USAA Will Provide Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses of Service Members in Mass.
Individuals who had their insurance coverage denied by the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) because their spouse was of the same sex will now be offered memberships following an agreement with the organization, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
In an assurance of discontinuance, filed in Suffolk Superior Court this week, USAA has agreed to provide equal insurance benefits and membership to any same-sex currently unmarried widow, widower, or divorced spouse of a USAA member whom it improperly denied membership in the past. USAA has also agreed to pay $50,000 to the Commonwealth.
Membership to USAA is generally limited to current and former members of any branch of the United States military, the children of these service members, and unmarried widows, widowers, and divorced spouses of USAA members. Normally, when a spouse is a member, the other spouse is a beneficiary, and a death or divorce makes that beneficiary eligible for his or her own membership.
"We have marriage equality in Massachusetts, and same-sex couples should have the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples," AG Coakley said. "USAA will now offer equal insurance benefits to all of those who are eligible, including to same-sex widows of service members."
The AG's Office launched an investigation into USAA's practices after a complaint was filed by a widower who alleged that USAA dropped his insurance coverage after his spouse, a USAA member, passed away.
Although Massachusetts has licensed marriages between same-sex couples since 2004, USAA did not recognize marriages between same-sex spouses in Massachusetts until July 2012 and, instead, relied on the federal definition of marriage found in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) when making eligibility determinations. As a result, when a same-sex marriage ended in Massachusetts, by either the death or divorce of a USAA member, USAA did not offer membership to the unremarried same-sex widow, widower, or divorced spouse, unless that individual was otherwise eligible for membership.
AG Coakley has been a leader in the fight for marriage equality for many years. In July 2009, Massachusetts filed a complaint alleging that DOMA violated the U. S. Constitution by interfering with the Commonwealth's sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents. Massachusetts was the only state in the nation ever to challenge DOMA's constitutionality.
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court declared DOMA unconstitutional, ensuring that federal benefits and protections will now be extended equally to married same-sex couples in Massachusetts and throughout the country.
The case with USAA was handled by Monica Brookman, Deputy Chief of the AG's Insurance and Financial Services Division.