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May 8, 2014

SAGE Applauds New Guidance by ACL that Extends Benefits to Same-Sex Married Couples

Today's post is written by Aaron Tax, SAGE's SAGE’s Director of Federal Government Relations.

[Washington, DC] This week, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) announced how it will implement last year’s historic SCOTUS decision, United States v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, 2013. Specifically, the ACL issued guidance to its grantees that they must now follow a “place of celebration rule” and consider the terms “spouse”, “family”, and “relative” as being inclusive of same-sex married couples. 

This means that a couple who marries in Massachusetts and moves to Mississippi (where their marriage is not recognized) would still be considered married in the eyes of the federal government with respect to ACL programs. And in particular, any reference to the terms “spouse”, “family”, and “relative”, in the Older Americans Act, would apply to their relationship.  

The ACL grantees affected by this guidance include State Units on Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers, adult day care centers, home health agencies, organizations that deliver Meals on Wheels, and other entities that make up the aging network.  

Here are a few examples of how the ACL guidance will impact families: 

  • Historically, individuals in opposite-sex marriages who have become eligible for meal services at age 60, have been allowed to share those meal benefits with spouses younger than 60. Now, that benefit has also been extended to younger same-sex spouses. 
  • If older individuals do not have the capacity to direct case management services themselves, a family member can direct those services. That definition of “family member” now includes spouses from same-sex married couples.  
  • The Older Americans Act generally defines exploitation as someone with responsibility for an older adult (including a fiduciary or caregiver) acting in his or her self-interest, and against the best interest of the person being cared for.  The term “caregiver”, in this context, defines a number of types of individuals, including family members. That definition of “family member” is now inclusive of spouses from same-sex married couples.  
  • No individual shall be appointed Director of the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs if the individual, or any member of the immediate family of the individual, is subject to a conflict of interest.  That definition of “immediate family” is now inclusive of spouses from same-sex married couples.  
  • The ACL’s National Family Caregiver Support Program funds a range of supports that assist family and informal caregivers to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible.  The program provides information about available services, assistance in gaining access to the services, counseling and support groups,  training, respite care and supplemental services.  The definition of “family caregiver” is now inclusive of spouses from same-sex married couples.  

Read the full ACL guidance: http://www.acl.gov/Funding_Opportunities/Grantee_Info/docs/Community_Living_Guidance.pdf 

Read more about the SCOTUS decision, United States v. Windsor: http://sageusa.org/newsevents/release.cfm?ID=79 

Learn more about the ACL: http://acl.gov/About_ACL/Organization/Index.aspx

To learn more about this development, please contact Aaron Tax, SAGE’s Director of Federal Government Relations at atax@sageusa.org

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