Army extends new benefits to soldiers' same-sex spouses

9:01 AM, Dec 2, 2013   |    comments
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( - Army Secretary John McHugh has approved several policy changes that support extending military benefits to the same-sex spouses of soldiers.

The changes were prompted by a June 26 Supreme Court ruling that found portions of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

As a result, the Army now recognizes all marriages that are valid in the location where the wedding ceremony was performed, and "will work to make sure the same benefits are available to all spouses, regardless if they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages," according to a directive issued Nov. 7 by McHugh.

Entitlements for same-sex spouses are retroactive to the June 26 court decision. The Army will not grant any claims to entitlements before that date, under the McHugh directive.

Here are some key policy changes that flow from the Supreme Court decision, and that will be incorporated into appropriate Army regulations:

¦ The Nov. 7 directive supplements a policy in Army Regulation 600-8-10 (Leaves and Passes) that authorizes an administrative absence for a soldier who is part of a couple that wants to get married, and is assigned to a state, District of Columbia or other U.S. jurisdiction that allows the couple to marry. This policy change will be reviewed annually, according to McHugh.

¦ Administrative absences will not be authorized if a soldier lives in a jurisdiction that authorizes same-sex marriage, or is assigned to a military installation that is less than 100 miles from such a jurisdiction.

¦ Absences only will be authorized for the minimum period necessary to obtain a marriage license and perform the marriage ceremony, except that:

¦ Absences will be limited to seven days for soldiers assigned to the continental United States, or up to 10 days for soldiers stationed overseas.

¦ The number of days granted for an administrative absence should be based on the waiting period required to obtain a legal marriage, and the time to travel to and from the marriage jurisdiction.

¦An administrative absence for marriage may be combined with chargeable regular leave for the convenience of the soldier.

¦ Chargeable leave used on or after Aug. 13, 2013, may be redesignated as an administrative absence by a soldier's commander.

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