Feds in same-sex marriages given 60 days to update benefits

Friday - 6/28/2013, 6:50pm EDT

With the Supreme Court ruling this week that a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, the Office of Personnel Management is giving federal employees in legal same-sex marriages 60 days to update or apply for new federal benefits.

Federal employees in same-sex marriages have until August 26 to make changes to their health and life insurance among other benefits, according to a new memo from acting OPM Director Elaine Kaplan.

"There are numerous benefits that are affected by the Supreme Court's decision, and it is impossible to answer today every question that you may have," Kaplan wrote in the memo to the heads of federal agencies. "Nevertheless, I want to assure you that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is committed to working with the Department of Justice to ensure swift and seamless implementation of the Court's ruling."

Same-sex spouses of federal employees are now eligible for coverage under the:

  • Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP)

  • Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI)

  • Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) and the

  • Federal Long-term Care Insurance Program (FLCIP)
FEHBP coverage will also be extended to the children of same-sex marriages (including stepchildren) who "will be treated just as those of opposite-sex marriages and will be eligible family members according to the same eligibility guidelines," the memo stated.

In each of the these programs, federal employees with same-sex spouses have two months to elect to make changes to their enrollment, according to the memo.

However, federal employees will also be able to make changes later this year during the annual Open Season process in November.

Employees are also eligible to begin submitting claims for their same-sex spouses' medical expenses (as well as any qualifying children) under their flexible-spending programs.

Federal retirees in same-sex marriages will have much longer window — two years — to inform OPM of their married status and to elect to make changes to their retirement benefits.

"In the coming days, OPM will be developing guidance to help retirees determine whether they wish to change their pension benefits in a way that will provide benefits for their surviving spouse," the new guidance stated. "Retirees will need to determine whether this option makes sense for them, as making this election will likely result in a deduction to the monthly annuity that the retiree currently receives. Going forward, the same-sex spouses of retiring employees will be eligible for survivor annuities."

There are an estimated 34,000 federal employees in same-sex relationships, according to a Congressional Research report published in February.

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