OPM extends some benefits to federal employees’ same-sex partners
The Office of Personnel Management has expanded several benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. The final rules, which were published in the July 20 Federal Register, have been in proposed status for a year or more and carry out 2009 and 2010 orders from President Barack Obama to extend federal employee benefits to those partners within the limits of existing law.
The rules with potentially the greatest financial benefit would create a presumption that same-sex domestic partners who meet certain qualifications are eligible for a form of retirement survivor annuity called an “insurable interest” annuity. That benefit provides lifelong payments to the survivor of a federal retiree, much as a standard survivor annuity does for a spouse, although it is slightly less generous. “The rule is designed to relieve federal employees with same-sex domestic partners from the evidentiary requirements in existing regulations for persons outside this class,” stated the final regulation.
In addition, a proposed rule, also published in the June 20 Federal Register, would allow the children of a federal employee and same-sex partner to receive health benefits under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, including dental and vision insurance. Same-sex partners are not eligible for health care benefits under FEHBP or spousal survivor retirement benefits.
The rules set standards for eligibility, including that same-sex partners “share a responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s financial obligations,” are not married and generally must share a residence.
While the Obama administration has expanded some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees through executive order and regulations, Congress must pass a law for domestic partners to receive the full range of benefits afforded to federal spouses.