VA Moves to Expand Same-Sex Benefits After Court Ruling


CQ NEWS
June 29, 2015 – 5:33 p.m.

VA Moves to Expand Same-Sex Benefits After Court Ruling

By Connor O'Brien, CQ Roll Call

The Department of Veterans» Affairs is moving to expand access to benefits for same-sex couples who may not have been eligible prior to last week's Supreme Court ruling.

Prior to the court's decision in Obergefell v Hodges, «veterans» benefits for same-sex couples had been withheld in states where marriages between people of the same gender are not legally recognized. The ruling, which was handed down on Friday, struck down those state laws and cleared the path for VA's decision to recognize all same-sex marriages, which it announced Monday.

"VA may recognize the same-sex marriage of all «Veterans», where the «Veteran» or the «Veteran»'s spouse resided anywhere in the United States or its territories at the time of the marriage or at the time of application for benefits," the department said in a statement on the ruling.

Following Friday's decision, advocates wasted little time calling for the VA to change gears and begin providing benefits it has previously denied. And Monday, groups were quick to applaud the shift.

"This is a critical step that will help to make sure that every lesbian, gay and bisexual U.S. «veteran» and their family has the same access to the benefits that they have earned in their service to our country," Matt Thorn, interim executive director of Outserve-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said in a statement.

"Our LGB «veterans» should never have been denied these benefits because of the state they live in or because of their sexual orientation," Thorn added. "LGB «veterans and their families deserve and will now have the respect, dignity and protections that they have earned."

In its statement, VA said it will issue guidance to its offices and employees on implementing the decision and, in the meantime, would "temporarily wait to adjudicate all claims regarding same-sex marriage that cannot be immediately granted based on prior guidance."

 

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