solve these qualification issues, the same cannot be said for other risk factors to LGBT retirees. On average, Gays and Lesbians face higher unemployment, lower wages, and an increased risk of falling into poverty. Though these statistics would put the LGBT community in with other minority groups, the federal government does not yet collect data on it, meaning there is no funding for assistance. There has been a call from the white house to take up this matter, but it has fallen on deaf ears. You can read more about this issue on SAGE’s website here.