Obama administration extends federal-employee benefits to same-sex couples

The Obama administration last week announced that same-sex couples could begin applying for federal-employee benefits as a result of last week’s Supreme Court decision that overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

In a memo to federal agencies on Friday, the Office of Personnel Management said federal workers will have until Aug. 26 to change their enrollment for most benefits, including health, dental, vision, life, and long-term care insurance. They will have two years to alter their status for retirement benefits, the document said.

Employees will have additional opportunities to make changes during open-season enrollment periods, according to OPM.

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The memo says repeatedly that “legally married” same-sex couples will be eligible for federal-worker benefits.

OPM spokesman Thomas Richards said on Monday that the benefits “will be available to any Federal employee or annuitant who has a valid marriage license, regardless of their state of residency.” His statement puts to rest any question about whether the administration will allow benefits for LGBT couples living in states where same-sex marriages aren’t legally recognized.

Same-sex spouses, as well as the children and stepchildren of same-sex marriages, will be eligible for health insurance under the government’s Self and Family enrollment plan, OPM said.

Dental and vision insurance will be available to eligible family members under the Self and Family and the Self Plus One enrollment plans, according to the memo.

Employees in legal same-sex marriages also can use their flexible spending accounts for medical expenses of spouses and children or stepchildren, OPM said.

For pensions, the memo said federal retirees will need to determine whether it makes sense to provide benefits for surviving spouses, “as making this election will likely result in a deduction to the monthly annuity that the retiree currently receives.”

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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