Some gay veterans get less benefits

Jun 8, 2015

The Senate resumes debate on Monday on the National Defense Authorization Act after last week failing to pass an amendment that would have changed the law to ensure all married gay veterans receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts.

Currently, the law says that the Department of Veterans Affairs can only consider a veteran married if the marriage is legal in the state where that veteran lives. That means in 13 states where same-sex marriage is not legal, gay vets lose out on some benefits.

Ashley Broadway, who lives in Virginia, where same-sex marriage is legal, is the president of the American Military Partner Association, an advocacy group.

"I'm a spouse of an almost 20-year active-duty service member" who is planning to retire in a few years, Broadway says. They have two children together. And, Broadway says, they are concerned about where they will live in the future.

Broadway wants a change in the law so that wherever they move in retirement, "we would be able to have the same type of benefits that our straight counterparts [have]."

Those benefits include certain disability benefits, which are increased for married vets with children, and certain medical benefits, which are available to their family members.

The amendment that failed last week was offered by New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

"If anybody ought to be treated equally, it ought to be those people who have put their lives on the line for this country," Shaheen says.

The issue could be moot if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, a decision that is expected by the end of June. But if the high court's ruling is more nuanced and open to interpretation, Shaheen says a bill may be the way to address the issue.