Women » Features

DVA Recognizes Lesbian War Widow as a Surviving Spouse

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Friday Jun 13, 2014

The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation's premier organization for the partners and spouses of America's LGBT service members and veterans, is pleased to announce that after a long struggle for recognition, the Department of Veterans Affairs has decided to retroactively recognize the nation's first known same-sex war widow, Tracy Johnson, as the legal spouse of the late SSG Donna Johnson, who was killed in Afghanistan on October 1, 2012, by a suicide bomber.

This news was first shared in mid-May at the inaugural AMPA National Gala in Washington, DC, which led to a rousing standing ovation. At the gala, Tracy was awarded AMPA's 2014 Community Hero Award for her work in fighting for recognition of all LGBT military spouses.

"I'm delighted to share for the first time with my AMPA family some breaking news," said Tracy Johnson at the inaugural AMPA National Gala. "After a review of my case, the Department of Veterans Affairs has decided to retroactively recognize me as Donna's legal spouse."

Johnson said that there was more work to be done, including the goal of getting the Army to change Donna Johnson's death certificate to recognize the marriage. But she said that the decision from the Department of Veterans Affairs was an important step toward the end goal of achieving equal treatment for all military families.

"Tracy's recognition by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is hopefully a major breakthrough for our gay and lesbian veterans and their spouses trying to gain access to their earned benefits," echoed Stephen Peters, president of AMPA. "Even with the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor, it was believed that Title 38 section 103(c) was preventing the VA from granting legally married gay and lesbian veterans living in non-marriage equality states access to their earned benefits. There is still a great amount of uncertainty, but for the sake of our families, we hope that this is signaling a change in policy by the VA."

The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), a non-partisan and non-profit 501(c)3 organization, is the nation's largest resource and support network for LGBT military spouses, their families, and allies. Founded and led by same-gender military partners in 2009 as the Campaign for Military Partners, AMPA has grown to over 20,000 members and supporters and is committed to education, advocacy, and support for our "modern military families."

"This would not have been possible without your support. My AMPA family was there for me when the unthinkable happened, and you continue to be there for me and others as we walk our various paths together in service to this country," said Johnson.

For more information, visit www.militarypartners.org

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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