Additional Guidance Issued on Benefits for Same-Sex Military Spouses

On August 14, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced its plan to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of Uniformed Service members and DoD civilian employees.

After a review of the Department’s benefit policies following the Supreme Court’s ruling that Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, and in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies, the Defense Department will make spousal and family benefits available no later than September 3, 2013, regardless of sexual orientation, as long as service member-sponsors provide a valid marriage certificate. It might prove helpful to bring a copy of your social security number and a government issued photo ID as well.

Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court’s decision. Any claims to entitlements before that date will not be granted. For those members married after June 26, 2013, entitlements begin at the date of marriage.

Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright issued further guidance on extending benefits to same-sex military spouses. Since many states do not recognize same-sex marriage, DoD Instruction 1327.06 “Leave and Liberty Policy and Procedures” was revised to authorize non-chargeable marriage leave for service members who are part of a same-sex couple. The leave is authorized for up to

  • seven days for service members who are stationed within the Continental United States (CONUS) and 
  • ten days for service members stationed OCONUS (outside the Continental United States)

The leave will be permitted when a service member is part of same-sex couple and is assigned to a duty station located more than 100 miles from a state (or the District of Columbia) that allows same-sex couples to get married.

Secretary Chuck Hagel issued an implementation memo that explains the new leave policy:

We recognize that same-sex military couples who are not stationed in a jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage would have to travel to another jurisdiction to marry. Accordingly, the Department will implement policies to allow military personnel in such a relationship non-chargeable leave for the purpose of travelling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur. This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the Department, and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married.

For civilian benefits administered government-wide to federal employees, the Department of Defense will follow the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor’s guidance to ensure that the same benefits currently available to heterosexual spouses are also available to legally married same-sex spouses.

(Source: http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=16203)

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