Friday, August 07, 2009

USAID follows suit

We knew that when State extended benefits to same-sex partners, many of the agencies that come under Chief of Mission authority while overseas would follow suit. USAID is the first. The announcement below came out Tuesday...yes, I am slow getting it out. My AID friends let me down! :)

USAID/General Notice

Subject: Implementing Benefits for Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Foreign Service Employees Serving Overseas

This past June, Secretary Clinton announced that the Department of State is extending the full range of legally available benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners of Foreign Service employees serving overseas. We are pleased to announce that USAID is joining the Department of State in implementing this new policy. In addition, we are including U.S. Personal Services Contractors (USPSCs) posted overseas.

Extending such benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners will help USAID attract and retain well qualified-staff in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits are becoming increasingly prevalent.

The following Q&As detail the new policy and procedures USAID employees must follow in order to obtain benefits. M/OAA will issue separate guidance for USPSCs in the near future.

1. What specific changes are being made and how are they being implemented?

To implement this new policy, the Department of State made interim changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) effective June 26, 2009. The interim changes to the Standardized Regulations (DSSR) carry an effective date of July 5, 2009. For additional information, refer to 09 STATE 066740 (Attachment 1) and 09 State 067315 (Attachment 2).

The interim changes to the FAM and DSSR permit same-sex domestic partners of Foreign Service employees to qualify as family members for a variety of benefits and allowances. These benefits and allowances include:

• Diplomatic passports;
• Inclusion on employee travel orders to and from overseas posts;
• Shipment of household effects;
• Inclusion in family size calculations for the purpose of making housing allocations;
• Family member preference for overseas employment;
• Use of medical facilities at posts overseas;
• Medical evacuation from posts overseas;
• Emergency travel for partners to visit gravely ill or injured employees and relatives;
• Inclusion as family members for emergency evacuation from posts overseas;
• Subsistence payments related to emergency evacuation from posts overseas;
• Inclusion in calculations of payments of overseas allowances (for example, payment for quarters, cost of living,
and other allowances);
• Representation expenses, and
• Training at the Foreign Service Institute.

Where appropriate, this extension of benefits and allowances will apply to the children of same-sex domestic partners, as well.

Interim changes to the FAM and DSSR may be accessed from the Office of Human Resources’ Web page at Employees should review these changes to understand the full range of benefits and allowances extended to same-sex domestic partners of Foreign Service employees serving overseas.

2. What is the process for obtaining benefits?

To obtain benefits for their same-sex domestic partners, employees must file an affidavit of eligibility for benefits and obligations (Attachment 3) and update their OF-126, Residence and Dependency Report.

Consistent with criteria set forth in 3 FAM 1610, the affidavit must affirm, among other things, that the employee and his or her domestic partner:

• are each other’s sole domestic partner and intend to remain committed to one another indefinitely;
• have a common residence and intend to continue the arrangement;
• are at least 18 years of age and mentally competent to consent to contract;
• share responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s common welfare and financial obligations;
• are not married to, joined in civil union with, or domestic partners with anyone else; and
• are same-sex domestic partners and not related in a way that would prohibit legal marriage in the State in which
they reside.

3. What are the next steps?

Foreign Service employees who seek benefits for their same-sex domestic partners should work with their servicing Human Resources Specialist in OHR/FSP. To obtain benefits, employees must provide OHR/FSP staff with the following:

• An affidavit of eligibility for benefits and obligations (Attachment 3); and

• An amended Residency and Dependency Report (Form OF-126) to add “domestic partner” in the box requesting “relationship.” The OF-126 may be accessed from the Agency’s Forms Web page. Employees may file these forms immediately.

Domestic partners must also comply with the same security requirements and undergo the same background check as spouses. Domestic partners must also have a valid medical clearance for the post of assignment. Those already at post should follow the procedures for a newly acquired dependent. They will be given access to the overseas health unit for up to 90 days pending completion of their medical clearance. It is important to note that domestic partners must have health insurance, as the Agency acts only as a secondary payer in the event of overseas hospitalization.

4. Where can I find additional information?

The Office of Human Resources has developed a Web page with various references and documents. This information is located at Additional instructions and guidance will be provided in the near future regarding specific benefits.

Attachments: (1) 09 STATE 066740
(2) 09 STATE 067315
(3) Affidavit

Alonzo L. Fulgham
Acting Administrator

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