After SCOTUS Ruling, VA Revises Benefits Policy

July 2, 2015

The VA will now provide benefits to same-sex couples, following the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage. For the first time, same-sex couples will become eligible to receive survivors' benefits, home loans, and other benefits from the VA.

DoD began providing benefits to active duty same-sex couples in 2013. The VA's rule change now provides a continuum of benefits for all military families.

Prior to the Court's ruling, the VA only provided benefits to same-sex couples who both married and resided in a state where same-sex marriage was legal. This resulted in vast discrepancies in the delivery of benefits to veterans.

In one case, an Iraq war veteran was denied the dependent rate for VA benefits because she traveled to Washington, where her spouse's parents reside, to be married. However, the VA did not acknowledge the marriage because she resided in Texas, a state that did not recognize same-sex marriages.    

Earlier this year, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced legislation to force the VA to provide benefits to same-sex couples living in states that did not recognize same-sex unions. The Senate ultimately rejected her proposal.

In a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, Shaheen wrote, "this clear inequity has not only been an affront to thousands of men and women who have served our nation faithfully in uniform, it has also offended the basic principles of equality and fairness that are the foundation of our legal system."

 "It makes little sense that a couple could be eligible for benefits on active duty, only to be denied earned benefits after taking off the uniform," said MOAA's Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret). "The VA's ruling helps standardize the delivery of benefits for veterans and their families across the country."