Panetta Extends Benefits: Frequently Asked Questions
PLEASE NOTE: The following Q&A was developed following a preliminary review of benefits extended by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Monday, February 11, 2013 and is subject to updating as additional legal review occurs. And remember: these are only military-specific benefits. There are many other benefits -including significant ones - that are withheld from same-sex couples due to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and are not just withheld from military families.
What benefits will be available?
Family Well Being Programs
- Hospital Visitation* (extended by member designation)
- Commissary Privileges* (extended via ID cards)
- Exchange Privileges* (extended by via ID cards)
- Morale/Welfare/Recreation (MWR) Programs* (extended via ID cards)
- Surveys of Military Families (extended via DEERS)
- Quadrennial Quality of Life Review (extended via DEERS)
- Emergency Leave*
- Emergency Leave of Absence
Child and Youth Programs
- Youth Sponsorship Programs*
- Youth Programs*
- Child Care*
- Family Readiness Groups (extended by member designation)
- Family Center Programs* (extended via ID cards)
- Identification Cards*
- Sexual Assault Counseling Program
- Joint Duty Assignments
- Exemption from Hostile-Fire Areas
- Legal Assistance
Travel and Transportation
- Space-Available (Space-A) Travel on DoD Aircraft* (extended via ID card)
- Transportation to and from Certain Places of Employment and Military Installations* (extended via ID card)
- Transportation to and from Primary and Secondary School for Minor Dependents* (extended via ID card)
Survivor and Death Benefits
- Authority of Service Secretary to Transport remains of Dependent*
- Disability and Death Compensation for Dependents of Service Members Held as Captives*
- Continued Payments to Dependents of Service Members listed as Missing Persons
* Indicates that the benefit would also be available to the children of same-sex spouses
How will these benefits be extended?
Gay and lesbian service members will sign a “Declaration of Domestic Partnership” in which:
We attest/declare that the following statements are true and correct:
1. We are each other’s sole domestic partner, in a committed relationship, and intend to remain so indefinitely;
2. Neither of us is married (legally or be common law), joined in civil union with, or domestic partners with anyone else;
3. We are at least 18 years if age and mentally competent to consent to contract;
4. We share responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s common welfare and financial obligations;
5. We are not related in any way that, if we were of opposite sex, would prohibit legal marriage in the State in which we reside; and
6. With regard to common residence:
- We would have a common residence but for the requirements of military service; or
- We have a common residence and intend to continue the arrangement.
We also agree to and understand that:
7. We must inform my Service not later than 30 days after (a) the date of dissolution of the domestic partnership, (b) the date the partnership no longer meets the eligibility requirements, or (c) termination of the domestic partnership by death
8. The dissolution of the relationship may result in the termination of benefits; and
9. Willful falsification of information within this declaration may lead to disciplinary action or constitute a criminal violation under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and/or 18 U.S.C. 1001. Falsification of information may also lead to the loss of benefits and/or the recovery of the cost of benefits received related to such falsification.
Whom will these benefits be available to?
These benefits will be available to the same-sex domestic partners of gay and lesbian service members, and in some cases, to the children of the same-sex domestic partner (akin to a the step-child(ren) of the service member). Domestic partnership is not dependent on a state-recognized relationship of any kind. Couples only need to meet the eligibility criteria enumerated in the “Declaration of Domestic Partnership.”
How long will it take to implement this policy change?
The Department of Defense anticipates the process to conclude by August 31 but no later than October 1, 2013. OutServe-SLDN will be advocating for a more timely conclusion.
What will happen with those benefits in the interim?
At this time it appears that the benefits that will be extended will remain unavailable to the same-sex partners of service members.
Why will the implementation process take so long?
We understand that the changes are implemented by regulation, which take several months to complete and include the opportunity for public input. The services also need time to update their policies, update IT systems, and develop new processes for ID cards and train personnel. Implementation is complicated when you take into consideration the multiple ID Card issuing sites spread across the active and Reserve Components.
Are there any benefits that could have been extended that are not being extended?
Yes. The benefits that could be extended that are not being extended at this time are:
- On-base housing
- Arlington National Cemetery Burial
- National Cemetery Burial
- Transportation in Areas Outside the United States
- Forensic Pathology Investigations Overseas
Why is DoD not extended these benefits at this time?
As to burial, we understand for burial at Arlington National Cemetery is under review. At issue is how to verify eligible same-sex relationships for the surviving spouse in order to ensure equitable policy implementation.
As to transportation overseas, this policy is not being extended because DoD needs to undertake a review of each Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). As to investigations overseas, this is not being extended because DoD is not extending overseas command sponsorship.
What DOMA-blocked benefits are not being extended?
None of the DOMA-blocked benefits are being extended at this time. This includes
- Medical and Dental Care
- Dependent-rate Housing Allowances
- Survivor Benefits
- Cost of Living Allowances
- Command Sponsored Visas to be stationed with service members abroad
- Protection under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
For a comprehensive list of military benefits that DOMA blocks, click here.