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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Important Information on Marriage

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges that the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state. Accordingly, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may now recognize all same-sex marriages without regard to a Veterans state of residence.

VA offers a variety of benefits and services that depend upon a Veterans marital status, including certain benefits to a Veterans spouse or surviving spouse. VA will generally accept a claimants statement that he or she is married, but may investigate further if an assertion appears unreliable. This same procedure applies regardless whether the claimant is in an opposite-sex marriage or a same-sex marriage.

VA is dedicated to serving all eligible Servicemembers, Veterans and their families and providing them the benefits they have earned. We encourage all Veterans in same-sex marriages who believe they are entitled to benefits (including those whose claims were previously denied on a ground related to their marriage) to promptly apply for benefits.

Important: VA is in the process of updating all forms that request marital status and dependent information in order to clarify that same-sex married couples and their dependents are eligible for benefits, including by replacing references to husband or wife with spouse and providing appropriate references to children of same-sex marriages. In the interim, you may use existing forms to apply for benefits. If you have questions regarding how to fill out a form, please call 1-800-827-1000. If you have additional questions about how these recent changes regarding same-sex marriage may affect your claim for benefits, please refer to our frequently asked questions below.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Who is considered a spouse for purposes of VA benefits?

A: VA recognizes a Veterans marriage if the marriage was recognized under the law of the place where at least one of the parties resided when they were married or when the claimant became eligible for benefits. VA now recognizes all same-sex marriages without regard to a Veterans current or previous state of residence.

Q: What supporting evidence do I have to submit with my claim or application to add my spouse as a dependent?

A:VA will require the same evidence for claims and applications involving same-sex marriage as claims based on opposite-sex marriage. Generally, VA will accept a claimant's or applicant's assertion that he or she is married as sufficient evidence to establish a Veteran's marriage for the purpose of VA benefits and services. However, consistent with current policy (applicable to all marriage-based benefits), VA may pursue further development if an assertion concerning a marriage appears unreliable, but will not treat assertions regarding same-sex marriages any differently than assertions regarding opposite-sex marriages.

Q: Will VA pay retroactive compensation and pension benefits for claims involving same-sex spouses? What will be the effective date?

A:For the purpose of assigning an effective date for a compensation or pension claim, if the claim was pending as of September 4, 2013 (the date on which the President directed VA to cease enforcement of statutory provisions defining spouse and surviving spouse as a person of the opposite sex), the effective date will be assigned as if the laws barring VA's recognition of same-sex marriage had never been in effect. In some instances, this could mean an effective date as early as the date of marriage or as early as when VA received the claim.

For the purpose of assigning an effective date for a compensation or pension claim that was not pending as of September 4, 2013, provided that the claimant met all of the eligibility requirements for the benefit by that date, and the claim was received within the following year, VA generally will assign an effective date of September 4, 2013.

For claims received after September 4, 2014, including newly filed claims, VA may assign an effective date up to one year prior to the date of the claim if the claimant met all eligibility requirements on that date.

Q: Does VA apply different requirements when evaluating my same-sex marriage? Will VA apply different requirements to a same-sex marriage?

A:VA will require the same evidence for claims and applications involving same-sex marriage as claims based on opposite-sex marriage. Generally, VA will accept a claimant's or applicant's assertion that he or she is married as sufficient evidence to establish a Veteran's marriage for the purpose of VA benefits and services. However, consistent with current policy, VA may investigate further if an assertion concerning a marriage appears unreliable, but VA will not treat assertions regarding same-sex marriages any differently than assertions regarding opposite-sex marriages.

Q: Can I transfer my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to my same-sex spouse?

A:Yes, if all other eligibility requirements for transfer of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are met.

Q:Does VA recognize common law marriages?

A: VA will recognize a common law marriage if the state in which the Veteran resides recognizes common law marriage, and the state's requirements for a common law marriage are met.

Q: If VA has already recognized my marriage for one benefit, do I need to provide evidence of my marriage in applying for a different benefit?

A: Once VA has recognized a marriage for the purpose of one VA benefit or service, it will usually recognize it for other benefits or services unless there is a factual change in marital status, such as divorce or separation. The Veteran need not submit evidence of the already-recognized marriage with an application for a new benefit.

Q: I am a Veteran enrolled in VA health care. Will this change in the law affect my eligibility?

A: Enrollment of Veterans in Priority Groups 5, 7, and 8 is based on income of both the Veteran and the Veteran's spouse, if married. For Veterans in these priority groups, the impact of VA recognizing a same-sex spouse and including spousal income will vary. For example, inclusion of a spouse's income may result in the Veteran being moved to a lower priority group (e.g., from 5 to 8) and being required to make copayments for care the Veteran receives. Recognition of marriage could also result in the Veteran being moved to a higher priority group, for example, if the spouse does not have income to report. The inclusion of spousal income would not result in a Veteran who is currently enrolled in VA health care being disenrolled. Information on income thresholds is available here www.va.gov/healthbenefits/cost/income_thresholds.asp.

Q: I am considering applying for VA health care or previously applied for VA health care and was denied based on income. Will this change in the law affect my eligibility?

A:For Veterans who are not currently enrolled in VA health care, it is possible that recognition of a same-sex spouse and inclusion of spousal income could either render the Veteran eligible to enroll or preclude the Veteran from being eligible to enroll. This will depend on the impact of the spousal income on the couple's household income relative to the applicable income threshold. Information on income thresholds is available here www.va.gov/healthbenefits/cost/income_thresholds.asp.

Q:: If my marriage is recognized for the purposes of VA benefits, what benefits may I be eligible for?

A:To learn more about VA benefits, go to www.va.gov/opa/newtova.asp.

Q: What benefits may my spouse be eligible for?

A: To learn more about VA benefits for dependents and survivors, go to www.va.gov/opa/persona/dependent_survivor.asp and www.va.gov/hac/forbeneficiaries/champva/champva.asp.

Q: Will VA recognize my domestic partnership or civil union for purposes of VA benefits?

A:For purposes of VA benefits and services, VA will recognize as marriages only those relationships that are recognized as "marriages" under state law.

If the Veteran indicates that his or her same-sex marriage is a common-law marriage, claims processors must determine whether the same-sex relationship qualifies as a common-law marriage under the standards applicable to all common-law marriages.

Q: Is the same-sex spouse or surviving spouse of an eligible Veteran eligible for interment in a VA national cemetery?

A: VA will treat all married couples the same, regardless of the sex of the spouses. The Veteran does not have to die before a spouse can be eligible for burial or memorial benefits. The spouse or surviving spouse of an eligible Veteran is eligible for interment in a national cemetery even if that Veteran is not buried or memorialized in a national cemetery. The surviving spouse of an eligible Veteran who had a subsequent remarriage to a non-Veteran and whose death occurred on or after January 1, 2000, is eligible for burial in a national cemetery, based on his or her marriage to the eligible Veteran. For more information, please refer to the NCA website and the fact sheet "Arranging Burial in a National Cemetery."

Q: How will VA treat the children of same-sex married couples?

A:VA will apply the same standards for recognizing the children of a Veteran in a same-sex marriage as it does for recognizing the children of a Veteran in an opposite-sex marriage. VA accepts as evidence documentation, such as birth certificates, adoption decrees, or other judicial decrees.

Q: How will VA treat same-sex married couples for purposes of VA loan guaranties?

A:VA will apply the same standards for all married couples for VA loan guaranties regardless of the sex of spouses.

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