Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Disabled Vet Denied Contractual Benefits Due to DOMA

Veterans who are disabled, as the result of service, are told that they will receive a disability check from the federal government, which hired them. When they marry, the presence of a dependent spouse and/or children, normally means the Veteran's Administration boosts the disability payments.

Carmen Cardona, is married, and was ruled to be 80 percent disabled due to carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. Cardona served for 18 years and rose to the rank of petty officer second class. She was honorably discharged.

But her legally married spouse is of the same sex. They were married last year after spending 9 years together. The VA turned down the request because DOMA requires them to pretend that legally married people are not legally married, if they are of the same sex.

The case was appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeals. That Board said they were "sympathetic to the arguments advanced by the veteran, especially in light of her honorable service." But, the board said it had no authority to change the rule because of DOMA.

I find it interesting that Cardona enlisted before DOMA was passed by a Republican Congress. At the time she enlisted the law did not prevent the VA from giving benefits to disabled veterans who were legally married. So, after she had more than completed her end of the contract, the Republicans changed the rules of the contract, after the fact. Not only was Cardona treated differently from other veterans but the rules were changed midstream. DOMA requires the government to act as if a legal contract with a gay veteran doesn't mean the same thing as a legal contract with a heterosexual veteran.

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