Today, the same-sex spouses of military service members are eligible to receive a range of federal benefits. The Defense Department changed its policy in light of last June’s Supreme Court ruling, which invalidated Section 3 of DOMA. Starting today, spousal and family benefits will be available to all legally-married military spouses, no matter where they live.
“Today the U.S. military is one step closer to righting the wrong of inequality in our armed forces,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin. “The sacrifices our nation’s gay and lesbian service members and their families make every day should be valued and recognized, and this country owes these heroes every possible measure of support.”
Among the benefits available to same-sex spouses are military I.D. cards, healthcare coverage, housing allowances and survivor benefits. Spouses can claim the entitlements retroactively, going back to June 26, 2013, the day of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling.
Military families need to know this is only one step in the process, says Outserve-SLDN, the leading advocacy group for LGBT service members. Applying for housing allowances, medical care, updating IRS tax withholding, military personnel files, and other benefits have separate enrollment procedures. Most commands have developed checklists to assist newly married service members with this process.
OutServe-SLDN board member and Hospital Corpsman Second Class Jeffry Priela-Tam, currently at Camp Lejuene, N.C., says this day has been a long time coming for him and his husband, Chris. “It comes as a great relief because now I don’t have to pay out of pocket to live off base while forced to maintain a barracks room. It’s a huge step towards equality. I can’t wait for the day when all states that do not currently recognize our marriage will come to their senses and fall on the right side of humanity.”
Last month the Pentagon announced another new policy, allowing gay and lesbian service members to take up to 10 days of leave in order to travel to a state where same-sex couples can legally marry.
Other federal agencies have issued similar rulings or guidance regarding the invalidation of Section 3 of DOMA, including Department of the Treasury, Office of Personnel Management, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security. Other agencies are expected to announce decisions on how benefits will flow to same-sex couples.