The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds the decision of the Department of Defense to extend certain benefits to same-sex couples. These benefits will include hospital visitation rights, life insurance survivor benefits, and the issue of a military dependent ID card. The military ID card allows unescorted access on base, allows use of military family resources (such as the commissary and post-exchange), and is viewed as a legitimizing symbol within the military culture. Eligible same-sex partners must fill out a “Declaration of Domestic Partnership” form to qualify. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that extending these benefits to same-sex couples was a “matter of fundamental equity.”
However, these benefits do not extend to healthcare coverage for same-sex spouses. Defense Secretary Panetta stated: “One of the legal limitations to providing all benefits [to same-sex couples] at this time is the Defense of Marriage Act, which is still the law of the land… [But] I foresee a time when the law will allow the [military] to grant full benefits to service members and their dependents, irrespective of sexual orientation.”
This policy change is expected to positively affect tens of thousands of military service members and veterans. The policy will go into effect no later than October 1, 2013.
NASW continues to work with the White House Joining Forces Initiative to provide optimal care for our military Service Members, Veterans, and their families. NASW will be rolling out five free military-related continuing education courses and a military credential for social workers in the spring of 2013.