Vets’ disability pay may be judged by Justices

by Staff | May 23rd, 2012

A disabled vet is asking the Supreme Court to consider whether states violate federal law when they allow divorce courts to count a veteran’s disability toward spousal support, reports the Sun Herald.

His petition also asks if federal law can bar state courts from considering Veterans Administration (VA) disability benefits as communal property or marital assets that may be divided up in divorce court.

After a 20 year marriage, an Air Force veteran and his wife got a divorce. An Oregon district judge considered the value of the veteran’s VA disability payments and awarded his wife $1000/month. Besides his VA benefits, his Social Security Disability Insurance is his only other income.

The veteran agued at trial that including his VA disability pay when calculating spousal support violates federal law. Title 38 Code, Section 5301 (a) makes VA benefits immune “from taxation, claims of creditors, attachment, levy and seizure.” This case brings up the question as to whether this same code protects VA disability pay from spousal support after a divorce?

The 1982 Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) allows courts to distribute “disposable” military retired pay as marital property, but the law excludes disability compensation from the definition of “net disposable income.”

In some situations, a divorced spouse may qualify for benefits based on Social Security Disability Insurance.

If you or someone you know needs help with Social Security Disability benefits, we have Social Security Disability resources that may help you. Contact the Social Security Disability lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin.

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