Thursday, September 5, 2013

Updates on same-sex spouse benefits

As we have previously written, there has been a flurry of activity from different federal agencies post-Windsor.  On September 4th, 2013, Attorney General Holder sent a  letter to Speaker Boehner that as a result of Windsor, the executive branch will not enforce sections in 38 U.S.C. § 101 (benefits eligibility)  that affect veterans and service members and spouses  of same-sex marriages. The letter notes that although the specific statutory provisions were not addressed by the United States Supreme Court, they "are substantively identical to the definitions in section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act....."

As Charlie Savage explains in his September 4, 2013 article in the New York Times, the Veterans Administration is not in the same position as other government agencies since the statute contains the spousal eligibility definition.

 On the same day, Politico reported that the Texas National Guard was not going to handle benefits requests from same-sex spouses and Mississippi will only take applications at Guard offices that are located on federal property. According to the article,

"Texas appeared to be the only state with a total ban on processing applications  from gay and lesbian couples. Spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said federal  officials will process all applications from same-sex couples with a marriage  certificate from a state where it is legal." 

The article goes on to note that Florida's Department of Military Affairs doesn't appear to have a policy stopping the application for benefits and Oklahoma's  Guard will not differentiate between same-sex and opposite-sex spouses.

 The Washington Post has also published a story written by Josh Hicks about this, which is available here.

Becky Morgan

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