News (USA)

Shaheen: Same-sex benefits bill should apply to Veterans Affairs

CONCORD, N.H. — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire says she’s planning to move forward with her bill that would grant benefits to same-sex married couples in the military after learning that legislation is still necessary to grant veterans in same-sex marriages those same benefits.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)

Shaheen asked the Department of Veterans Affairs if legislation is still necessary in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

She received a letter of response from Secretary Eric Shinseki saying the VA will need to consider policy changes to comply with current law., she said.

Shinseki noted certain provisions define “spouse” and “surviving spouse” to refer only to a person of the opposite sex. The Department of Defense has already announced plans to award active duty and civilian couples benefits regardless of sexual orientation.

Sheehan’s bill is named for New Hampshire National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, whose wife and daughter were denied survivor and other benefits after Morgan’s death from breast cancer early this year. Morgan crusaded for equal treatment of same-sex military couples.

“We need to pass the Charlie Morgan Act to bring Department of Veteran Affairs benefits policy in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down DOMA,” Shaheen said. “I’m committed to making this happen.”

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