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.


 
 

 
Air Force photograph

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

Air Force photograph The USS Hornet had 16 U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchells on deck, ready for the Tokyo Raid on April 18, 1942. Seventy-three years ago, 80 men achieved the unimaginable when they took off fr...
 
 
Army photograph by Patrick Bloodgood

Over 27,000 burial sites to open at Arlington next year

Army photograph by Patrick Bloodgood Construction crews move dirt and prepare the ground at the Arlington National Cemetery Millennium Expansion Project, Feb. 19, 2014. The project also involves restoring an impaired stream tha...
 
 
Navy photograph by JOC Sam Shavers

SecNav commemorates Battle of Iwo Jima

Navy photograph by JOC Sam Shavers Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus delivers remarks at the 70th anniversary commemoration ceremony of The Battle for Iwo Jima in Iwo To, Japan. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus arrived on Iwo To, ...
 

 

Applications accepted for 2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games

The Department of Veterans Affairs is currently accepting applications from Veterans interested in competing in the 2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games. Applications can be completed online at www.veteransgoldenagegames.va.gov, and will be accepted through May 15. Veterans ages 55 and older who are enrolled for VA care are eligible to participate. The 2015 National Veterans...
 
 

VA eliminates net worth as health care eligibility factor

The Department of Veterans Affairs is updating the way it determines eligibility for VA health care, a change that will result in more veterans having access to the health care benefits they’ve earned and deserve. Effective 2015, the VA eliminated the use of net worth as a determining factor for both health care programs and...
 
 

VA establishes MyVA advisory committee

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced March 13 the establishment of the MyVA Advisory Committee. The committee brings together skilled experts from the private, non-profit and government sectors to assist in reorienting the Department to better meet the needs of Veterans. This committee is charged with advising the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with a focus...
 




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>