Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

Married in the Military? You Get More for Your Service. Guest Post Part 2 from Onely

Feds: Your most important person matters only if you are married

Bella's Introduction:

I posted Part 1 of Lisa and Christina's foray into the feds' favoritism for married people just a few hours ago, and already it has racked up hundreds of page views. Here the awesome twosome continue to share their many discoveries, this time focusing on the privileges accorded to married military personnel and federal civilian employees just because they are married. I bet anyone who has read this Living Single blog in the past can guess the sentence of this post that I like the best. Check out the end of the post for more about Lisa and Christina and their Onely blog. And, as I've mentioned previously, feel free to send me suggestions for other guest contributors.

Guest Post, Part 2, from Lisa and Christina of Onely

[The first four examples of special federal privileges for married people can be found in Part 1.]

5. Benefits (for veterans and federal civilian/military employees)

Summary: The GAO report explains that spouses of veterans and federal civilian or military employees are eligible for financial, medical, and other benefits simply because they're married. For deceased veterans, "a surviving spouse or child ... is entitled to receive monthly dependency and indemnity compensation payments when the veteran's death was service-connected, and to receive a monthly pension when the veteran's death was not service-connected.... [Also,] spouses of veterans may be beneficiaries of National Service Life Insurance, and are also eligible for internment in national cemeteries if the veteran is eligible." Federal civil service employees are "entitled to unpaid leave in order to care for a spouse with a serious health problem," and the families of military personnel enjoy "employment assistance and transitional services for spouses of members being separated from military service; [and] continued commissary privileges for dependents, including spouses, of members separated for spousal or child abuse."

Although these benefits clearly privilege marriage, they ultimately sound pretty standard. But a few additional details of the law strike us as especially unfair. See below for details.

Who is affected? Veterans, federal civilian employees, and military personnel. Their families, friends, and - of course - spouses.

Where does marital status come in? Here are the strange details hinted at above. Let's play Spot the So-What Factor:

1) Under the category "Veterans' Benefits," the GAO explains that "if it's discovered that a veteran's marriage is invalid, the purported marriage may nevertheless be deemed valid under certain circumstances, as long as the ‘real' widow or widower does not ask for benefits." Yes, apparently marriage is so powerful that even when it doesn't exist, it still exists! We are feeling very quantum right about now.

2) A federal civil service employee who is "disabled by work-related injuries receives augmented compensation if he or she is married." Makes sense; the injured party needs that extra cash to bribe their spouse to change their bedpan, whereas unmarried people just empty their bedpans out the window.

3) Finally, the "minor spouse of overseas military personnel" enjoys the right to "free secondary education through the Defense Department school system." That means husbands and wives under 18 can continue their education so they can expand their minds and learn what a dumbass move they made by marrying so early (assuming they weren't forced into it by parents or an economic need for all the privileges that come with marriage). But seriously, we're not indignant about this one, since all minors connected to the military and living overseas - married or not - receive free education. We were just intrigued by the thought of a "minor spouse" needing special provisions for his or her education.

Some might say that the above listing our selection of examples isn't exactly representative or fair, since [**as we noted in Part 1] not all of the 1,138 laws listed by the GAO actually benefit married people (although many do). We agree and want to re-emphasize that the laws we've discussed above only represent some of those that privilege married people over singles in sometimes subtle but consequential ways; there are other laws included in the GAO report in which marital status merely comprises a factor that affects their interpretation and enactment. We argue, however, that even when marital status does not confer an explicit privilege for married people, the fact that marital status is ingrained within every arm of our legal system implicitly privileges the institution of marriage because it makes what is, in fact, merely cultural appear "natural." As Lisa explains in this post on Onely, the longer the government naturalizes marriage through cultural and legal "advocacy," the longer singles will be forced to wait for true equality.

You may be shocked and dismayed that our government discriminates based on of marital status. But don't worry! According to Title 5, Part III of the Code, "The President may prescribe rules which shall prohibit ... discrimination because of marital status." Well, phew. Good to know that single people are officially protected against the very discrimination that is, in fact, deeply embedded within the U.S. legal code.

[From Bella: Thanks again, Lisa and Christina! This has been very illuminating. I especially appreciate your injection of humor into this exasperating topic.]

About Lisa, Christina, and Onely:

Onely is a blog that deconstructs stereotypes of singlehood. Co-bloggers Lisa and Christina both identify as white, middle-class, heterosexual women who are single and happy, yet are tired of cultural stereotypes that suggest they're not supposed to be. Christina has an MA in English and an MFA in creative writing, but she still struggles with her participles and a tendency toward semicolon abuse. She enjoys redefining what it means to be a crazy cat lady. Lisa has an MFA in creative writing and is almost finished with a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition. She loves writing about singles issues because it gives her a break from what she writes in "real life."

 

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. She is a visiting professor at UCSB.

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