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Eight military couples win same-sex benefits retroactive to 2011

Oct. 3, 2013 - 09:58AM   |  
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A federal judge in Massachusetts has ruled that eight same-sex military couples are eligible to apply for retroactive benefits back to the dates in 2011 when they tried to register their spouses in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.

These couples — and only these couples — can apply for benefits from the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, which could result in two years’ worth of back payments of housing allowances, family separation pay and health insurance coverage, among other things.

One of the plaintiffs, Karen Morgan, wife of the late Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charlie Morgan, will also be eligible to apply for death benefits. The warrant officer died in February after a battle with breast cancer.

The judgment was filed Oct. 2 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts nearly two years after the lawsuit was originally filed in 2011, after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” when the eight couples tried to register their nonmilitary spouses in DEERS, the Defense Department’s eligibility portal for military ID cards and various other benefits, including Tricare.

John Goodman, counsel for OutServe and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, confirmed that the ruling applies only to these eight couples. “Unfortunately for a variety of other families, these orders apply only to these families,” he said.

Justice Department officials could not be reached for comment on whether they would appeal the decision, but they collaborated with the plaintiffs’ attorneys on draft language for the judgment at the direction of Judge Richard G. Stearns.

The case had been delayed pending results of the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. But in light of the high court’s ruling to overturn parts of DOMA, the judge ruled the couples were entitled to apply retroactively for both DoD and VA benefits.

The plaintiffs were:

■ Army National Guard Maj. Shannon McLaughlin and Casey McLaughlin

■ Army Reserve Maj. Steve Snyder-Hill and Joshua Snyder-Hill

■ Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charlie Morgan and Karen Morgan

■ Navy Lt. Gary Ross and Dan Ross

■ Army Reserve Lt. Col. Vicki Hudson and Monika Poxon

■ Airman 1st Class Daniel Henderson and Jerret Henderson

■ Retired Navy Capt. Joan Darrah and Lynne Kennedy

■ Retired Army Col. Stewart Bornhoft and former Navy Lt. Stephen McNabb.

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