Administration

Social Security benefits for gay couples could cost $350M per year

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Extending Social Security benefits to same-sex couples could cost the government as much as $350 million per year, according to a 2004 report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Thursday that federal marriage benefits through the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs will be extended to married gay couples nationwide in the wake of the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling.

{mosads}How much that will cost remains to be seen. The Department of Justice said new cost estimates have not yet been completed, and CBO spokeswoman Deborah Kilroe said the 2004 report is the most recent projection available.

The 2004 CBO report was completed at the request of Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), former chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, who asked for information on how recognizing same-sex marriages would impact the federal budget.

At that time, the CBO estimated that the added Social Security benefits would cost about $50 million in 2005 and grow to $350 million a year by 2014.

The cost per year was projected to rise due to the aging population, since the average member of a same-sex couple in 2000 was only in his or her early 40s, the CBO said, citing Census numbers.

“In only about 10 percent of partnerships were both partners age 62 or older, the earliest age for receiving Social Security retirement benefits,” the report said. “In the next few decades, many more couples will reach age 62, and some members will die, leaving their survivors eligible for widow(er)s’ benefits if their marriages were recognized.”

Social Security Administration spokeswoman Dorothy Clark said the administration is working with the DOJ to analyze the Supreme Court’s decision and provide instructions for processing claims.

“In the meantime, if you’re a spouse, divorced spouse, or surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage or non-marital legal same-sex relationship, we encourage you to apply right away for benefits,” Clark said. “Applying now will preserve your filing date, which will protect you against the loss of any potential benefits.”

The Veterans Affairs Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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