By Leo Shane III
Published: August 14, 2013
WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials announced Wednesday that the DOD will provide marriage benefits to same-sex couples for the first time, giving gay spouses access to health care, housing allowances and family separation pay.
The move comes little more than a month after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which Defense Department leaders have said prevented them from offering federal marriage benefits to gay troops. Numerous government agencies have taken steps to offer health care and other benefits to same-sex married couples in the wake of the ruling.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the move reflects the Defense Department’s commitment to “ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military and their families are treated fairly and equally.”
The change, set to go into effect no later than Sept. 3, will mean tens of thousands of dollars in direct payments and covered health care costs for legally married same-sex military couples.
Housing allowances alone can reach up to $30,000 in annual payouts for married troops with dependent children.
Defense Department officials will also allow same-sex troops to take nonchargeable leave “for the purpose of travelling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur.”
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia currently allow gay marriages. In a memo to defense staff, Hagel called the inconsistent state rules a potential hardship for same-sex couples, and said the extra leave time would “help level the playing field.”