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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 2, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 40
Washington state man receives VA benefits as surviving spouse of deceased husband in a precedent setting decision
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Washington state man receives VA benefits as surviving spouse of deceased husband in a precedent setting decision

Making the promise of Marriage Equality a lived reality for Washingtonians Washington man receives amended death certificate, VA benefits after being recognized as surviving spouse of deceased husband

In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that it is unconstitutional for states to ban marriages of same-sex couples. The ripple effects of the Court's decision are now permitting LGBT people to obtain long-overdue recognition of their marriages. Legal Voice and the office of Senator Patty Murray recently helped to secure one such victory for Joe Krumbach, who has fought for years to obtain legal recognition of his marriage to his deceased husband, Jerry Hatcher.

Joe and Jerry married in a religious ceremony in Seattle in 2003. Jerry, a decorated veteran, passed away in 2008. Because Washington had an unconstitutional law on the books when he died that prohibited marriages of same-sex couples, Jerry's death certificate did not indicate that he and Joe were married.

Joe appealed to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for benefits that are available to spouses of deceased veterans. The VA denied his request on the grounds that Washington state did not permit same-sex couples to marry until after Jerry's death. He also asked the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to issue an amended death certificate that indicated the couple was married; he received a similar reply denying his request.

Legal Voice intervened, arguing that the DOH must recognize the couple's marriage as a valid marriage in light of the Obergefell decision. The DOH agreed with the arguments, and recently issued an amended death certificate correctly indicating that the two men were married.

Legal Voice also assisted Joe in appealing the VA's denial of benefits, and the office of Senator Murray urged the appeal through. Last week the VA granted benefits to Joe as Jerry's surviving spouse.

'We are thrilled that the VA has recognized that Joe and Jerry were a married couple,' said David Ward, Legal & Legislative Counsel for Legal Voice. 'With this victory, we are another step closer to seeing the promise of marriage equality become a lived reality for all same-sex couples in Washington.'

'While our state and our country have come so far in ensuring all couples have the right to marry, it is critical that spouses receive the benefits they deserve,' said Senator Murray. 'I am proud my office was able to work with Joe and Legal Voice to help make this happen.'

Joe is not alone in his fight for true marriage equality. LGBT people nationwide are seeking recognition of their marriages to their deceased partners in hopes of securing emotional closure, benefits, and respect.

'Every journey starts with a step, and I made that first step,' said Joe Krumbach. 'What matters now is the people behind me, the people who will benefit from this.'

Courtesy of Legal Voice - www.legalvoice.org

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