Air Force

February 15, 2013

Same-sex couples can claim new benefits by October

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Military members and retirees with same-sex partners will qualify for up to 24 new benefits under policy changes Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced, Feb. 11.

In a memo to the service chiefs outlining the new policy, Panetta noted the department has “essentially completed” repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that barred gay and lesbian military members from serving openly.

Now, the secretary wrote to the chiefs, military leaders’ work must “expand to changing our policies and practices to ensure fairness and equal treatment and to taking care of all of our service members and their families, to the extent allowable under law.”

Two of the new benefits are available at the service member’s election: hospital visitation and Family Readiness Group membership. For 22 other benefits, service members and their same-sex partners may file a “declaration of domestic partnership.” That declaration entitles same-sex partners to military identification cards, commissary and exchange shopping privileges, child care and youth programs, sexual assault counseling and other benefits.

Housing, medical and dental care and overseas command sponsorship for same-sex partners are not included in this round of policy changes. As Panetta noted in a statement, those benefits are restricted under the Defense of Marriage Act, commonly known as DOMA, which defines “spouse” as someone married to a person of the opposite sex. The Supreme Court is reviewing the law and is expected to rule on it later this year.

The secretary wrote, “In the event that the Defense of Marriage Act is no longer applicable to the Department of Defense, it will be the policy of the department to construe the words ‘spouse’ and ‘marriage’ without regard to sexual orientation and married couples, irrespective of sexual orientation and their dependents, will be granted full military benefits.”

A senior Pentagon official emphasized in a briefing to Pentagon reporters today that benefit changes will happen as soon as possible. Panetta’s guidance to the services directed they make “every effort” to have systems in place to accept same-sex benefit requests by Aug. 31. In no case, he wrote, may the services delay beyond Oct. 1, in rolling out the benefits.

Rolling out a new benefit takes time, the official said, as regulations and instructions, systems and software all have to be updated and workers will need to be trained in new processes. “Normally, we’re looking at a year” to make such changes, the official noted. “This is a very ambitious schedule; we’re really pressing hard to do this.”

Another official said the Defense Department is working to see if the housing benefit can be added to the list and is developing a mechanism to allow burial of same–sex partners at Arlington National Cemetery. The domestic partnership declaration is not feasible in cases where one or both partners have died, the second official added.

Retirees and their same-sex partners will be able to file the declaration once the new systems are in place. The first official estimated that 5,600 same-sex couples include an active-duty service member, 3,400 include a Reserve or National Guard member and 8,000 include a retired military member. The cost of implementing the new benefits, the official added, would be negligible.




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


 
 

 
(Official U.S. Air Force photo)

Knowing the facts: National American Indian Heritage Month

(Official U.S. Air Force photo) Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker was the highest ranking officer of Native-American ancestry and the first general lost in action during World War II. November is National American Indian Heritage Mo...
 
 

VA implements second phase of Choice Card Program

Washington, DC – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it began mailing Veterans Choice Cards on Nov. 17 to Veterans currently waiting more than 30-days from their preferred date or the date that is medically determined by their physician for an appointment at a VA facility. “VA continues to focus on implementation...
 
 

Red Cross shares top safety tips for Thanksgiving

Millions of people will travel to spend their Thanksgiving holiday with loved ones and the American Red Cross has steps they can follow to help make sure they have a safe trip. The holiday is also a time when cooks spend a lot of time in the kitchen and there are tips they can use...
 

 

Officials Highlight Health, Wellness Resources for Military Families

WASHINGTON – As efforts continue to strengthen service members and their families, Pentagon officials held a Bloggers Roundtable to highlight the myriad resources available to tackle the unique military and transitional challenges those who serve may face. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy Rosemary Freitas Williams, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj....
 
 
HBI

Tips for getting enough healthy protein in your diet

At a time when over a third of American adults are obese and childhood obesity rates are rising exponentially, more Americans are looking for meat alternatives in their dining choices. In fact, close to 16 million Americans are...
 
 

AF closes FY14 force management programs

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Airmen who met the service’s reduction in force board were notified of the board’s results Nov. 19, bringing the fiscal year 2014 force management programs to an end. The RIF board selected 354 captains and majors across the Air Force for non-retention, half of the number the service previously projected it would...
 




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=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin