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Love, marriage and a serious benefits cut

When they got married in May of last year, one couple on the opposite side of the country from Georgia had no idea the impact it would have on their lives. They were not prepared for the financial impact that a marriage would have on their wallets and quality of life.

The woman has bipolar disorder, seizures and high blood pressure. Her husband suffers from severe bipolar disorder. Both receive forms of Social Security benefits, and both have experienced serious cuts to their benefits because of their marriage. Even though the couple lives in another state, the lessons apply to Social Security disability beneficiaries in Georgia, because it is a federal program.

Both individuals were dependent on the financial aid provided by food stamps and Social Security disability checks. Before the wedding, the woman was receiving $674 each month from Supplemental Security Income. When their households legally combined, she was informed that her checks would be reduced almost 50 percent to $369.

Her husband gets $698 each month from Social Security disability insurance. A spokesman with the Social Security Administration said that while the husband's benefits will not change because they are based on how much he paid in to the system when he was working, the wife's SSI is need-based. The husband's income is a factor in how much she receives each month.

Their amount of food stamp allowance was also reduced almost 50 percent. Separately, they each received $200 monthly in food stamps. Now they share $275 a month in food stamps.

Before they were married, the couple asked if their benefits would change. They were assured that the change would be minimal. If they had known the real extent of the cuts, they probably would not have gotten married.

Source: Coeur d'Alene Press, "The cost of marriage," Alecia Warren, Feb. 6, 2012

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