The United States Supreme Court struck down part of the former Federal law known as the Defense of Marriage Act in a case called United States v. Windsor, decided in June of 2013. The Court determined that limiting the definitions of ‘spouse’ or ‘marriage’ to heterosexual couples only was unconstitutional. This, coupled with the growth in the number of states recognizing same-sex marriages has led to changes throughout the Federal government in terms of rights and benefits to already existing governmental programs.
Among the OWCP benefits that can now be extended to same sex spouses in a valid marriage include death benefits, unpaid scheduled awards when the claimant dies before receiving the award, and so-called augmented compensation – where a single claimant’s rate is 66 2/3 percent but with a valid dependent at home the rate increases to 75%.
The Office of Personnel Management has released a guidance memo to give all federal agencies assistance in implementing these new guidelines wherever there is a need to amend procedure or regulations – in order to accomplish the Obama administration’s goal of extending these new benefits to same sex married couples.