In an Oval Office event later today, President Barack Obama will sign a Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination. The Memorandum follows a review by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management ant [sic] the Secretary of State regarding what benefits may be extended to the same-sex partners of federal employees in the civil service and the foreign service within the confines of existing federal laws and statutes.
Over the past several months, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Secretary of State have conducted internal reviews to determine whether the benefits they administer may be extended to the same-sex partners of federal employees within the confines of existing laws and statutes. Both identified a number of such benefits.
For civil service employees, domestic partners of federal employees can be added to the long-term care insurance program; supervisors can also be required to allow employees to use their sick leave to take care of domestic partners and non-biological, non-adopted children. For foreign service employees, a number of benefits were identified, including the use of medical facilities at posts abroad, medical evacuation from posts abroad, and inclusion in family size for housing allocations.
The Presidential Memorandum to be signed today will request that the Director of OPM and the Secretary of State act to extend to same-sex partners of federal employees the benefits they have identified. The Memorandum will also request the heads of all other executive branch departments and agencies to conduct internal reviews to determine whether other benefits they administer might be similarly extended, and to report the results of those reviews to the Director of OPM.
The Memorandum will also direct OPM to issue guidance within 90 days to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with, and implementation of, the civil service laws, which make it unlawful to discriminate against federal employees or applicants for federal employment on the basis of factors not related to job performance.
Some worries that are now facts:
- This is a memorandum, not an Executive Order. As soon as President Obama leaves office, the benefits evaporate.
- Spouses of foreign-based employees are allowed to go to the base hospital.
- Gay employees of the government may take off time to care for their partners, but they’d better hope their partner has their own health insurance.
- Health insurance is not covered. For the uninitiated, “long-term care (LTC) insurance” is NOT health insurance per se. LTC is generally used by the elderly and is limited to nursing home and skilled home nursing care. LTC does NOT cover doctor visits, prescriptions, surgeries, and other standard health insurance expenses. The federal LTC Program DOES cover parents of employees and their spouses. From the federal Office of Personnel Management:
The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) provides long term care insurance to help pay for costs of care when enrollees need help with activities they perform every day, or you have a severe cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Most Federal and U.S. Postal Service employees and annuitants, active and retired members of the uniformed services, and their qualified relatives are eligible to apply for insurance coverage under the FLTCIP.
Most employees must be eligible for the FEHB Program in order to apply for coverage under the FLTCIP. It does not matter if they are actually enrolled in FEHB – eligibility is the key. Annuitants do not have to be eligible or enrolled in the FEHB Program. Certain medical conditions, or combinations of conditions, will prevent some people from being approved for coverage. You must apply to find out if you are eligible to enroll.
It’s important to note that spouses of active military personnel are theoretically covered by federal LTC insurance. Of course, if an active servicemember’s partner were to apply, the servicemember would be drummed out of the military,making gay servicemembers and their partners effectively ineligible for LTC insurance. Hey look, they just added a new effect of DADT!
So as I said in the last post, this is a nice gesture. LTC insurance is a much bigger deal than many people think, but it ain’t health insurance, and that’s what people need first and foremost.
Frankly, we’re not interested in nice gestures, especially ones with a lot of footnotes and exclusions. It’s time for real action and real leadership. Is President Obama up for the task? So far, the answer is no.
UPDATE: And now, less than an hour before the signing is supposed to happen, I find out that these aren’t even new benefits in the first place. They’ve been available for YEARS.