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News :: GLBT/Queer : Human Rights : Politics : War and Militarism
VA Benefits for GLBT Military Couples
08 Jun 2015
Basic VA benefits that are available to GLBT married couples, with Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA being repealed.
One of the biggest social and law debates in the past couple of decades has been about gay marriage. Should it be made illegal due to religious opposition, regardless of a church and state separation, or do individual states have the authority to allow or block the right?

This debate has especially become significant in the military community. Ever since DOMA was ruled unconstitutional in June of 2013, as well as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” being repealed in September of 2011, the question of VA spouse benefits has created some changes in this military legal landscape.

The VA even has a relatively new section on their site specifically for lesbian, gay and bisexual service members and veterans. The resource page states they are aware and honor the fact that they can no longer deny marital benefit claims, such as life insurance and the Montgomery GI Bill, just because the spouse or surviving spouse of the service member is not the opposite sex. They do acknowledge, however, that there may be limitations due to state laws on what they can do.

Currently, 37 states have given the green light for gay marriages, whether by court decision, popular vote, or from state legislature. Alabama has flip-flopped on its position within less than a month of the court decision in support of the rule.

The following states are where same-sex couples are not yet allowed to marry, nor will your rights as a same-sex couple be viewed as legitimate there - Arkansas, Georgia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Mississippi, Louisiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Texas, and Nebraska. Missouri and Tennessee uphold their gay marriage bans, but legally will recognize same-sex marriages that took place in other states.

For gay couples in these designated illegal gay marriage states, especially for gay military couples, what does this mean? The VA is trying to be as lenient as possible in regards to states where gay marriage was once legal and now is not (looking at flip-floppers Arkansas, Alabama, and Michigan).

The information on the VA’s marriage page states they will recognize a marriage that was legal in the place the couple lived at the time of the marriage, and where the couple was married legally and filed a VA claim or application at that time. They also state that the VA has an honor system, stating that merely stating the couple is married suffices as evidence in regards to benefits.

If you are a gay, lesbian or bisexual veteran who is living in a state where gay marriage is legal, your VA benefits and your spouse’s benefits should not be barred. If you are living in Missouri and Tennessee but you cannot relocate at this time, it is suggested you legally look into a wedding in another state and consider relocating in the future.

In regards to the states where gay marriage is illegal, especially with Alabama’s latest drama on this issue, it might be time to think about relocating. Especially in regards to upgrading from renting to homeownership with your VA home loan benefit. Sometimes, as sad as discrimination can be, one door closes and many more open.

To quote anthropologist Robert Launay from Northwestern University in his article “Is Gay Marriage Anything New?” - “The notion that a single paradigm of marriage is a human universal, or even historically constant without our own tradition, is easily refuted,” he states, on the proposal of conservatives demanding marriage be defined legally as one man and one woman. “If same-sex marriage is religiously objectionable to a minority of the population, so be it. So is eating meat, but I do not think it would be right for the Supreme Court to impose vegetarianism on the American people on religious grounds.”

Amanda Rosenblatt is an in-house writer for VA Home Loan Centers, which was the first government-backed VA home loan provider for same-sex married veterans back in September of 2013. VA HLC proudly services all veterans, regardless of their gender, sexual identity or race. Visit their site here or follow on Twitter here.
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