Following several declarations from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel the Pentagon would be extending health care and housing benefits to same-sex couples in the military, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday they would be available to employees Sept. 3.
In a news release, the Department cited the U.S. Supreme Court's finding that a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional on June 26 as the basis for extending benefits. “Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court’s decision,” the Department said in its release.
Benefits are only available once couples present a valid marriage license. The Department will grant leaves for same-sex couples to travel to states where same-sex marriage is permissible in order to obtain that license, the news release said. Thirteen states, including Washington, and the District of Columbia currently permit same-sex marriage.
“It is now the Department's policy to treat all married military personnel equally,” Hagel said in a memorandum to Defense employees.