Gay military couples are still being denied veterans’ benefits

The Defense of Marriage Act is dead, so why are gay military couples still barred from receiving spousal benefits?

Topics: veterans benefits, DoMA, Gay Rights, gay service members, Discrimination, , ,

Gay military couples are still being denied veterans' benefits

The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June and the Department of Defense announced its plan to extend spousal benefits to gay veterans in August, but according to a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs that was obtained by the Washington Blade, gay military couples will remain barred from receiving veterans spousal benefits for the foreseeable future.

In the letter, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki cites Title 38, a portion of the U.S. code governing veterans benefits that defines spouse as a “person of the opposite-sex,” as the reason gay veterans are currently unable to receive federal marriage benefits.

“Certain provisions in title 38, United States Code, define ‘spouse’ and ‘surviving spouse’ to refer only to a person of the opposite-sex,” according to the letter. “Under these provisions, a same-sex marriage recognized by a State would not confer spousal status for purposes of eligibility of VA benefits. Although the title 38 definition of ‘spouse’ and ‘surviving spouse’ are similar to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) provision at issue in United States v. Windsor, no court has yet held the title 38 definitions to be unconstitutional.”

Shinseki’s letter was in response to an inquiry from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., the co-sponsor of the Charlie Morgan Act, a bill that would change the portion of the U.S. code currently barring married gay veterans from extending benefits to their spouses.



The legal uncertainty created by Title 38 and its contradiction of the DOMA ruling demonstrates the need for such a bill, as Shaheen noted in her statement on the letter’s findings: “We need to pass the Charlie Morgan Act to bring Department of Veteran Affairs benefits policy in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down DOMA,” Shaheen said. “I’m committed to making this happen. Every individual who serves in uniform deserves access to the benefits that they’ve earned and rightfully deserve. We can’t tolerate this type of discrimination, especially in the aftermath of a historic Supreme Court ruling that declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.”

 

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Rose Jay via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Labrador Retriever

    These guys are happy because their little brains literally can't grasp the concept of global warming.

    Hysteria via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    German Shepherd

    This momma is happy to bring her little guy into the world, because she doesn't know that one day they'll both be dead.

    Christian Mueller via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Golden Retriever

    I bet these guys wouldn't be having so much fun if they knew the sun was going to explode one day.

    WilleeCole Photography via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Bulldog

    This dude thinks he's tough, but only because nobody ever told him about ISIS.

    Soloviova Liudmyla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Beagle

    This little lady is dreaming about her next meal-- not Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

    Labrador Photo Video via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Yorkshire Terrier

    This trusting yorkie has never even heard the name "Bernie Madoff."

    Pavla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Poodle

    She is smiling so widely because she is too stupid to understand what the Holocaust was.

    Aneta Pics via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Boxer

    Sure, frolic now, man. One day you're going to be euthanized and so is everyone you love.

    Dezi via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    French Bulldog

    He's on a casual afternoon stroll because he is unfamiliar with the concept of eternity.

    Jagodka via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Rottweiler

    Wouldn't it be nice if we could all be this care-free? But we can't because we are basically all indirectly responsible for slavery.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...