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Miscellaneous FAQs « FAQs

We are teachers and advocates, and as a part of that process we frequently answer questions from our clients — so we started collecting our Frequently Asked Questions. We are collecting and sharing them with you by topic and hope these are helpful to you.

Please feel free to email Patti at if you have a follow up question or comment. We'd also like you to let us know what you think of this new feature of our website.


We have redacted names to protect the innocent! Sometimes they are posed in a give and take format because they were developed through an email exchange.

(Note: questions are not edited for spelling, grammar or content.)

Birth Certificates:

An exchange between colleagues:

Question: Client was born in Pontiac in 1940. While still a child, her parents got a court ordered name change for client. Client has a copy of a federal certificate affirming that she was born under her birth name on the specific date. She also has a copy of the order to change her name.

She now needs a photo ID for the first time in her life. The secretary of state will not issue her a state ID card without a certified copy of her birth certificate. The county doesn't have her birth certificate because, as the clerk explained to my assistant, it shipped to the state vital records office the original birth certificates of anyone whose name changed before 1960. The state vital records offices says that she cannot get her birth certificate without a photo ID, which she cannot get without a birth certificate. Any suggestions?

Answer: Has she tried ordering the birth certificate online? Here's the website: Michigan Department of Community Health

She would need to electronically sign a statement verifying that she is the person named in the birth certificate, but I don't believe there's a requirement for photo ID with the online order form (although that may have changed since the last time I ordered a birth certificate online).

Alternatively, the mail-in application for a copy of a birth certificate lists the following documents that can be used to verify identity in the absence of a State ID or passport:

*  Employment identification with photo, accompanied with a pay stub or W-2 form

*  School, university or college identification with photo, accompanied with a report card or other proof of current school enrollment

*  Michigan driver's license expired for more than one year, accompanied by a motor vehicle registration or title, a bridge card, MI-Health card, inmate probation or discharge documents, a veteran's DD-214, or an original copy of an Affidavit of Parentage

*  Department of Corrections identification card, accompanied by probation or discharge papers

If an inmate currently incarcerated, a Department of Corrections identification card, accompanied by a verification of incarceration by the facility on letterhead
The form also indicates: "If you are unable to provide any of the above-mentioned forms of identification, please contact the Michigan Vital Records Office at 517-335-8666 and speak with a customer service representative." That implies that there alternatives available.

As a last resort, she could always apply for a Certificate of Citizenship from the U.S. Government, which can be used instead of a birth certificate for purposes of applying for a State ID card. This is an expensive option and would require a lot of work to put together adequate documentation. Details can be found here: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services


Gay Marriage

Question:  I have a gay couple as clients in Missouri.  Marriage is not recognized.  What is the current status of Social Security and other Federal benefits for gays?  If they went to Iowa and get married, would they gain anything?  Thank you!

Answer:   At this time  your clients would not gain anything by going to Iowa for the  ceremony.  The  Social  Security  Administration  issued  an emergency  message on August 8, 2013 to all field offices (among other recipients)  with  instructions  on  how to  process claims involving same-sex marriage.

That EM can be found here:

In  conjunction  with  this EM, the POMS have been revised in light of DOMA, at GN 210.   You can find those POMS here:!openview&restricttocategory=02002
(go to the bottom of the list for section GN  00210)

Section  GN 00210.001 instructs staff to hold claims involving same sex marriage  in  which  a  party  is domiciled in a non same-sex marriage state.    Thus,  for  the  time  being,  if a couple is domiciled in a non-same  sex  marriage  state, getting married in a same-sex marriage state  will not provide the couple with automatic recognition of their marriage by the SSA.  That issue has yet to be determined.
Hope this helps,