Though the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states was meaningful for thousands of LGBT couples, the ruling was especially important for gay veterans.
Just days after the decision, the Department of Veterans Affairs began working to extend marital benefits to same-sex couples who had been unable to obtain them before. Now, all couples will be able to have the same advantages, including veterans’ pensions, VA-backed home loans, burial rights, survivor benefits and disability compensation, The Washington Post reported.
The American Military Partners Association sued the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of veterans who had ben denied spousal benefits last year, but the lawsuit had been halted pending the Supreme Court’s ruling. “We are thrilled that they are acting so quickly,” said Chris Rowsee, the director of family readiness for the organization.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America also backed the policy change. “For our generation of veterans, marriage equality is definitely a core issue,” said Paul Rieckhoff, the group’s founder and chief executive. “Many of our members are openly gay themselves, or were kicked out under don’t ask don’t tell,” he added.
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In a statement about the new policy, VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon explained: “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 agency “will 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.”
Prior to this, the VA had issued benefits to same-sex couples whose marriages were legally recognized by their state at the time of their union, Stars and Stripes reported.