VCU outlines benefits for same-sex employees

Kris Mason
Staff Writer

Since same-sex marriage was legalized in Virginia October 6, VCU benefits manager Daniel Jason’s life has been hectic, but he doesn’t mind.

His regular role includes dealing with a wide range of issues for employee benefits ranging from retirement to life insurance to disability insurance. However, the past few weeks has mainly been comprised of answering questions from VCU employees about what new benefits same-sex spouses can receive.

These questions have all been raised subsequent to the October 6 Supreme Court  decision to refuse to hear an appeal of the federal court in Richmond, Virginia. The decision to let stand the lower-court decision overturned the gay marriage ban in five states and same sex couples were then able to be legally married.

After the initial excitement of marriage, newlywed couples that are employed by VCU began to look for what benefits they could receive from the University in term of coverage of spouses. This is where Jason came into play.

He gave two information sessions on an benefit updates for VCU employees that have same-sex spouses. The first was held on the MCV campus on Thursday Oct. 23 and the second was held on Friday Oct. 24 on the Monroe Park campus.

“People wanted to immediately take advantage of the benefits for spouses that they had been waiting for for so long,” said Jason.

One of the primary new benefits of the Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear an appeal regarding gay marriage is the ability for same-sex employees to add their spouses to their healthcare plan, something that was previously only possible for opposite-sex couple.

Same-sex couples became eligible for coverage in the State Health Benefits Program and have to apply for the benefits. Faculty and staff who were married outside of Virginia before Oct. 6 have until Thursday, Dec. 4 to apply. Others have 60 calendar days after their marriage.

The primary benefit is the ability to add spouses or other newly eligible family members to their plan that weren’t previously eligible.

This is true for Amanda Carlson, a VCU technology services/ IT analyst .

“We’re gonna be able to pay for our daughter now and it’ll be paid for on my insurance, which will be cheaper than me and my wife covering,” she said.

However, they have to abide by the consistency rule, which states that if they add someone to plan that they can’t reduce coverage.

Another key addition to same-sex marriage couples is that they have the option of purchasing group life insurance. In order to be guaranteed a person must add a spouse to the insurance plan within the first 31 days of marriage. Couples married prior to Oct. 6 have until Nov. 5 to add their partner to their insurance plan.

“I think some people may have preferred that they got it in a more affirmative way than a passive way, but in the end they are very excited about it,” Jason said.

Ronald Lee , a VCU school of medicine administrative faculty member, was one of those people. He was married last December in New York and was pleased that the Supreme Court pushed the decision to the states rather than having a long, drawn-out legal process to decide.

“I was very happy and excited . It saves a lot of stress of waiting,” Lee said.

Jason feels like the court ruling will also have an overall positive development for VCU.

“A key part of VCU’s quest for distinction is recognizing diversity, and also recruiting and retaining the best possible faculty and staff for our students. There have been situations in which an inability to provide benefits for same-sex spouses has impacted our recruitment abilities of candidates. So this makes VCU a more attractive place to work for people who are looking for that,” Jason said.

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