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Developments at OPM: OPM Guidance on Same-Sex Spousal Benefits

Developments at OPM: On June 28, 2013,  the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a guidance memorandum concerning the implementation of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor, which was previously analyzed in this blog.

OPM's memorandum identifies various federal benefits programs which Windsor opens to spousal enrollment for federal employees and annuitants in same-sex marriages.  Current federal employees in same-sex marriages who wish to enroll their spouses in health insurance (FEHB), life insurance (FEGLI), dental and vision insurance (FEDVIP), and long-term care insurance (FLTCIP) now have a 60 day window from the Supreme Court's Windsor decision to enroll for coverage in the current plan year, making the deadline August 26, 2013.  Children of same-sex spouses will also be eligible to be enrolled in FEHB and FEGLI, with the same August 26, 2013 deadline for enrollment in the current plan year.  Current federal employees in same-sex marriages with flexible spending accounts for medical expenses will now be permitted to submit their spouses' qualifying medical expenses for reimbursement, as well as the expenses of the spouses' children.  Although not specified in OPM's memorandum, employees who miss the enrollment deadline of August 26, 2013, would presumably be able to make a new election for modification of their insurance coverage at the next federal open season.

Under OPM's guidance memorandum, federal annuitants in same-sex marriages now have a two-year window from Windsor (to June 26, 2015) to make a spousal election if they wish to modify their federal pension benefits to provide for a survivor annuity for their spouse.  OPM noted that it would soon be issuing more detailed guidance on these annuity elections in the near future so that affected annuitants can make an informed decision on whether to elect the survivor annuity.   For current federal annuitants, this two-year deadline is a one-time opportunity to make a spousal survivor benefit election.  OPM's guidance memorandum also noted that, going forward, the spousal survivor benefit election will be available to retiring federal employees in same-sex marriages in the same manner as other married retiring federal employees.

OPM's guidance memorandum applies to the spouses and children of federal employees and annuitants where the federal employee or annuitant is in a legal same-sex marriage, and would not extend additional benefits to those in same-sex civil unions or other domestic partnerships.  However, as previously analyzed in this blog, OPM has been working separately to provide for coverage of such domestic partnerships by regulation.

If you are a federal employee or retired federal annuitant and wish to discuss your rights under Windsor and OPM's guidance memorandum, please contact Passman & Kaplan, P.C. to request an initial consultation.

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