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Social Security Begins Making Payments To Some Same-Sex Married Couples

Specifics are sparse, but "Social Security is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due," the agency head says. UPDATE: Details of the limited nature of the payments were reported early Saturday morning.

Posted on August 9, 2013, at 4:12 p.m. ET

Elaine Thompson / AP

Jane Abbott Lighty, left, and her wife Pete-e Petersen turn toward photographers and supporters as they take a turn raising a giant marriage equality flag atop the Space Needle Sunday, June 30, 2013, in Seattle. The two are the first same-sex couple who were granted a wedding license in Washington State.

WASHINGTON — The Social Security Administration has begun processing and paying out some retirement claims for same-sex spouses, the acting commissioner of the agency announced Friday.

"I am pleased to announce that Social Security is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due. We continue to work closely with the Department of Justice. In the coming weeks and months, we will develop and implement additional policy and processing instructions. We appreciate the public's patience as we work through the legal issues to ensure that our policy is legally sound and clear," Carolyn W. Colvin, the acting commissioner of Social Security said in a statement issued Friday.

It was not immediately clear what retirement claims are being covered and what eligibility criteria were being used to determine who would be eligible for such benefits. Specifically, it is not yet clear whether same-sex couples married where such couples can legally marry but who live in a state that does not recognize such marriages would be eligible. No immediate response was provided to an email seeking additional information about the change.

[UPDATE: Social Security Payments Limited To Same-Sex Married Couples Living In States That Recognize Marriage Equality.]

The change came about as a result of the recent Supreme Court decision striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which Colvin said "helps to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally, with the dignity and respect they deserve."

She added, "I encourage individuals who believe they may be eligible for Social Security benefits to apply now, to protect against the loss of any potential benefits. We will process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized."

Human Rights Campaign spokesman, Michael Cole-Schwartz, told BuzzFeed, "It is encouraging that Social Security is taking steps to afford benefits to married couples that should be treated like anyone else. We look forward to hearing further details from the administration on how they plan to make the greatest number of benefits available to the greatest number of people."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.