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Some glitches in first week of same-sex spouse benefits

Sep. 6, 2013 - 02:44PM   |  
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The first week of issuing ID cards to same-sex military spouses and enrolling them for medical benefits generally has gone “rather smoothly,” but some problems cropped up on applications for housing allowances, said Ashley Broadway, director of family affairs for the American Military Partner Association.

Broadway said she has heard complaints from all over the country about offices that were not allowing same-sex couples to start the process to receive Basic Allowance for Housing.

She was hearing from mostly soldiers and airmen, along with some sailors, but no Marines. “There are no rumblings from the Marines. It seems to be going more smoothly for them,” she said.

Broadway, who is married to Army Lt. Col. Heather Mack, said her family had already been receiving BAH because of their dependent children. But after she heard some complaints about the Fort Bragg, N.C., office, she went in to check on Sept. 3 and said an employee told her there had been no guidance about processing the requests.

Families have since told her that Fort Bragg started processing people for BAH on Sept. 4. But she is concerned that the problem is persisting elsewhere.

She said this put a damper on “what was supposed to be a wonderful day in history.”

Defense Department guidance was issued on Aug. 14, a defense official said, and nothing from a Defense Finance and Accounting Service perspective stands in the way of a qualified member receiving BAH as a result of a legal same-sex marriage. As long as spouses get their ID card and service members fill out the paperwork at their personnel shops, the BAH processing should be started.

As of Sept. 3, spousal and family benefits, including ID cards, are available at military ID facilities to same-sex spouses, including retiree spouses, with a valid marriage certificate from a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage.

The benefits are the same as those available to heterosexual spouses, ranging from medical care to housing allowances, and including access to commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation programs. Some benefits, such as medical and housing allowances, are retroactive to June 26, when the Supreme Court overturned parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.

For the most part, the processing of ID cards and enrollment in DEERS has been going smoothly, Broadway said, including her own experience at Fort Bragg’s ID office and Tricare office, which she describes as “great.”

Employees in the DoD offices “are being extremely respectful,” she said.

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