The Office of Personnel Management is reminding surviving same-sex spouses of federal retirees and employees who married before a 2013 Supreme Court decision overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act that they can apply for retirement and death benefits through June 26, 2015.
The application window also extends to those same-sex spouses who applied previously for such benefits, but were denied before the June 26, 2013, Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor.
“OPM also wants to make clear that surviving same-sex spouses of deceased annuitants who died prior to June 26, 2013, may apply for benefits even if the annuitants did not attempt to elect survivor annuity benefits for their spouses prior to death, and/or even if OPM has previously denied applications for benefits from surviving spouses as a result of DOMA,” stated the Sept. 25 notice in the Federal Register from OPM Director Katherine Archuleta.
The Supreme Court in June 2013 overturned Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented same-sex spouses of federal employees and retirees from accessing benefits available to opposite-sex spouses of government workers. The decision means that the government will extend health care coverage and pension benefits to same-sex federal spouses and children, even if they live in a state where gay marriage is banned, provided they have a legal marriage license.
As a result of the Supreme Court decision, all legally married same-sex couples are now eligible for self and family enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Same-sex spouses of feds and retirees also are eligible for life insurance under Federal Employees Group Life Insurance, long-term care coverage, retirement benefits and flexible spending accounts. Same-sex spouses and their children will be treated the same as heterosexual married families for benefits purposes, the Office of Personnel Management has stated in its guidance.
All federal retirees in a legal same-sex marriage prior to the date of the Supreme Court’s decision have until June 26, 2015, to notify OPM of the marriage and elect any changes to their retirement benefits. The agency has made clear that “going forward, the same-sex spouse of retiring employees will be eligible for survivor annuities.”
Same-sex surviving spouses of feds who want to apply for benefits should send OPM a copy of their marriage certificate and a copy of the annuitant’s death certificate.
“Additionally, the surviving spouse should provide OPM with the deceased federal employee's name, date of birth, and the annuitant's CSA/CSF number or social security number to expedite processing of the claim,” the notice stated.