5 Things You Need to Know About Same-Sex Spouse Benefits

By Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

On August 14, 2013, the Department of Defense announced the plan to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and Department of Defense civilian employees. A NAVADMIN will be released soon with details on Navy-specific guidance on these changes.  In the meantime, the requirements of NAVADMINs 024/13 and 152/13 are suspended.

Machinist's Mate (Nuclear) 2nd Class Jerrel Revel proposes to his boyfriend upon the return of the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS New Mexico (SSN 779) from a scheduled 6-month deployment in Groton, Conn., Aug. 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristina Young/Released)

Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 2nd Class Jerrel Revel proposes to his boyfriend upon the return of the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS New Mexico (SSN 779) from a scheduled 6-month deployment in Groton, Conn., Aug. 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristina Young/Released)

 

What changed for the DOD with the June 26 Supreme Court ruling on Defense of Marriage Act?

The Supreme Court ruling means that the Defense Department will extend benefits, including medical, dental, and with-dependent Basic Allowance for Housing to same-sex spouses of military personnel.

What is the new policy granting marriage leave for same sex couples?

DoD recognized there remains a challenge for same-sex couples not stationed in, or near a jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage.  Accordingly, all services including the Navy will immediately implement policy that allows military personnel non-chargeable leave for the purpose of travelling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur. This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department.

As operational requirements permit, commanding officers may allow military personnel in same-sex relationships non-chargeable leave for the purpose of travelling to a jurisdiction that allows same-sex couples to be married if they are stationed more than 100 miles from one of those areas. Sailors stationed within the continental United States may receive up to seven days non-chargeable leave and those stationed at overseas assignments may receive up to 10 days non-chargeable leave. The leave must be documented with a Page 13 entry.  This benefit may only be taken once in a Sailor’s career.

To determine the appropriate number of days to authorize, commanding officers should consider operational requirements, state marriage requirements and travel distance. e-Leave on NSIPS does not have the marriage leave option for same-sex couples available at this time. Sailors must apply for this leave by submitting a special request chit (NAVPERS form 1336/3) through their chain of command along with a signed Page 13 that will be filed in the member’s service record upon their return to the command. There is no requirement to file the marriage certificate in the service record. A sample Page 13 will be posted on the NPC web site under Support & Services/DADT Post Repeal as soon as it becomes available. Upon return from leave, Sailors are required to provide proof of the marriage to the command or the leave period will be charged as annual leave.

My partner and I live in Washington, D.C., and are a same-sex couple, but our extended families are in California and we want to have our wedding there. Can I use the non-chargeable leave and travel to California to get married?

No. We recognize that same-sex couples not stationed in a jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage would have to travel to another jurisdiction to marry, which is why the DoD is implementing policies to allow military personnel in such a relationship non-chargeable leave for the purpose of travelling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur. However, a Sailor stationed in Washington D.C. would not receive non-chargeable leave, as same-sex marriage is legal in Washington D.C. If you are stationed in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, you cannot use the non-chargeable leave benefit to travel elsewhere to get married.

The intent of this leave is to allow Sailors to complete the administrative requirements of marriage in order to access the benefits. Each situation is case by case and Sailors should work with their chain of command to determine the appropriate number of days of leave. The number of days would be typically given to access the closest state. If Sailors desire travel to states that are further away, they can take annual leave in conjunction with the non-chargeable marriage leave if operational requirements permit.

When will same-sex spouses be able to receive benefits? Will they be retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court decision?

The department will recognize all marriages that are certified with a valid marriage license.  Spousal and family benefits, including ID cards, will be made available to same-sex spouses on Sept. 3, 2013.

Entitlements such as basic allowance for housing (BAH), family separation allowance and medical expenses are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court’s decision, June 26, 2013.  Any claims to entitlements before that date will not be granted. For those members married after June 26, entitlements begin at the date of marriage.

DEERS/Rapids sites are still being reprogrammed and ID cards will not be available until Sept. 3, 2013. As TRICARE enrollment is tied to DEERS, it is highly recommended that service members consult with a TRICARE representative regarding benefit implications.

What about overseas tours? Will a same-sex spouse be able to accompany the service member on an overseas tour? 

In accordance with DoD policy, all service members will continue to be eligible for world-wide assignment without consideration of sexual orientation. However, foreign countries may have laws that do not recognize same sex marriage. The Department of Defense is working with the Department of State to develop assignment guidelines. More information will be provided as it becomes available.