Members of the military may be interested to learn of a court ruling regarding VA disability benefits for couples of same-sex marriage. A judge in Los Angeles ruled on Aug. 29 that a lesbian Army veteran and her spouse may not be denied the same benefits that traditionally married veterans normally receive.
The veteran currently is afflicted with multiple sclerosis and had been receiving disability benefits. When she applied for additional benefits for herself and her spouse, the Department of Veterans Affairs denied her application, citing a federal code that defines a spouse as a person of the opposite sex. The couple, married in California in 2008 during the period when same-sex marriages were legal in the state, was seeking an additional $150 per month in disability payments plus eligibility in the amount of $1200 per month in survivor benefits for the veteran’s wife. They reasoned that those two additional benefits would normally be awarded to married couples of the same sex and thus brought a case against the VA in Federal Court.
The U.S. District Court judge ruled in their favor. In her four-page ruling, the judge declared ‘opposite sex” spousal definition unconstitutional. Since the ruling, the Defense Department has stated, beginning Sept. 3, same-sex spouses of military members will be eligible for all benefits currently allowed for opposite-sex couples.
Anyone who routinely follows the national news may be aware that veterans routinely wait, in many cases, more than a year for disability claims to be resolved by the VA. While the claims process continues to move at a slow pace, medical expenses and other bills due to unresolved issues can continue to mount. Many veterans may turn to an attorney for help. In cases such as the one outlined in this article, VA denial lawyers may be able to help accelerate the entire process or argue on behalf of their clients for a more favorable decision.
Source: NTV, “Judge: VA can’t deny benefits to lesbian Army vet”, August 29, 2013.
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