VETERANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Press / NewsVHA Implementation of U.S. v. Windsor for Health Care Benefits Applications
Thursday, 21 June 2014
Purpose. The purpose of this memorandum is to set forth general administrative procedures for processing health benefits applications of same-sex couples and to ensure VHA medical facilities adhere to the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Windsor and the related Presidential directive described below.
Background. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court held in United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 1 U.S.C. § 7, violates Fifth Amendment principles by discriminating against legally married same-sex couples. On September 4, 2013, the Attorney General announced that the President had directed the Executive Branch to cease enforcement of similar provisions in 38 U.S.C. §§ 101(3) and 101(31), which defining "surviving spouse" and "spouse," to the extent that they limit benefit entitlement to individuals in opposite-sex marriages. Another provision, 38 U.S.C. § 103(c), provides that "[i]n determining whether or not a person is or was a spouse of a Veteran, their marriage shall be proven as valid for the purposes of all laws administered by the Secretary according to the law of the place where the parties resided at the time of the marriage or the law of the place where the parties resided when the right to benefits accrued." OGC has issued guidance regarding VA's implementation of 103(c).
Implementation Proposal. In order to implement Windsor and the President's directive, VHA will inform Veterans and beneficiaries of the recent changes in the law and that VA will comply with section 103(c) in administering benefits involving a same-sex marriage. In conjunction with the Department of Justice and OGC, VHA has developed the following implementation plan.
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