How is the Gender in My SSA (Social Security Administration) Record Used?
Your Social Security card only lists your name and Social Security number – not your gender. However, SSA maintains information in its computer records on everyone who has a Social Security number, including name, date of birth, and gender. Aggregated data about gender and other demographic factors from SSA records is used for statistical and research purposes. In addition, as discussed below, SSA gender data is still used for identity verification by some third-party organizations.
Will Changing My Gender With SSA Affect My Social Security Benefits?
No. Social Security benefits do not depend on your gender.
Will Changing My Gender With SSA Affect My Health Benefits?
Changing your gender marker with Social Security will typically not affect private health insurance. While some insurance plans may automatically refuse coverage of services that appear inconsistent with a gender marker in the plan’s records, private plans generally do not base their gender data on, or match it with, Social Security records.
However, if a person is enrolled in Medicare, or the Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, their insurance record will be based on Social Security data. In that case, they may experience automatic refusals for coverage of services that appear inconsistent with a gender marker in Social Security records. This type of denial can usually be resolved by having your provider’s office either add a specific billing code, contact the plan, or help you request a formal coverage determination.
What About “No-Match Letters”? Will My SSA Record Out Me on the Job or Elsewhere?
This could happen in some circumstances. SSA administers several programs used by employers and public benefit providers to verify a person’s identity. Through these programs, SSA compares personal data submitted by a business or government agency with its own records and reports whether the data matches.
The largest system used by previate employers, the Social Security Number Verification System (SSNVS), eliminated gender in 2011. However, some systems used by state government agencies will still match gender against SSA records. If a person’s recorded gender with the submitting agency does not match SSA records, SSA may report this back to the submitting agency. In cases where gender data is submitted to SSA and does not match, the submitting agency is under no obligation to respond in any way. So long as the other personal data matches with SSA records, the organization can simply ignore the gender mismatch.
How Do I Change the Gender in My SSA Record?
Social Security will accept any of the following forms of evidence for a gender marker change:
- A full-validity 10-year U.S. passport showing the correct gender,
- A state-issued birth certificate showing the correct gender,
- A court order recognizing the correct gender, or
- A signed letter from a provider confirming you have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition
If you use a physician letter, it must come from a licensed physician with whom you have a patient relationship and who is familiar with your transition-related treatment. (This may be any physician who is familiar with your treatment, including a primary care physician or a specialist.) All certifications must be on the physician’s office letterhead and include all information seen in the sample letter below, including the physician’s license or certificate number.
The following is an example of a letter that meets all the Social Security requirements:
I, Physician’s Full Name, Physician’s medical license or certificate number, Issuing U.S. State/Foreign Country of medical license/certificate, am the physician of Name of Patient, Date of Birth of Patient, with whom I have a doctor/patient relationship and whom I have treated, or with whom I have a doctor/patient relationship and whose medical history I have reviewed and evaluated.
Name of Patient has had appropriate clinical treatment for transition to (specify male or female).
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the foregoing is true and correct.
Signature of Physician
You can download a sample physician letter here.
What is “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition”?
People’s gender transition needs vary, and treatment options are decided between individuals and health care professionals on a case-by-case basis. The phrase “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition” is meant to capture a range of treatments that may be appropriate, in each individual case, to facilitate gender transition. Clinical treatment methods are outlined in the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care, and treatment can include psychotherapy, changes in gender expression and role, hormone therapy, or surgery, or any combination thereof. No specific treatment is required, and details of your treatment need not be provided. In fact, NCTE encourages you and your provider to only state in the letter that you have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. Details about surgery, hormone treatment, or other treatments are unnecessary and not helpful.
How Do I Change My Name in My Social Security Record?
You can change the name on your Social Security card and record by applying through the mail or in person at a local Social Security office. This can be done separately from, or together with, applying for a gender change. You will need to submit an Application for a Social Security Card, proof of your identity and citizenship or immigration status, as well as acceptable proof of the name change.
In general, SSA will accept any of the following as proof of a name change:
- Name change court order (original or certified copy);
- Marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership certificate (original or certified copy);
- Divorce decree (original or certified copy); or,
- Certificate of citizenship or naturalization (original only).
The new card will be sent to you in the mail, as will any original documents submitted with your application.
Note: Marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership certificates showing a name change can be used so long as they are recognized by the issuing state. Locally-issued domestic partnership certificates not recognized by a state cannot be used for this purpose.
How Does Social Security Treat Marriages Involving Transgender People?
Social Security recognizes as valid any marriage that was recognized under state law as being a valid marriage when it was entered into. Social Security looks to state law and government-issued documents (such as birth certificates and court orders) to determine marital status – it is not based on the gender marker in your Social Security record. For this reason, changing your gender marker with Social Security will not affect your or your spouse’s right to Social Security benefits. Any marriage that was valid when it was entered continues to be valid regardless of a spouse’s transition.
What if I Have a Problem?
Social Security employees are instructed to treat transgender customers with respect, including using appropriate pronouns, and to not ask unrelated personal questions. If you encounter difficulties with local or other SSA employees, contact NCTE, your SSA Regional Office, or your U.S. Senator’s Office.
If you believe you have been subject to discriminatory treatment by an SSA office or staff, you may file a formal complaint of discrimination with SSA. SSA accepts complaints of discrimination in services and programs based on race, color, national origin (including English language ability), religion, sex (including gender identity), sexual orientation, age, disability, or in retaliation for filing a complaint. The purpose of this process is not to provide compensation but to resolve unfair actions and prevent future incidents. The complaint form can be found at: http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-437.pdf.
SSA Gender Change Policy:
SSA FAQ on How to Change Gender on Social Security Record:
Application for Social Security Card:
Social Security Office Locator:
Social Security phone numbers:
1-800-772-1213 or, for TTY, call 1-800-325-0778 SSA
Discrimination Complaint Form:
SSA Policy on Determining Marital Status: