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VA will extend veterans benefits to same-sex couples

June 29, 2015 (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty)

Same-sex married couples will now be able to share veterans pensions, home loans, medical services and similar benefits previously unavailable to them, department officials announced Monday.

On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all states and that those unions must be recognized. Gay rights advocates hoped the measure would drop the last obstacles in getting benefits through the Veterans Affairs Department for same-sex couples with military ties.

Active-duty same-sex military couples received access to Defense Department benefits in 2013, when the high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. But even after that ruling, VA officials denied benefits for some same-sex couples in states where their marriages were not legally recognized, citing other federal restrictions.

Now those barriers are gone. In a statement, VA officials said they are working quickly to provide instructions on extending benefits to all married couples, including same-sex spouses.

In a statement, VA said the new ruling allows the department to "recognize the same-sex marriage of all veterans, where the veteran or the veteran's spouse resided anywhere in the United States or its territories at the time of the marriage or at the time of application for benefits."

Officials also said that they will issue new guidance in coming weeks to clarify any potential points of confusion, in cases where same-sex couples may not be immediately eligible for the benefits.

On Friday, American Military Partner Association officials said they hoped the ruling would simplify and clarify the benefits process for same-sex couples dealing with VA.

Officials from the advocacy group OutServe-SLDN echoed that sentiment, adding that extending the veterans benefits to same-sex couples would "ensure that every member of the United States military and their families have the same access to the benefits that they have so rightfully earned."

Defense Department officials said that the new Supreme Court ruling will have no effect on their benefits or recognition of same-sex couples, since the military already extends those offerings to them.

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