Navy vet sues over denial of disability benefits for same-sex spouse


By Published: October 12, 2011

Carmen Cardona, an 18-year Navy veteran, is challenging the constitutionality of federal laws defining marriage as being between opposite-sex partners after the Department of Veterans Affairs ruled that she is not entitled to the usual spousal increase in disability benefits because her spouse is a woman, The New York Times reported.

Cardona is rated 80 percent disabled by the VA, according to the Times story. Disabled servicemembers who have dependent spouses, children or parents are eligible for supplemental payments.

But when Cardona applied for an increase in her benefits after marrying her wife in 2010, the VA rejected her application, citing a federal statue that defines a spouse as "a person of the opposite sex."

Cardona and her legal team intend to appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, a special federal court in Washington that handles disputes over veterans benefits. They will argue that the government’s definition violates her Fifth Amendment right to due process and will dispute the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Times reported.

Legal experts told the Times the case would be the first time a plaintiff has taken on DOMA in a veterans appeals court.

Read more about this case in The New York Times