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Federal Eye
Posted at 02:32 PM ET, 07/19/2012

Expansion of several federal employee benefits to same-sex partners planned

Same-sex domestic partners would become eligible for several types of benefits for family members of federal employees under rules set for publication Friday.

The rules, which have been in proposed status for a year or more, carry out 2009 and 2010 orders from President Obama to extend federal employee benefits to those partners within the limits of existing law.

The rules with potentially the greatest financial benefit would create a presumption that same-sex domestic partners who meet certain qualifications are eligible for a form of retirement survivor annuity called an “insurable interest” annuity. That benefit provides lifelong payments to the survivor of a federal retiree, much as a standard survivor annuity does for a spouse, although it is slightly less generous.

There are some other differences, including a reduction for age differences between the retiree and the beneficiary that does not apply to a spousal-survivor annuity.

Under the Defense of Marriage Act, spousal-survivor benefits cannot be paid to domestic partners of federal retirees. A proposal has been pending in Congress for years to extend eligibility for retirement survivor benefits, health insurance coverage and certain other benefits. That bill has passed a Senate committee.

Other rules set to be finalized Friday would make same-sex domestic partners eligible for certain noncompetitive appointments for spouses returning with federal employees from overseas assignments, eligible as family members for evacuation pay in emergencies and for certain overseas allowances and eligible for certain employee-assistance-program benefits provided to family members. The rules would also make the children of same-sex partners eligible for child-care subsidies that can be paid to lower-income employees.

The rules set standards for eligibility, including that same-sex partners “share a responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s financial obligations,” are not married and generally must share a residence.

OPM said the benefits would apply only to same-sex partners because opposite-sex partners have the option of marrying and that under the Defense of Marriage Act, “marriage is not an option for same-sex couples wishing to obtain federal benefits.”

OPM meanwhile is set to propose a rule, subject to a comment period, to make children of same-sex domestic partners eligible for coverage under the federal employee health insurance program and under a separate program providing vision and dental benefits.

By  |  02:32 PM ET, 07/19/2012

 
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