The US Department of Veterans Affairs is finally treating all of America’s married veterans the same regardless of where they married or where they currently live.
Until now some veterans who were living in states that were holding out against the US Supreme Court’s verdict on same-sex marriage across America were not receiving equal access to military benefits for themselves or their spouses.
However a new guidance policy issued by the department ensures that all married veteran couples will be recognized as equally entitled in seeking benefits.
‘The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may now recognize all same-sex marriages without regard to a Veteran’s state of residence,’ the VA announced on their website.
‘VA offers a variety of benefits and services that depend upon a Veteran’s marital status, including certain benefits to a Veteran’s “spouse” or “surviving spouse.” VA will generally accept a claimant’s statement that he or she is married, but may investigate further if an assertion appears unreliable. This same procedure applies regardless whether the claimant is in an opposite-sex marriage or a same-sex marriage.’
‘VA is dedicated to serving all eligible Servicemembers, Veterans and their families and providing them the benefits they have earned. We encourage all Veterans in same-sex marriages who believe they are entitled to benefits (including those whose claims were previously denied on a ground related to their marriage) to promptly apply for benefits.’
The VA has also announced it will be updating all official forms to replace references to ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ with ‘spouse.’
As a result LGBTI rights group Lambda Legal announced it was ending litigation against the VA, declaring victory.
‘We are very pleased that now, nationwide, gay and lesbian veterans who have served their country and risked the ultimate sacrifice for their nation – all while facing discrimination against them – will have access to deserved and long-awaited benefits,’ said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal.
‘Married veterans and their spouses, regardless of their sexual orientation or where they live, will now have the critical veterans’ benefits they need to take care of their families.’
The news was also greeted by veterans group American Military Partner Association (AMPA).
”The new VA policies pave the way for veterans and their same-sex spouses, no matter where they live, to access such important rights as survivors benefits, home loan guarantees, and burial together in national cemeteries,’ said Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of AMPA.
‘We are happy to see more barriers to equality for LGBT servicemembers, veterans and their families fall.’