Gay Couples Denied Veterans Benefits

Veterans benefits for gay married couples still denied.

The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act months ago, but the ruling didn't solve every roadblock that same-sex couples face. Gay married couples are still being denied Veteran benefits, writes Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki in a letter to Congress dated August 14. Shinseki says certain provisions in title 38, U.S. Code, define "spouse" as a person of the opposite-sex. “Under these provisions, a same-sex marriage recognized by a State would not confer spousal status for purposes of eligibility of VA benefits," he writes. Unlike DOMA, a court has yet to deem the title 38 definitions to be unconstitutional.

The Advocate:

"Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire is among the group of people working to ensure that gay and lesbian veterans in legal same-sex marriages are awarded spousal benefits, and she has cosponsored the Charlie Morgan Act, a bill which addresses the issue. “We need to pass the Charlie Morgan Act to bring Department of Veteran Affairs benefits policy in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down DOMA,” Shaheen said in a statement. “I’m committed to making this happen. Every individual who serves in uniform deserves access to the benefits that they’ve earned and rightfully deserve. We can’t tolerate this type of discrimination, especially in the aftermath of a historic Supreme Court ruling that declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.”'

Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, said that an update to the law is needed in order to ensure full equality even in the aftermath of Supreme Court ruling on the DOMA.

“The end of section 3 of DOMA unfortunately does not mean all married same-sex couples are fully equal in the eyes of the federal government no matter where they live,” Cole-Schwartz said. “We believe there is more work the administration can do to faithfully interpret the Windsor ruling in an expansive manner but as we have said before, Congressional action is needed to ensure all married couples are treated equally in all ways.”

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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