Workforce Management

Same-sex spouses of federal employees eligible for benefits

same-sex marriage

Federal employees in legal same-sex marriages will be able to extend insurance benefits, pensions and flexible spending accounts to their spouses and children of spouses as a result of the Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.

Federal employees can immediately apply to extend health, life, dental, vision, and long-term care insurance to their same-sex spouses, according to a memo from Elaine Kaplan, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, to agency heads dated June 28. The window to enroll same-sex spouses for benefits extends to August 26, sixty days from the date of the Supreme Court decision. Retirees have until June 26, 2015, to inform OPM of any change to retirement benefits to provide for a surviving spouse.

Federal employees may have to use paper forms to elect benefits, while online enrollment systems are updated, according to the memo.

The short memo does not dig into many of the myriad jurisdictional questions posed by this extension of benefits. For instance, it's not entirely clear how the decision applies to federal employees who were married in a state where same-sex marriage is recognized, but now reside in a state that does not. The language in the memo, however, suggests an expansive interpretation. It says that OPM will now "be able to extend benefits to federal employees and annuitants who have legally married a spouse of the same sex."

There are about 34,000 federal employees in legally recognized same-sex relationships, including marriages, domestic partnerships, and civil unions, according to a February report of the Congressional Research Service.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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