VA Grants Benefits to Lesbian Widow of Fallen Soldier

Nearly two years after her wife died in Afghanistan, an Iraq veteran and National Guard member says the Department of Veterans Affairs will recognize her rights as a widow.

BY Michelle Garcia

May 19 2014 12:12 PM ET

Donna and Tracy Johnson

A woman whose wife was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan in October 2012 has announced that she will receive the same benefits that heterosexual widowed spouses of fallen soldiers receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Tracy Dice Johnson, who was a North Carolina National Guard member and Iraq War veteran, revealed the news at the American Military Partner Association's inaugural National Gala Dinner Saturday in Washington, D.C. She said the Department of Veterans Affairs "decided to retroactively recognize" her.

"Of course, there remains more work to be done," she said, according to the organization. "Throughout this ordeal, my biggest goal has been to get the Army to change Donna's death certificate to recognize our marriage. That goal has not yet been achieved. However, this decision from the Department of Veterans Affairs is an important step towards our end goal of achieving equal treatment for all military families."

According to the organization, Tracy Dice Johnson is the first known same-sex war widow. However, while the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States allowed the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages, the VA had a policy of not recognizing the marriages of gay and lesbian veterans living in states without marriage equality.

Her wife, Army staff sergeant Donna R. Johnson, 29, was killed two years ago, when a man riding a motorcycle packed with explosives rammed into a group of soldiers on patrol in Khost, Afghanistan. The suicide bomber was identified as a member of the Taliban.

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