A fight by a 92-year-old trans widow for survivor benefits leads to change in US policy

Social Security Administration will no longer require additional legal scrutiny for claims made by transgender spouses

A fight by a 92-year-old trans widow for survivor benefits leads to change in US policy
05 April 2014

A case involving a 92-year-old transgender widow has resulted in the US Social Security Administration making a change in policy regarding survivor benefits.

Robina Asti is a WWII veteran and pilot who has been a transgender woman since 1976. She had been denied benefits after the death of her husband for two years because she had been born a male.

She finally got her benefits on 14 February after a legal appeal.

The old SSA policy subjected every claim for spousal benefits by a surviving transgender soouse to lengthy and excessive scrutiny and presumed that a spouse’s gender transition was a barrier to receiving benefits, according to Lambda Legal which filed Asti’s case.

The SSA said that although its past policy was to refer all marriage-based claims involving transgender people for a legal opinion, its new policy allows them to process most claims without one.

‘This is a critical development for all married transgender people, but is especially important for transgender older adults, who rely on the safety net of Social Security benefits,’ said Karen Loewy, Senior Attorney and Seniors Program Strategist for Lambda Legal.

The new SSA policy presumes the validity of most marriages regardless of whether a spouse is transgender.

‘We hope no one has to ever again endure the disrespect that Ms. Asti experienced,’ said Dru Levasseur, director of the Transgender Rights.

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