OPM Moves Quickly On Spousal Benefits For Federal Employees and Retires

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2013

The Office of Personnel Management — think of them as the HR department for the entire U.S. government — has moved quickly in the wake of Wednesday Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. In a memorandum to executive department and agency heads, OPM acting director Elaine Kaplan has announced that the government “will now be able to extend benefits to Federal employees and annuitants who have legally married a spouse of the same sex.”

The memo indicates that additional information will be forthcoming, but effective immediately, employees and retirees can obtain health insurance, life insurance, Dental and Vision Insurance, Long-Term Care Insurance, and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) to cover their married spouses, and step-children. Most of those benefits are also available to spouses of Federal retirees as well. Retirees can also claim a survivorship for their married spouses, although, as is already the case with opposite-sex married spouses, a survivorship option can result in a reduction in their monthly pension. The OPM memo says that additional guidance will be forthcoming on that option, as well as on other benefits.

OPM has confirmed to BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner that the marriage benefits doesn’t depend on the state in which the employee or retiree resides:

Additionally, the memorandum states at several points that the changes apply to “all legally married same-sex spouses,” which an OPM spokesman confirmed includes couples who are legally married in one state but live in a state that does not recognize the marriage.

“Yes, these benefits will be available to any Federal employee or annuitant who has a valid marriage license, regardless of their State of residency,” Thomas Richards, OPM director of communications, told BuzzFeed Friday afternoon.


June 28th, 2013

Good on all fronts. Fast, fair… and it gives strictly practical reasons for people in non-marriage states to go get married anyway, which can only speed further progress.


June 29th, 2013

the more I discuss this with my wife, the bigger a deal I realize this is. Now, no matter your state of residency, if you get married in a marriage equality state (and are a federal employee), the fed will recognize you. This makes places like California or Massachusetts the new Vegas for gay couples.

If these same rules end up applying to all federal benefits (not just fed employees) than this is really huge.


June 29th, 2013

There is a very deep entanglement between the federal and state governments in the marriage laws and this looks like the feds are intent on weaving the gay couples into that entanglement as quickly as possible before anyone has the time to craft objections to delay the process. Non of it will affect me personally but thousands will benefit, no one will suffer so I am pleased.

Rik Barnes

June 29th, 2013

I’m very happy for all the federal employees this ruling benefits. Congratulations, folks!


Rik Barnes
Greenville, North Carolina

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