Woman’s lawsuit seeks Social Security survivor benefits after 2011 death of wife

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.providencejournal.com

Published: October 01, 2014 01:00 AM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Warwick widow has filed a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration accusing the federal agency of wrongfully denying her survivor benefits after she lost her 56-year-old wife to cancer in 2011.

The plaintiff, Deborah Tevyaw, 58, was married to her late wife, Patricia Baker, in 2005 in Massachusetts, but the federal agency says the relationship ended in 2011, before Governor Chafee ordered state agencies to recognize same-sex marriage in May 2012, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

Rhode Island has recognized out-of-state marriages, including marriages in Massachusetts, since at least 1904, and in 2007 the state’s attorney general issued an opinion stating that same-sex marriages from other states “must be recognized under principles of comity and full faith and credit,” says the complaint.

In July this year, Governor Chafee wrote the acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Carolyn W. Colvin, to express his concern that the federal agency had misinterpreted the 2012 date as the date when Rhode Island first recognized out-of-state same-sex marriages, the complaint says.

Tevyaw filed the lawsuit with support from Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

She was denied disabled widow’s benefits and a lump sum death payment and is living on disability income of $732 per month, says the lawsuit. In June 2013, she was forced to sell the…

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