Same-sex spouses step up to claim benefits

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Same-sex spouses step up to claim benefits

by: Jeremy Barnes | .
published: October 10, 2013

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – On September 3rd, 2013, same-sex marriages were officially recognized by the Department of Defense. Entitlements for married members are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court’s decision, June 26th, 2013; otherwise entitlements will start on the date of marriage.

SPC Robert Lambert proudly walked through the Camp Zama DMPO door on September 3rd, 2013 ready to claim his entitlements for his husband of a little over a year, and their three children. (3 year old twins and a soon to be 5 year old son pictured below)

I had the privilege to sit down with SPC Lambert to ask him some questions about this Supreme Court ruling to really see how this would impact his career and his family.

Growing up in a household where both parents retired from the Army, SPC Lambert was always brought up with military values. After college, graduating with a degree in flute performance from Winthrop University, Robert looked to the Army for that stable career that he grew accustomed to. After serving 2 years in the Army he plans on making this his career. He wants to someday retire from the U.S. Army like his parents. SPC Lambert joined to be able to support his family. He wanted to provide for them and to be able to ensure he would have a guaranteed income. I asked Robert if the decision to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” affected his decision to join, and he stated that the decision did not play a part in him joining the Army. When I looked into the history of this policy I found that according to the Service Members’ Legal Defense Network, some 14,500 service members were discharged between 1993 and 2011 under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. When you talk about impact to our customers… this decision has had a significant impact to same sex partners. The burden of paying for two separate lives has been eased with the payment of BAH and with entitlements such as FSA.

It’s hard on a young soldier to try to support a family that the Army doesn’t recognize. This decision will make his life much easier and take away a lot of stress. SPC Lambert has had a very positive reaction to him being open about his sexuality and marriage. His command has been supportive and kept him informed on new policies/procedures regarding same-sex marriage. We all need to be informed. Robert wanted to see that the schools were eventually informed as well. With more same-sex families coming into the military schools will start to teach their children so we need to ensure the proper training is in place for this. When I asked SPC Lambert about what he would tell others who are afraid to publicize their sexual orientation or relationship he offered some really good advice. He said “That just as the military here in Japan are ambassadors for the United States, couples like himself and his husband, are ambassadors for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual (LGBT) Community. Do not be afraid of who you are… be a role model for others and ensure you are tasteful in everything you do.”

I wish SPC Lambert and his family the best. I’m happy that our office was able to provide him this service that enables him and his family to live a happier life. We are here to serve our customers and we are proud that we serve such a diverse and amazing organization, The United States Army.