VA to extend benefits to same-sex spouses

VA to extend benefits to same-sex spouses

Same-sex married couples will now share veterans' pensions, home loans and other benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Tuesday.  

The new policy comes after the Supreme Court ruling last week that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all states. 

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In a statement, the VA said the new ruling allows the department to recognize same-sex marriages for all veterans.

"[The] VA may recognize the same-sex marriage of all Veterans, where the Veteran or the Veteran’s spouse resided anywhere in the United States or its territories at the time of the marriage or at the time of application for benefits."

The statement also said the VA would "work quickly to ensure that all offices and employees are provided guidance on implementing this important decision with respect to all programs, statutes, and regulations administered by VA."

"Until this guidance has been issued, VA will temporarily wait to adjudicate all claims regarding same-sex marriage that cannot be immediately granted based on prior guidance," it added. 

Previously, the VA denied benefits, including VA disability compensation, survivor benefits and burial rights with their veteran spouse in a national cemetery, to same-sex spouses in states where same-sex marriage was not recognized. 

For example, veterans in same-sex marriages who applied for a VA-backed loan to purchase a home in a state where their marriages weren't recognized could not apply as a part of couple.

“We are thrilled the VA is acting so quickly to implement the Supreme Court’s ruling and are ready to do right by ALL our nation’s veterans," American Military Partner Association President Ashley Broadway-Mack said in a statement.

"These are important benefits our nation’s veterans have earned and it was unconscionable that some were denied based solely on where they lived," she said. 

The Pentagon on Friday said there was no change in policy at the Defense Department, since it has already made the same benefits available to all military spouses regardless of sexual orientation. 

"We remain committed to ensuring that everyone who serves their country, as well as their family, are treated fairly and equally," said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren. 

"Really not a change for the Department at this point, we already extend those benefits," he said. 

Currently, same-sex military couples can get married on military bases, as long as the base chaplain is willing to perform the ceremony.