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VA Announces Equal Benefits to Same-Sex Couples

As announced yesterday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) is finally treating all of America’s married veterans the same regardless of where they married or where they currently live. This includes same-sex married couples.

Until now, some veterans in same-sex marriages living in states refusing to honor the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 verdict in Obergefell v. Hodges were not receiving equal access to military benefits for themselves or their spouses.

What was the holding in Obergefell? In Obergefell, which reflected the consolidation of six lower-court cases, the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Prior to Obergefell, thirty-six states already issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

A new guidance policy issued by the VA ensures that all married veteran couples will be recognized as equally entitled to seek benefits. This policy may be accessed here. It notes that while it is in the process of updating its forms to account for same-sex marriages, it advises these couples that in the interim they may use the existing forms.

The VA also issued internal guidance to its employees, which provides the legal background and analysis regarding same-sex spouses’ entitlement to VA benefits. It may be accessed here.

As a result of these recent changes, LGBTI rights group Lambda Legal announced it was ending litigation against the VA, declaring victory. Lama Legal had commenced litigation in federal court toward the end of the VA ceasing its “discriminatory policies,” and the group is satisfied this has been accomplished.

“We are very pleased that now, nationwide, gay and lesbian veterans who have served their country and risked the ultimate sacrifice for their nation – all while facing discrimination against them – will have access to deserved and long-awaited benefits,” said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal.

*Did you find this article informative? If so, sign up for Sarah Schauerte’s legal blog on veteran issues at: http://www.legalmeetspractical.com.

 

One Response to “VA Announces Equal Benefits to Same-Sex Couples”

  1. About time! Family is family and they deserve all the benefits straight couples get.

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