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SLDN: Pentagon announcement of military benefits is ‘not new, not equal’

Friday, October 28, 2011
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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Friday identified a total of 14 benefits where members may designate beneficiaries of their choosing, regardless of sexual orientation, but the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) said the announcement does nothing “to move the ball forward” in providing equal benefits for legally married gay and lesbian couples.

Aubry Sarvis

“We listed eight member-designated benefits in our original Quick Reference Guide, released Sept. 20. We’ve now validated an additional six,” said Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez. “While these are not ‘new,’ now that we’ve confirmed these additional benefits, we’re updating the Quick Reference Guide to ensure all are aware of their beneficiary options.”

But the Pentagon announcement also acknowledged that a number of other benefits are restricted by applicable statutes, including the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“Unfortunately, today’s announcement does nothing to move the ball forward on the issue of providing equal benefits, recognition, and family support for legally married gay and lesbian families,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of SLDN, in a statement.

“The benefits outlined today were, in fact, available even before the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Again, SLDN calls upon Secretary Panetta to confer now all the benefits and recognition he is authorized to extend to gay and lesbian service members and their families under current law.”

SLDN filed a federal lawsuit in U. S. District Court in Boston Thursday on behalf of current and former service members seeking equal recognition, benefits and family support for equal sacrifice and service in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“We are not advocating any special treatment for the families of gay and lesbian service members or veterans, but we want to underscore that all military families should be treated the same when it comes to recognition, benefits and family support,” said Sarvis.

The 14 benefits identified for members to designate whomever they wish as beneficiaries are:

  • Service Members Group Life Insurance beneficiary;
  • Post Vietnam-era Veterans Assistance Program beneficiary;
  • All-volunteer Force Educational Assistance Program – Active Duty Death Benefit beneficiary;
  • Death Gratuity beneficiary;
  • Final Settlement of Accounts;
  • Wounded Warrior Designated Caregiver;
  • Thrift Savings Plan beneficiary;
  • Survivor Benefit for retirees;
  • Casualty Notification;
  • Escorts for Dependents of Deceased or Missing;
  • Designation of Persons Having Interest in Status of a Missing Member;
  • Veterans’ Group Life Insurance beneficiary;
  • Person Eligible to Receive Effects of Deceased Persons; and
  • Travel and Transportation Allowance: attendance at Yellow Ribbon Reintegration events.

The Defense Department said it is “engaged in a careful and deliberate review of the possibility of revising the eligibility for additional benefits, if legally permitted.”

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