Someone told me that I am not a legal beneficiary of my husband in connection with his membership in the Social Security System because we were married after he retired. Is this true?
Under the Social Security System (SSS) law, a dependent spouse is considered a primary beneficiary of a member of the SSS. As a primary beneficiary of a retired member of the SSS, the wife is entitled to receive the monthly pension which is due to her husband. However, Section 12-B of the SSS Law explicitly states:
“(d) Upon the death of the retired member, his primary beneficiaries as of the date of his retirement shall be entitled to receive the monthly pension…”
As stated above, the provision refers to primary beneficiaries as of the date of retirement.
The law then restricts the term primary beneficiary and limits it to include only those persons who became primary beneficiaries before the concerned SSS member retired, to wit: wife married before retirement, and children, legitimate or illegitimate, born prior to retirement.
Based on the quoted provision of the law, it appears that you are not considered a primary beneficiary of your husband and, therefore, not entitled to receive pension from the SSS should your husband pass away.
However, in the case of Dycaico vs. SSS, the Supreme Court (SC) en banc struck down Section 12-B of the SSS law and declared it unconstitutional (G.R. No. 161357, November 30, 2005). According to the SC, the said provision violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution.
The equal protection clause mandates that those who are similarly situated must be treated alike, and if a law makes a classification, the same must be germane or relevant to the purpose of the law and there must be substantial distinction between the groups, among others (Dycaico vs. SSS). The classification between a spouse married before retirement of the member and one married after retirement bears no relation to achieving the objective of the law, which is to provide meaningful protection to members and their beneficiaries against the hazard of disability, sickness, maternity, old age, death and other contingencies resulting in loss of income or financial burden. Further, there is no substantial distinction between the spouses married before and after retirement to warrant a different treatment (Dycaico vs. SSS).
The said provision of the law also violates the due process clause. The manifest purpose of the provision is to prevent instances where a person would marry the SSS member for the purpose of entitlement to the survivor’s pension. However, the outright blanket disqualification for a person married after the retirement of the SSS member prevents the person from presenting her side. Thus, the surviving spouse is deprived of the survivor’s pension, which is a vested right, without observing due process (Dycaico vs. SSS).
With the foregoing reasoning, the SC held that the SSS cannot deny the application of a legal spouse for surviving pension on the sole ground that the marriage occurred after the retirement of the deceased SSS member.
The same rule could be applied to your case. You should not be disqualified as a legal beneficiary merely because you were married to your husband after he retired.
We hope we were able to shed light on the matter. Bear in mind that this opinion is based solely on the facts you presented and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary should circumstances change.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com