Federal officials outline new benefit options

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Associated Press

Posted on June 28, 2013 at 8:02 PM

Updated Saturday, Jun 29 at 9:02 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A wide range of federal benefits, from health insurance to flexible spending accounts, are now available to married gay and lesbian federal employees and their families following the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.

"These initial changes in federal benefits will make a meaningful, positive difference in the lives of many. But this is only the beginning," Attorney General Eric Holder said after the Office of Personnel Management issued guidance to federal agencies on Friday. Some of the benefit changes outlined in the guidance include:

—Participation in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program under a self or family option. A federal employee has until Aug. 26 to make immediate changes to his or her family's enrollment status. Participants can also make changes during the open-enrollment season later this year.

—Participation in the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Program, the largest group life insurance program in the world. Employees have until Aug. 26 to make changes to their enrollment status.

—Participation in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, which covers costs for such services as nursing home care, respite services and home care.

—Dental and vision insurance. Current enrollees may call directly to make the necessary changes. The number is 877-888-3337.

—Retirement. All retirees who are in legal same-sex marriages will have two years from the date of the Supreme Court's decision to inform OPM that they have a legal marriage that qualifies for recognition and elect any changes to their retirement benefits based on their marital status. Officials are also developing guidance to help retirees determine whether they should change their pension benefits to provide benefits for their surviving spouse. One factor they'll need to keep in mind is that it will likely result in a deduction to the monthly annuity that they currently receive.

—Flexible Spending Accounts. All employees in legal same-sex marriages can now submit claims for medical expenses for their spouse and any qualifying children.

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