US Department of Defense announces same-sex spouse benefits - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

US Department of Defense announces same-sex spouse benefits

Updated:
WASHINGTON -

The United States Department of Defense announced its plan to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and Department of Defense civilian employees.

The announcement follows the Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year on the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional.

After consulting with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies, the Defense Department will make spousal and family benefits available no later than Sept. 3, 2013, regardless of sexual orientation, as long as service member-sponsors provide a valid marriage certificate.

"The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs," the DoD said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court's decision.  Any claims to entitlements before that date will not be granted.  For those members married after June 26, 2013, entitlements begin at the date of marriage.

The DoD also addressed the issue of some states not recognizing same-sex marriages.

"We recognize that same-sex military couples who are not stationed in a jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage would have to travel to another jurisdiction to marry.  That is why the department will implement policies to allow military personnel in such a relationship non-chargeable leave for the purpose of traveling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur.  This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department, and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married."

For civilian benefits administered government-wide to federal employees, the Department of Defense will follow the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor's guidance to ensure that the same benefits currently available to heterosexual spouses are also available to legally married same-sex spouses.

Read the implementation memo from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel online as well as further guidance on extending benefits to same-sex spouses of military members from Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright.

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