Following the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, same-sex couples will now be able to receive veterans pensions, medical services, home loan guarantees and other benefits, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials announced on June 29.
The VA said that same-sex couples with military ties will be eligible for the full scale of benefits that were, until recently, denied to them in some states. The agency previously upheld a policy of not providing spousal benefits to couples residing in states where same-sex marriage was not recognized.
Defense Department spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said the Supreme Court decision will not affect the military when it comes to the recognition of marriage or availability of benefits, since they have been in place since the court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.
Since then, same-sex military couples have received access to the department’s benefits. However, VA officials denied benefits to veterans in same-sex unions in states that did not legally recognize their marriages. This prompted lawsuits across the United States, most of which were put on hold while the Supreme Court made its decision.
The latest ruling is set to affect thousands of veterans as it dismantles all the barriers to gaining the full spectrum of benefits given to married couples. In a statement, VA officials said they are working to clarify the benefits process and provide guidance to same-sex couples looking to apply for them.
They added that the ruling now allows the department to “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.”
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