HRC Blog

New DoD Guidance Extends Survivor Benefit Plan Coverage to Same-Sex Spouses

When the Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional on June 26, 2013, it opened a world of rights and privileges for LGBT Americans.  HRC and our partners continue to work with the Obama Administration to ensure that full implementation of the Windsor decision is carried out.  Coupled with the Windsor decision, HRC’s effective advocacy in repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has produced yet another historic financial benefit for married same-sex military couples. 

The Department of Defense (DoD) issued new policy guidance for extending Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) coverage to same-sex spouses of military members and retirees. The military’s SBP allows retired service members to designate their spouses, and in some instances their minor children, as beneficiary to their military pension.  This allows the spouse or the minor children to continue to receive a portion of the military pension upon the veteran’s death.     

DoD’s released guidance gives military retirees helpful tools to make a smart decision about their pensions in the aftermath of Windsor.  Military retirees who are in a same-sex marriage may be eligible to participate in the SBP.  However, you need to move quickly because DoD announced an open enrollment period for eligible participants, and failure to take certain steps may result in loss of this potentially significant benefit.

Military retirees who were married to a same-sex spouse on or before June 26, 2013, may now have spouse coverage in the SBP.  Depending on the retiree’s circumstances, enrollment for their spouse may be automatic or the retiree may need to elect spouse coverage. 

Either way, retirees must act by June 25, 2014 to participate in the SBP Open Enrollment Window.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) announcement encourages military retirees with same-sex spouses to visit their website as soon as possible for more information to learn what steps are to be taken by June 25, 2014 in order to secure or decline the SBP benefit for their spouse.   Finally, military retirees in a same-sex marriage that occurred after June 26, 2014 may also be eligible to enroll in the SBP. 

This information is complicated, and this summary is not meant to replace individual legal or financial advice, so you should consider professional financial advice before making a final decision.

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