Palm Springs Resident Receives Survivor Benefits 16 Years After Death of His Husband

PALM DESERT —  John Davis, a 70-year-old Palm Springs resident, finally received his Survivor Benefits 16 years after the death of his husband, according to Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) .

Ruiz’s office stepped in to resolve a long-standing dispute with the Social Security Administration (SSA) that had continued even after the U.S. District Court ruled that same-sex couples were eligible for SSA Survivor Benefits.

“I am thrilled to have helped John secure the benefits that were unjustly denied to him because of who he loves,” Dr. Ruiz said in a prepared statement. “Just recently in 2020, the U.S. District Court ruled that same-sex couples were eligible for Social Security Survivor Benefits. However, John was met with bureaucratic roadblocks. All Americans, regardless of who they love, deserve the peace of mind that the loss of a spouse won’t result in the loss of their earned benefits. Progress like this is helping pave the way for a more equal and just society, and John’s devotion to his husband is finally recognized. If anyone else has difficulty navigating Social Security, my office will help.”

For eight years, Davis said he pursued obtaining Survivor Widowers Benefits from Social Security, which had been consistently denied at all appeals levels.

“Eventually, I reached out to Congressman Ruiz’s office to help me untangle the process where my case had become stuck,” Davis said. “Between the Congressman’s office staff and the work of a truly amazing SSA representative, my case was ‘paid out in full’ (including back pay) and increased my monthly Social Security check going forward by nearly $1,000.”

Davis filed his claim with Social Security for Survivor Benefits eight years after the death of his husband, but his case was denied and appealed several times until no more appeal options remained. However, in September 2020, the U.S. District Court ruled in Thornton v. Saul that same-sex couples are eligible to receive SSA Survivor Benefits. Despite reopening his case, John was still unable to obtain the benefits he was owed. It wasn’t until he contacted Congressman Ruiz’s office that he received his monthly benefits and backpay for all the years he was eligible.



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