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Benefits Announced for Gay Workers in Federal Government

On Friday, the Office of Personnel Management issued guidance to federal agencies regarding benefits for gay and lesbian employees.

While benefits ranging from health insurance to flexible spending accounts are expected in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA, Attorney General Eric Holder said “These initial changes in federal benefits will make a meaningful positive difference in the lives of many. But this is only the beginning.”

One of the most important benefits was in regard to retirement. The new guidance stipulates that all retirees who are in legal same-sex marriages have two years from the date of the Supreme Court’s decision to inform the Office of Personnel Management that they have a legal marriage that qualifies for recognition. The applicants would also have to make changes regarding their retirement benefits based on their marital status. Guidance on pension benefits for surviving spouses is in the making.

Gay and lesbian employees of the federal government would now be able to access participation in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program under a family option.

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Changes have also been made to bring legally married gay and lesbian federal workers under the Federal Employee’s Group Life Insurance Program, Dental and vision insurance, Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program and other benefits previously denied to lesbian and gay employees.

August 26 is the date by which federal employees need to inform the OPM, but in some cases changes to family enrollment status can also be made later during the open-enrollment season. Employees would need to contact their respective departments or the OPM to learn about the guidelines and deadlines in detail.

Another important benefit now available to federal gay and lesbian employees in legal same-sex marriages is that they will be able to access Flexible Spending Accounts and submit claims for spouses and qualifying children.

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