Next month, same-sex partners of federal employees will be able to apply for long-term health benefits, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced on Tuesday. The new rules come as a result of a memorandum President Obama signed last June extending some federal benefits — like long-term insurance and allowing employees to take sick leave to care for a sick partner or non-biological child — to same-sex partners of federal workers.
“Under this regulation, the definition of “qualified relative” is expanded to cover the same-sex domestic partners of eligible Federal and U.S. Postal Service employees and annuitants,” the agency wrote in the federal registry:
OPM received 51 comments on our proposal to extend benefit eligibility to same-sex domestic partners, with the comments running about 3 to 1 in favor of such a change. A number of comments asked that opposite-sex domestic partners be included. However, as stated in the proposed regulation, opposite-sex domestic partners were not included because they may obtain eligibility to apply for Federal long term care insurance through marriage, an option not currently available to same- sex domestic partners.
Some comments suggested a clarification of the documentation that OPM will require to verify the domestic partner status. The documentation will consist of an attestation that the domestic partners meet the criteria in Sec. 875.213(b). OPM does not expect to establish more rigorous criteria for the attestation as that would impose a greater burden on domestic partners than other qualified relatives. For instance, we do not require documentation such as bank statements or other proof of financial support for spousal coverage
There are currently two separate bills in the House and Senate to provide full federal benefits to same sex domestic partners of federal employee. Aides to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) — a key sponsor of the measure in the Senate — have suggested that the senator may introduce legislation the bill on the floor “within weeks and well before July 4th.”
The legislation was voted out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last year on a bipartisan basis (Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) co-sponsored the measure), but Lieberman had promised not to move this on the floor of the Senate “until we get the explicit offsets” from OPM, which are now available. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the legislation would cost approximately $310 million through 2020 and benefit some 30,000 employees with same-sex partners.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a similar domestic partner benefits bill in November of 2009, but it also still has to pass the full chamber.
Check out the OPM’s new form for domestic partners HERE.