Same-Sex Spouses Now Eligible for Veterans Benefits

Chris Howey/Shutterstock.com

President Obama has extended federal benefits to same-sex spouses of military veterans, the Justice Department announced.

The move comes after the Supreme Court struck down a major provision of the Defense of Marriage Act -- which defined marriage as between a man and a woman -- though the law did not apply to veterans benefits specifically. Federal statute defining benefits to veterans did not simply say “marriage” or “spouse,” as did the more than 1,000 laws affected by the DOMA decision; instead, the U.S. code explicitly stated the following for veterans: “The term ‘spouse’ means a person of the opposite sex who is a wife or husband.”

“Although the Supreme Court did not directly address the constitutionality of the Title 38 provisions in Windsor [v. United States], the reasoning of the opinion strongly supports the conclusion that those provisions are unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment,” Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to congressional leaders explaining the decision.

The Veterans Affairs Department was among the last holdouts in the federal government to extend benefits to same-sex spouses, with the Office of Personnel Management and Defense Department already issuing guidance extending benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The announcement comes after a federal judge recently ruled a married same-sex couple in California was eligible for extra benefits reserved for married veterans. In July, House Republicans -- who sponsored the DOMA defense in the Supreme Court -- said they would no longer defend the statute prohibiting the extension of veterans’ benefits to same-sex spouses. 

(Image via Chris Howey/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.