VA still evaluating benefits for same-sex couples - WNCN: News, Weather

VA still evaluating benefits for same-sex couples

Posted: Updated:
Tracy Dice Johnson and her wife, Sgt. Donna Johnson, are shown in a portrait, while Donna's military portrait hangs at rear. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) Tracy Dice Johnson and her wife, Sgt. Donna Johnson, are shown in a portrait, while Donna's military portrait hangs at rear. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
WASHINGTON -

Congress or the courts may still have more work to do before the VA can start providing federal benefits to married, same-sex couples, according to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that a law, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, denying federal tax, health and pension benefits to married, same-sex couples was unconstitutional. The law governing veteran's benefits contained similar provisions, Shinseki said.

The law on VA benefits specifically defines spouse and surviving spouse as someone of the opposite sex, which has prevented same-sex married couples from accessing such benefits as enhanced disability or pension payments.

In a letter to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Shinseki said no court has deemed that particular provision unconstitutional, though three federal cases are pending. Nor has Congress taken up a bill to change the definition of spouse.

Shinseki also said the VA and the Justice Department were still working to assess the impact of the court's decision. While the VA continues studying the matter, the Defense Department has announced that same-sex spouses of military members will be eligible for the same health care, housing and other benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex spouses starting Sept. 3.

Shinseki said the VA would be prepared to move quickly were Congress to revise the definition of spouse when it comes to veteran's benefits or if a court determined the language governing VA benefits was unconstitutional.

Shinseki also reiterated that the VA supported Shaheen's legislation opening up veterans benefits to all married couples. It is unclear how quickly Congress will take up her bill, which passed a Senate committee shortly before the August recess.

Shaheen released Shinseki's letter, dated Aug. 14, on Tuesday and said it indicated that legislation was still necessary to grant veterans in same-sex marriages benefits for their spouses and families.

"We can't tolerate this type of discrimination, especially in the aftermath of a historic Supreme Court ruling," Shaheen said.

RELATED STORIES

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Monday, April 14 2014 4:07 PM EDT2014-04-14 20:07:04 GMT
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
  • Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 18:49:19 GMT
    Image from CNN/KHOU-TVImage from CNN/KHOU-TV
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
  • NC judge to rule against teacher tenure state law

    NC judge to rule against teacher tenure state law

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 7:18 PM EDT2014-04-23 23:18:26 GMT
    A Guilford County judge is backing two school districts fighting a North Carolina law that phases out job protections for public school teachers in favor of employment contracts.
    A Guilford County judge is backing two school districts fighting a North Carolina law that phases out job protections for public school teachers in favor of employment contracts.
Powered by WorldNow

1205 Front St., Raleigh
N.C., 27609

Telephone: 919.836.1717
Fax: 919.836.1687
Email: newstips@wncn.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.