Obama endorses women in combat, benefits for same-sex military spouses

The two recent policy changes have been undertaken by the Defense Department during the final weeks of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s tenure at the Pentagon. The changes will help form a key part of Panetta’s legacy as Pentagon chief, in addition to implementing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

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The lifting of the ban on women in combat will open up as many as 200,000 new positions to female service members. The policy is currently being developed by the services and will start being implemented later this year, although the services have until 2016 to determine what positions they want to keep closed to women.

The Pentagon announced the new benefits for gay and lesbian spouses of service members on Monday under an order by Panetta to provide 42 previously blocked benefits, such as hospital visitation rights and access to child-care services.

But some benefits will remained closed off due to the Defense of Marriage Act, the Pentagon said, including medial coverage and base housing.

Obama also said that his administration would continue to provide for veterans who have come home by “investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors, supporting our military families, and giving our veterans the benefits, education and job opportunities they have earned.”