Much like the Social Security benefits we discussed in our last post, a patchwork of federal and state laws affected a married couple’s eligibility for veteran’s spousal benefits. After the Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor struck down a law which had barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, veteran’s spousal benefits became available to many same-sex spouses.
However, many couples still were and are deemed ineligible for benefits based on the state law of the veteran’s place of residence at the time of the marriage or when they became eligible for benefits.
Who Can Get Veteran’s Spousal Benefits Now?
If the state did not legally recognize a marriage at the time the marriage occurred, then the couple was considered unmarried and ineligible for spousal benefits. This practice is currently being evaluated in light of the court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges which states that all states must recognize all legal and valid marriages. The VA has issued a guide to help applicants understand the current policy on how it recognizes marriages. This guide is a useful place to start to find out if your marriage will be recognized by the VA for spousal benefits. It is also wise to seek legal counsel to help you make a determination of your status and associated rights.
Now that all states are required to recognize all legal marriages, couples who are legally married and are eligible for veteran’s benefits going forward should have no issues receiving spousal benefits. The previous state law policy will not apply and the spouses in same-sex marriages are to be treated equally to the spouses in different-sex marriages by the VA.
If you have questions about your spousal benefits, or feel that you are being denied benefits to which you are legally entitled, contact Alexander Law Firm. We will listen to you, discuss your options, and help advocate for your rights.