Group: VA awards survivor benefits to first-known gay war widow

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to provide survivor benefits to the first-known same-sex war widow, marking a breakthrough for the gay-rights community, according to an advocacy group.

Tracy Dice Johnson, a staff sergeant with the Army National Guard, announced Sunday that the VA would recognize her marriage to the late Donna Johnson, who died in a suicide bombing attack about eight months before last year’s Supreme Court decision that guaranteed equal federal benefits for all legally married couples.

The decision means Johnson will receive dependency and indemnity compensation, which goes to the spouses, children and some parents of service members who died while on active duty. The VA will pay her retroactively to the date of her late wife’s death, according to an announcement from the American Military Partners Association.


A gay-rights advocate waves a flag outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Johnson described the VA’s action as “an important step towards our end goal of achieving equal treatment for all military families,” speaking at the AMPA’s national gala in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.

AMPA president Stephen Peters described the decision as a “major breakthrough for our gay and lesbian veterans and their spouses trying to gain access to their earned benefits.”

Johnson and her wife were married in February 2012 in the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage has been legal for more than four years. Donna Johnson died in October 2012.

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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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