Defense Department Offers Limited Benefits To Military Same-Sex Partners

It took 17 months, but the Defense Department has finally issued guidance about benefits that can be extended to the same-sex partners of military servicemembers now that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” no longer requires that they hide their identities. The list does not address some serious issues of concern, including health care, housing, and survivor benefits because of the Defense of Marriage Act, but does allow servicemembers to designate specific protections to their partners, including some through the recognition of a domestic partnership. Here are a few of the new benefits:

Member-Designated Benefits

  • Service Members Group Life Insurance Beneficiary
  • Veterans’ Group Life Insurance Beneficiary
  • Survivor Benefit Plan Beneficiary for Retirees
  • Casualty Notification
  • Designation of Persons Having Interest in Status of a Missing Member
  • Hospital Visitation Privileges
  • Designation of Persons Authorized to Direct Disposition of Remains of Members of the Armed Force
  • Presentation of the Flag of the United States

Additional Benefits for Same-Sex Domestic Partners

  • Dependent ID cards
  • Commissary Privileges
  • Exchange Privileges
  • Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs
  • Emergency Leave
  • Youth Programs
  • Family Center Programs
  • Child Care
  • Legal Assistance
  • Joint Duty Assignments

The memo announcing the benefits notes that should the Defense of Marriage Act no longer apply to the department, policy will be to “construe the words ‘spouse’ and ‘marriage’ without regard to sexual orientation, and married couples, irrespective of sexual orientation, and their dependents, will be granted full military benefits.” It also contains a new process for same-sex couples to declare to the military that they are, in fact, domestic partners, which presumably even couples that are already married would have to fulfill to receive the benefits.

OutServe-SLDN praised outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for “getting us a few steps closer to full equality.”