Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act
With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” lesbian and gay service members are at long last able to serve their country openly and honestly. However, repeal did not address significant inequalities still facing these brave men and women: namely, that their families were still not treated equally by the federal government, either during their service or upon retirement.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v. United States, meaning the federal government should now recognize lawfully-married same-sex couples. The U.S. Department of Defense has made clear that same-sex military spouses will now be treated the same as opposite-sex couples for purposes of benefits, even if the couple does not live in a state that recognizes their marriage. However, because of certain provisions of the laws governing the U.S. Department of Veterans, at least some same-sex veteran spouses still may not have access to important benefits which are available to other veteran’s families. These benefits are central to caring for and honoring our veterans and their families.
What is the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act?
The Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act (VSETA) would provide the same family benefits to lawfully-married lesbian and gay veterans as are already provided to veterans with different-sex spouses, regardless of where they live. The bill includes lesbian and gay military spouses in the definition of “spouse” for the purposes of Title 38 of the United State Code.
Spouse is defined as any individual who is married in a U.S. state that recognizes that marriage as valid. The definition of spouse also includes any individual who is married outside the U.S. if the marriage is valid in the place in which the marriage was entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a U.S. state.
Equal Benefits for All Veterans
VSETA would ensure in statute that lesbian and gay veterans have equal access to basic but vital family benefits. Such benefits include health care, family leave, housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances and the right to be buried beside the one you love.
What is the Current Status of the Bill?
VSETA was introduced in the 113th Congress in the House of Representatives by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) on June 27, 2013.