In Georgia, many men and women have served in the military and can attest
to the effect this has on their lives. A disabled veteran is now questioning
whether state divorce courts are allowed to consider his disability benefits
when computing spousal support.
The veteran feels such an act by a state court violates federal law and
is now calling upon the U.S. Supreme Court to make a decision on this
issue. In his petition, he also asks the court to consider whether, under
federal law, a state court is allowed to treat Veterans Administration
disability benefits like any other marital asset in a divorce.
In connection with his experiences in the Air Force, this veteran suffers
from post-traumatic stress disorder. Due to his PTSD, he was granted VA
benefits. In 2010, he and his wife divorced. A district court judge determined
the amount of spousal support he had to pay and included consideration
of his VA disability benefits in the equation.
The Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the lower court.
Dissatisfied, the veteran's attorney decided to bring this issue before
the Supreme Court. In the eyes of his attorney, VA disability benefits
should be immune from spousal support calculations under the U.S. Code.
According to his attorney, state courts are split on their execution of
federal law. Other states seem to be ignoring federal law completely.
While his attorney acknowledges that many states do consider these benefits
when calculating spousal support, he doesn't think they should.
He argues that these benefits are for the veteran and veterans with families
receive a higher payment. While married, the spouse receives a portion
of this payment to compensate them for living with a disabled veteran.
However, once divorced, the spouse is no longer in that position. And
this veteran's lawyer argues the ex should no longer receive those benefits.
Arizona is currently about the only state to protect veterans' disability
benefits from spousal support computations. Should this petition succeed,
neither Georgia nor any other state will be allowed to consider VA benefits
when calculating spousal support.