The Department of Defense released a memo today outlining a plan to extend benefits to same-sex partners of military members. Some benefits extended to same-sex partners include child care, youth programs, legal assistance, disability and death compensation, and the right to visit a loved one in the hospital. The announcement fails to extend full health care benefits because federal law still prohibits same-sex couples from receiving them.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called for a change in military procedure “to ensure fairness and equal treatment and to take care of all of our Service members and their families, to the extent allowable under law.”
In an interview with USA Today, Panetta said he does not expect resistance to the benefits extension once troops are fully educated on the issue. “When it comes to benefits, we’ve got to lay some of the same groundwork,” Panetta said in the interview. “You just have got to educate people. People who are serving in the military and putting their lives on the line deserve some of the benefits that go with that. We’ve just got to be able to tie those two together in a way that the military understands and accepts.”
The military now has a 60 day window to determine the extent at which these benefits will be extended. The new benefits are expected to go into full effect no later than August 31st of this year.
OutServe-SLDN, an association of actively serving LGBT military personnel, has released a guide containing more information about what these changes mean for service members.