Veterans

August 31, 2013

Judge: VA can’t deny benefits to lesbian Army vet

AP

A judge in Los Angeles ruled Aug 29 that a lesbian Army veteran and her spouse should be entitled to disability benefits given the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall said that a federal code defining a spouse as a person of the opposite sex is unconstitutional “under rational basis scrutiny” since the high court’s decision allowing legally married gay couples the right to health care benefits.

“The court finds that the exclusion of spouses in same-sex marriages from veterans’ benefits is not rationally related to the goal of gender equality” in the code, Marshall wrote in her four-page ruling.

The Department of Veterans Affairs denied an application from veteran Tracey Cooper-Harris and her spouse seeking additional money and benefits that married veterans are entitled to receive. Cooper-Harris suffers from multiple sclerosis and receives disability benefits.

She and Maggie Cooper-Harris got married in California during the brief period in 2008 when same-sex unions were legal in the state. The plaintiffs’ attorneys had said previously the couple would receive about $150 more a month in disability payments, and Maggie Cooper-Harris would be eligible for about $1,200 a month in survivor’s benefits if her wife died.

The Justice Department had asked for Cooper-Harris’ case to be tossed on the grounds that veterans’ claims can be heard only by an administrative Board of Veterans’ Appeals. But Marshall said the case could move forward.

The law on VA benefits specifically defines spouse and surviving spouse as someone of the opposite sex, which has prevented same-sex married couples from accessing such benefits as enhanced disability or pension payments.

In a letter to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. earlier this month, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said no court had deemed the provision unconstitutional, nor has Congress taken up a bill to change the definition of spouse. He noted, however, that if spousal definitions were determined to be unconstitutional, the agency would be prepared to update its policies.

The Defense Department has said that same-sex spouses of military members will be eligible for the same health care, housing and other benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex spouses starting Sept. 3.




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


 
 

 

VA announces single regional framework under MyVA initiative

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Jan. 26 that it is taking the first steps under the MyVA initiative to realign its many organizational maps into one map with five regions to better serve Veterans. The new regions under the MyVA alignment will allow VA to begin the process of integrating disparate organizational boundaries into...
 
 
Navy photograph by PO2 Brian Wilbur

Nisei veterans honored with France’s highest award

Navy photograph by PO2 Brian Wilbur Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, delivers remarks at a ceremony honoring World War II veterans of the 100th Battalion 442nd Regiment at the Japanese Cultural Center of ...
 
 

VA announces appointment of new members to advisory council

The Department of Veterans Affairs is announcing the appointment of new members to the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. VA will appoint Stephen L. Hauser, MD as committee chair for a term through September, 2016. Hauser is the Robert A. Fishman Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology at the...
 

 

Applications accepted for 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games

The Department of Veterans Affairs is accepting applications for the 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Registration began in early January and will close April 15. The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a sports and rehabilitation program for military service Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological...
 
 

Report: Agent Orange planes hold risk years after Vietnam

The health of some U.S. Air Force reservists could have been put at risk from the residue left in planes that sprayed Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, the Institute of Medicine reported Jan. 9. There’s not much data about the level of contamination, but limited testing years later make it plausible that some reservists...
 
 

Consolidation of POW/MIA mission moving forward

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Jan. 9 the Defense Department will, effective Monday, consolidate into one new agency the organizations that account for U.S. military prisoners of war and those missing in action. Hagel called for a review early last year to bring together the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, the Joint Personnel Accounting...
 




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>