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Should VA disability benefits be used in spousal support?

Veteran's Administration (VA) disability benefits, as Pennsylvania veterans who may receive these benefits may know, are exempt from taxation as well as claims by creditors, attachment, or seizure. However, can VA disability benefits be considered when calculating spousal support in the event of a divorce?

One veteran has questioned whether this practice is legal after it was ruled that he must pay $1,000 per month in spousal support when his only income is from VA disability benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance totaling $4,400 a month.

The veteran suffers from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his service and, as a result, is unable to hold any form of employment. It is argued among some that the VA disability benefits he receives are intended to benefit both the veteran and his family who make sacrifices by living and caring for the disabled veteran, and thus should continue to benefit the family in any subsequent divorce. However, others point out that a family is no longer making this sacrifice when a divorce occurs. Any additional funds the veteran could have been receiving to benefit additional members would have stopped as soon as the divorce was official, as traditionally happens in these cases.

It is claimed that the veteran's former spouse has disabilities of her own; however, none of these are as a result of military service, and thus it is argued that she would have to seek disability benefits from another source. A conclusion of this case has not been indicated and is awaiting a determination by the U.S. Supreme Court, though some states have begun to make adjustments to legislation in order to separate disability benefits like these from marital property to be split in the event of a divorce. Pennsylvania veterans who find themselves in similar situations may benefit from being fully aware of current and future legislation that may affect the inclusion of their disability benefits in calculating spousal support.

Source: HeraldNet.com, "Ruling sought on split of military benefits in divorce," Tom Philpott, May 21, 2012

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