Office of Personnel Management Issues Proposed Regulations on Federal Retirement Benefit
March 16, 2011 by Brian Moulton, Legal Director
As you’ll recall, last June, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum identifying additional changes that federal agencies could make to extend certain benefits to same-sex couples without action by Congress. One of the changes he identified will make it easier for federal employees to ensure that their same-sex partners can receive part of their retirement benefits after they die. Earlier this month, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued proposed regulations that will put that change into effect, making it easier for a retiring federal worker to set up a “insurable interest annuity” for his or her same-sex partner. These new regulations will eliminate an onerous and invasive process for same-sex couples, treating same-sex domestic partners in the same way as different-sex spouses, with the presumption that a partner, like a spouse, is eligible for the annuity. This proposed change was part of HRC’s Blueprint for Positive Change, a document recommending policy changes that could be made by the administration to better the lives of LGBT people.
Unfortunately, this small step forward does not equalize the treatment of same-sex partners with regard to federal employees. Spouses of federal workers remain uniquely eligible for other important retirement benefits, as well as health insurance and workers compensation. Only Congress can extend these critical benefits – which is why HRC continues to push for the passage of the legislation, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, that would address this unequal treatment of LGBT federal workers.
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