Gay Widow of Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Gets Survivor Benefits

Monday, 19 May 2014 05:09 PM

By John A. Oswald

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The lesbian widow of an Army National Guard soldier killed in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber has been granted the same survivor benefits that heterosexual widows and widowers get, reports The Army Times.

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Donna Johnson, 29, was one of three soldiers killed Oct. 1, 2012, in Khost by a bomb-wearing insurgent. The three were assigned to the 514th Military Police Company. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Johnson married the former Tracy Dice, also a Guard staff sergeant, in February of that year before deployment.

Her wife, who has since changed her name to Tracy Dice Johnson, praised the federal government for its handling of the case – especially because it happened before the landmark Supreme Court decision the following summer overturning parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Hours after DOMA was gutted, the Pentagon announced that spouses of gays and lesbians killed in combat would be among the first to get benefits.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is awarding benefits retroactively to the day Donna Johnson died, it was revealed over the weekend.

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

She was represented by lawyers from the American Military Partner Association.

The new rights for gay and lesbian soldiers come as marriage between same-sex couples is increasingly being legalized in various states.

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