DOD announces same-sex spouse benefits

Benefits to be made available Sept. 3


SAN ANTONIO – The Department of Defense will begin extending benefits to same-sex spouses of military members who can provide a valid marriage certificate.

The announcement comes after the department reviewed its policy, following the Supreme Court's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act back in June.

One local veteran is called the move "a step in the right direction."

It's been nearly 10 years since retired Marine Eric Alva was injured in Iraq after stepping on a landmine.

Since then, Alva says he's seen a lot of changes in the military -- for the better -- including the announcement over same-sex spouse benefits.

"I think it's great news what the Department of Defense announced today because it really shows that all service members are being treated equally," said Alva. "Especially in a time of battle, when you have a loved one who is back home and you can contact them if something should ever happen."

After coming out, Alva worked to overturn the military's "Don't' Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

He said Wednesday that the Pentagon's move to extend legally married same-sex couples the same privileges and programs that are provided to legally married heterosexual couples is good news.

However, Alva said what is even better is that in addition to benefits, service members living in a state where gay marriage is not legal will be allowed seven to 10 days of "non-chargeable leave" to travel to a state where it is legal to get married.

"I think that's the surprising part to me," said Alva. "Was that the government is not just doing this to make it right, but they are going above and beyond to make sure that same-sex service members are taken care of."

However, Alva said he expects some backlash, even from other service members who may not think it is fair to offer "non-chargeable leave" to same-sex couples.

"You are going to have people that are just going to gripe about this and not be happy about it, but in my book it's the right thing to do," he said. "And, I'm glad Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced it today, it's wonderful news."

The benefits that are being extended to same-sex spouses include health care, housing and family separation allowance.

The Department of Defense will make spousal and family benefits available no later than Sept. 3, regardless of sexual orientation, as long as they can provide a valid marriage certificate.

For a list of recent stories Stephanie Serna has done, click here.

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