Same-sex spouses of service members and Defense Department civilians could start receiving benefits no later than Sept. 3, the Defense Department announced Wednesday. Any couple with a valid marriage license will be eligible, regardless of sexual orientation.
The announcement came after a review of the department's benefit policies following the Supreme Court's ruling that Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and in consultation with the Justice Department and other executive branch agencies.
"The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs," the release stated.
Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court's decision, it continued. Any claims to entitlements before that date will not be granted. For those members married after June 26, 2013, entitlements begin at the date of marriage.
For those couples living outside of states where same sex marriage is permitted, the department said it will implement policies to allow those affected military personnel nonchargeable leave to travel and obtain a marriage certificate.
"This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department, and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married," the release stated.
For civilian benefits administered government-wide to federal employees, the Defense Department said it will follow the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor's guidance to ensure that the same benefits currently available to heterosexual spouses are also available to legally married same-sex spouses.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.