VA Awards First Benefits to Spouse of Gay Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Tracy Dice Johnson (photo: Gerry Broome, AP)

An Army National Guard soldier has become the first person to receive death benefits following the loss of a same-sex spouse during combat.

 

Staff Sgt. Tracy Dice Johnson will receive benefits retroactively dating back to the death of her wife, Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Donna Johnson, who was killed in Afghanistan two years ago.

 

The benefits—to be paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—are the same ones provided to heterosexual widows and widowers, marking the first time a surviving same-sex spouse has been treated the same as non-gay individuals who have lost a husband or wife.

 

The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation that Tracy Johnson will receive amounts to $1,233.23 a month, which will be paid retroactively going back to her wife’s death on October 1, 2012 even though the Defense of Marriage Act wasn’t overturned until 2013. She will also receive medical, education and other benefits.

 

“My hat’s off to the VA,” Tracy Johnson told the Army Times. “It was a long, drawn-out process, but at the end of the day, hearts and minds prevailed.”

 

Donna Johnson was 29 years old when she and two other American soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber in Khost during her second combat tour. All three soldiers were members of the 514th Military Police Company, 60th Troop Command based in Winterville, North Carolina.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

Wife of Female Soldier Killed in Afghanistan to Receive Death Benefits (by Karen Jowers, Army Times)

Lesbian Army Sgt. Donna Johnson Killed in Suicide Bomber Attack (by Jean Ann Esselink, New Civil Rights Movement)

6 States Refuse Benefits to Gay National Guard Spouses (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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