Iraq War Veteran Stripped of Benefits For Wife and Child Because of Where They Live

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Melissa Perkins-Fercha fought for our country in the Iraq war, but now she is being forced to fight the system in America.

After serving in the military for five years, including during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Melissa Perkins-Fercha left active duty and received a 50 percent disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Perkins-Fercha and her wife went to Washington where they were legally married in 2012. Her wife gave birth to the couple’s daughter in El Paso, Texas in 2014. Shortly thereafter, Perkins-Fercha added her wife and daughter as dependents on her VA benefits plan, according to AMPA.

The VA sent a letter to Perkins-Fercha telling her that it could not legally add her wife and child as dependents because the couple lived in Texas, which does not recognize same-sex marriages.

The VA  failed to remove the dependents from Perkins-Fercha’s record, so the benefits she received included compensation for her wife and child.

Perkins-Fercha twice appealed the VA’s denial of her family, but it wasn’t until this month that she received another letter informing her that all of her disability benefits would be withheld until the compensation which the VA mistakenly overpaid was “paid back in full,” reports AMPA.

Perkins-Fercha expressed her feelings on the VA’s decision to the American Military Partner Association (AMPA):

“I was shocked, angry, and hurt all at once,” Perkins-Fercha toldthe American Military Partner Association (AMPA).

“Who are they to tell me that my marriage is not valid and my daughter is not mine? More importantly, how does the rest of the federal government recognize my marriage and daughter but the Department of Veterans Affairs does not?”

AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack was outraged by the situation. “Nothing angers me more than to find out a veteran is being denied earned veterans benefits and compensation for the sole reason they live in a state that does not respect their marriage or family,” She said.

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“No veteran should be treated like this. Melissa put her life on the line for our country, and now our country is telling her that her family doesn’t count just because her spouse happens to be the same sex.”

In August 2014, AMPA filed a federal lawsuit against the VA’s continued reliance on Title 38, which denies veterans with same-sex spouses equal benefits. That lawsuit is currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

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