Veterans

June 26, 2014

VA provides guidance to same-sex married couples seeking benefits

WASHINGTON — After close consultation with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is providing guidance to same-sex married couples on the benefits and services to which they are entitled under current laws and regulations.

“VA worked closely with DOJ to develop guidance to process cases involving same-sex marriages and to implement necessary changes swiftly and smoothly in order to deliver the best services to all eligible Veterans,” said Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which governed the definitions of “marriage” and “spouse” for all federal agencies. However, there remain certain provisions of federal law governing Veterans’ benefits and services that, like DOMA, define a spouse as a member of the opposite sex. In September 2013, the U.S. Attorney General announced President Obama’s directive to cease enforcement of those VA-specific definitional provisions.

However, another provision of the law governing VA – 38 U.S.C. § 103(c) – requires the Department to look to the place of residency rather than the place of celebration to determine whether a Veteran’s marriage is recognized for the purposes of VA benefits. This statutory requirement to look at the laws governing marriage in the place where the Veteran or Veteran’s spouse resided at the time of the marriage or at the time they filed their claim or application precludes VA from recognizing certain same-sex marriages, such as when a couple has never lived in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages. VA has worked with DOJ to develop guidance to process claims and applications for same-sex married couples while still following the statutory requirement to look to the place of residency.

VA is committed to treating all Veterans and their spouses as equally as possible under the law. Since the Windsor decision, VA has worked with DOJ to develop guidance to process claims and applications for same-sex married couples while still following the statutory requirement to look to the place of residency. Importantly, the administrations within VA will aim to apply the same level of scrutiny to all Veterans’ marriages, regardless of whether it is a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage. VA will therefore process claims and applications involving same-sex marriage in the same manner that VA processes claims based on opposite-sex marriage without any additional scrutiny or development. This means generally that VA will accept a claimant or applicant’s assertion that he or she is married as sufficient evidence to establish a Veteran’s marriage for the purpose of VA benefits. VA has made efforts to ensure that claimants will not be negatively impacted as a result of the time that has passed while developing this guidance.

VA is now processing all claims and applications involving same-sex marriages that were previously being held by the program offices. VA launched a new website and is continuing to update forms to inform Veterans and beneficiaries of the recent changes in the law and procedures. The new website provides important information to help Veterans and beneficiaries understand the eligibility requirements under federal law and VA regulations, and answers frequently asked questions.

“Our commitment to provide all eligible Veterans and their families with their earned care and benefits will continue to be our focus as VA begins recognizing same-sex marriages to the extent the law will allow.” Gibson said. “We will work with lawmakers to address the changes that are necessary to allow all veterans and their families to access the benefits they have earned and deserve.”

Veterans can learn more about VA’s guidance regarding same-sex marriages at http://www.va.gov/opa/marriage/ or by reaching out to one of our Call Centers at 1-800-827-1000.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
NoBarriers_pict

Raytheon, No Barriers seek wounded warriors for transformational expedition

Injured in Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade struck near a Humvee, Nick Colgin suffered a traumatic brain injury. The decorated Army vet could no longer spell his own name or walk without a cane. In fact, he could...
 
 

VA announces new rules regarding service animals in VA facilities

WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has revised its regulation regarding the presence of animals on VA property. The updated regulation will ensure VA practices remain consistent with applicable federal law. It will also assist individuals entering VA facilities in developing a clear and consistent understanding of the criteria governing...
 
 

VA launches no-cost training to transitioning servicemembers

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today launched two new no-cost training programs, Accelerated Learning Programs (ALPs) and VA Learning Hubs, to help transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans from all eras learn skills, earn credentials, and advance in civilian careers following separation from service. ALPs and Learning Hubs are part of VA’s Veterans Economic...
 

 
Congeniality_pict

More than just Ms. Congeniality: Airman competes for homeless female veterans

For Tech. Sgt. Charmaine Pozo, the Ms. Veteran America contest was not about glamourous pageantry. It was about tireless advocacy – for a minimally acknowledged segment of those who have served in uniform: homeless female...
 
 
(U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Veterans visit D.C. monuments, memorials through Honor Flight Network

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Whether standing at the Air Force memorial or silently observing the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, a program gives military veterans the chance to see monuments and landmarks in...
 
 

VA begins Summer of Service to bolster volunteer assistance

WASHINGTON, DC—The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced a new nationwide initiative designed to build upon its existing partnerships to grow the number of individuals and organizations serving Veterans in their communities. The Department is renewing its commitment to Veterans and embarking upon a “Summer of Service” that seeks the help of citizens across...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>