Lambda Legal, AMPA drop lawsuit after VA updates benefits policies

Posted on 20 Jan 2016 at 2:59pm

Screen shot 2016-01-20 at 2.55.12 PMLambda Legal and the American Military Partner Association announced today (Wednesday, Jan. 20), that they are ending their lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in light of the VA’s changes to benefits policies that effectively ended discrimination against U.S. military veterans and their same-sex spouses.

The new policies, according to a Lambda Legal statement, “are consistent with” the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling legalizing marriage equality.

“We are very pleased that now, nationwide, gay and lesbian veterans who have served their country and risked the ultimate sacrifice for their nation — all while facing discrimination against them — will have access to deserved and long-awaited benefits,” said Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal’s director of constitutional litigation. “Married veterans and their spouses, regardless of their sexual orientation or where they live, will now have the critical veterans’ benefits they need to take care of their families.”

Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit on AMPA’s behalf in federal circuit court in August 2014, arguing that refusing veterans’ benefits to same-sex spouses based on states’ non-recognition of their marriages was unconstitutional.

VA officials recently issued internal guidance to staff and updated its website to reflect policy changes that bring the agency into compliance with the Obergefell ruling. The agency has also urged married gay and lesbian veterans “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.”

Read the VA’s guidance for the public here, and its internal guidance to staff here.

AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack said the new policies “pave the way for veterans and their same-sex spouses, no matter where they live, to access such important rights as survivors benefits, home loan guarantees, and burial together in national cemeteries. We are happy to see more barriers to equality for LGBT servicemembers, veterans and their families fall.”

Those with questions or concerns about discrimination or denial of a protection to which they are entitled can contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk at 1-866-542-8336 or visit the organization’s website.

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