In recent news, a disabled veteran has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider whether individual states should be allowed to consider a veteran’s disability compensation in calculating spousal support; and additionally whether federal law bars state courts from considering Veterans Administration disability benefits communal property to be divided in divorce like other marital assets.
This case involves the divorce of Peter James Barclay, an Air Force veteran, wherein an Oregon district court judge in 2010 considered the value of Peter Barclay’s VA disability payments in awarding spousal pay of $1,000 a month. He was married for nearly 20 years and his only income comes from VA benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance, a tax-free total of just more than $4,400 a month. Barclay, 42, suffers from post-traumatic stress from his role as a Tinker Air Force Base first-responder to the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, Okla. Subsequent PTSD made him unemployable and eligible to draw VA compensation at the 100 percent disabled rate.
Barclay argued at trial that to include his disability pay in calculating spousal support would violate federal law. The court ignored that argument and the Oregon court of appeals affirmed the decision. Following an appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to consider whether Title 38 U.S. Code, Section 5301(a), which makes VA disability benefits immune “from taxation, claims of creditors, attachment, levy and seizure,” also doesn’t bar inclusion of disability pay, directly or indirectly, in spousal support calculations.
What is your opinion on this subject? Do you think that states are ignoring the federal law or do you think disability pay is designed to compensate solely the veteran for loss of income because of a service-connected medical condition?
This situation is further confused by the fact that different states follow different rules regarding veteran disability benefits.
I would love to hear your opinion about this or you can share your personal story.
Story source, Tom Philpott, Military Update