U.S. House version of LGBT veterans, family benefits bill introduced

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.)

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Congressman Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) on Wednesday introduced the U.S. House version of the bipartisan “Protecting the Freedoms and Benefits for All Veterans Act,” aimed at ensuring LGBT veterans and their families receive equal treatment for equal service.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.)

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.)

Currently LGBT veterans, spouses, and their families, depending on where they reside, can be denied survivor benefits, including death pensions, life insurance, educational assistance, bereavement counseling, spousal benefits, and flag burial honors.

The bill is a companion measure to legislation introduced earlier this year by U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Kirsten Gillibrand. (D-N.Y.), who introduced the Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013, named for New Hampshire National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan who died earlier this year after a battle with breast cancer.

The Senate version calls for additional benefits to be made available to all military spouses and families, regardless of sexual orientation, and a House version of that bill, the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013 (MSET), was re-introduced in February.

Under the proposed bills, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs would be required to honor any marriage that has been recognized by a state and provide a number of key benefits to the spouses of all service members.

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“When someone puts their life on the line to protect our freedom at home, they deserve to enjoy the same freedom and earned benefits as anyone else who has done so, no matter who they love or where they reside,” said Walz.

“This common sense legislation will work to ensure that LGBT veterans and their families are treated equally under the law, no matter what state they live in,” he said.

The bills would bring the Department of Veterans Affairs in line with the June Supreme Court ruling on that stuck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

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