Fort Worth city officials have just announced, via their city employee newsletter The Roundup, that the city will be extending spousal benefits to legally married same-sex spouses of city employees, beginning Sunday, Feb. 1.
The determination on which same-sex couples are eligible will be based on where they were married, not where they live — the same criteria used for federal income taxes, as per the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in DOJ v Windsor.
“This change will allow the city to follow the IRS’s definition of ‘spouse’ as defined for federal income taxes in the granting of survivor benefits,” the article in the newsletter notes.
It continues: “Since the city’s retirement ordinance does not specifically define ‘spouse,’ surviving spouses in a same-sex marriage will be eligible for survivor benefits if the survivor can prove, through documentation, that they were legally married to the employee/retiree in a state where same-sex marriage is legally recognized.”
As of Feb. 1, a 75 percent survivor benefit will be available to the following eligible same-sex spouses married at least one year prior to the employee’s retirement in the following groups: General employees hired prior to July 1, 2011; Police officers hired prior to Jan. 1, 2013; Firefighters hired prior to Jan. 10, 2015.”
Eligible members who retire on or after Feb. 1 will be eligible for the survivor benefit without a reduction in their pension benefits. Eligible members currently received a reduced benefit to provide for a legal same-sex spouse will have their benefit restored, without back pay, beginning Feb. 1. (All based on them providing proper documentation, of course).
Any retiree who did not take a benefit reduction when they retired to fund a survivor benefit, but who was legally married to their spouse for at least one year prior to their retirement from the city, cab notify the fund of their designation of a spouse as their survivor and submit the required documentation.
Those hired after the specified dates have to take a reduction in pension benefits when they retire to be able to provide a survivor benefit to the person they designate.
All employees, no matter when they were hired, are eligible for a 75 percent spousal survivor benefit if they are vested and die while actively employed. The policy change means that as of Feb. 1, that also applies to same-sex spouses.
Watch for more complete coverage in the Jan. 30 issue of Dallas Voice.