WASHINGTON Today, Lambda Legal and the American Military Partner Association ( AMPA ) announced that they are concluding litigation against the US Department of Veteran Affairs ( VA ) following the VA's changes to its policies on benefits ending discrimination against veterans and their same-sex spouses. The new policies are consistent with the June 2015 US Supreme Court decision in Obergefell that struck down marriage discrimination.
"We are very pleased that now, nationwide, gay and lesbian veterans who have served their country and risked the ultimate sacrifice for their nation — all while facing discrimination against them — will have access to deserved and long-awaited benefits," said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal. "Married veterans and their spouses, regardless of their sexual orientation or where they live, will now have the critical veterans' benefits they need to take care of their families."
AMPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting partners and spouses of LGBT troops and veterans. In August 2014, Lambda Legal filed a petition on AMPA's behalf in the Federal Circuit Court arguing that the deprivation of veterans' benefits to same-sex spouses based on states' non-recognition of their marriages is unconstitutional. Recently, the VA issued internal guidance to its staff and updated its website to reflect the change in policies and guidance on benefits for married veterans and their families in accordance with Obergefell. The VA encourages married gay and lesbian veterans "who believe they are entitled to benefits ( including those whose claims were previously denied on a ground related to their marriage ) to promptly apply for benefits."
The VA's guidance for the public is available at www.va.gov/opa/marriage/. The VA's internal guidance to its staff can be accessed here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/ltr_va_20151016_same-sex-spousal-benefits
"The new VA policies pave the way for veterans and their same-sex spouses, no matter where they live, to access such important rights as survivor benefits, home loan guarantees, and burial together in national cemeteries," said Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of AMPA. "We are happy to see more barriers to equality for LGBT servicemembers, veterans and their families fall."
Those with questions or concerns about discrimination or denial of a protection to which they are entitled should contact Lambda Legal's Help Desk at 1-866-542-8336 or visit www.lambdalegal.org/help.
Susan Sommer is handling the case for Lambda Legal with Paul Castillo. She is joined by Andrew Woodmansee and Jessica Roberts of Morrison and Foerster LLP.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.
The American Military Partner Association, a non-profit and non-partisan organization, is the nation's largest organization for the partners, spouses, families, and allies of America's LGBT service members and veterans. Based in Washington DC. AMPA is committed to education, advocacy, and support for our "modern military families."