Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Veterans Benefits for Same Sex Couples

Kristina Derro, Esq.
Just two years ago, gay and lesbian individuals were prevented from serving openly in the military.  Now, same sex spouses of these veterans and service members will be able to share in their government benefits.
In a recent decision, the United States Supreme Court invalidated a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act which denied federal benefits to same sex couples married legally in their states.  This law has a large impact on the same sex spouses of veterans – they will now be able to get help with college tuition, can be buried in a national cemetery, and may be eligible for other financial spousal benefits.  Additionally, these spouses will now be able to receive indemnity pay for the death of a spouse in the military.
President Obama has directed Attorney General Eric Holder to work with cabinet members to ensure that these benefit changes are implemented swiftly and smoothly.  Congress may need to amend the statutes governing VA benefits.  Currently, the statutes don’t recognize a same sex marriage between two residents of a state that hasn’t legalized same sex marriage – even if that couple was married in a state that has.  Legislation to correct this has already been introduced into Congress.
The implementation of these new benefits for same sex couples will make a significant financial difference for many of these veterans.  For instance, a veteran considered 100% disabled is eligible for compensation amounting to $2,816 per month.  However, if that veteran has a spouse, they may receive $2,973 per month – a difference of $1,900 annually.
If you have questions about veteran benefits, contact Legal Help For Veterans at 800-693-4800 or on the web at www.legalhelpforveterans.com. 
To learn more about the impact the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling has on veteran benefits, please visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/gay-veterans-supreme-court_n_3515999.html. 

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