Disabled Military Retirees May Pay Less to Ex-Spouses - U.S. Supreme Court Rules

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Changes in regulations for various types of pay and compensation reduce or increase often based on the rulings that occur through district and supreme courts. In the newest ruling, the amounts that military retired service members pay to spouses that divorced prior to or during retirement may decrease to support the veteran more and the ex-spouse less.

Military benefits after the person retires may sustain a division by half when the person has an ex-spouse. The previous laws through Congress and acts created for these situations let so much of the military service memberís benefits face divisions and cuts to the previous spouse. These are usually for the support of the spouse or any children from the relationship if the military person is not a primary parent with sole or greater joint custody. With new rulings through the Supreme Court, these payments may change to a lower amount to support the military veteran more.

The Payment Change

The retirement payment to the military service member may suffer division to the ex-spouse, and this may suffer increases through lower courts in specific states based on the divorce proceedings. Some veterans may face higher retirement cuts with compensation through disability pay. However, through the Supreme Court, these lower courts are not able to order this to occur with extra payments and compensation through disability. This may change which military accounts and payments are part of marital assets. When a retirement account removed from this process increase the amount the veteran receives, the marital assets decrease overall.


The Uniformed Services Former Spousesí Protection Act ensures that spouses that divorce military members still receive benefits such as retirement pay. The division of retirement accounts or programs benefit the ex-spouse by as much as half of the funds received. Pensions and other plans may exist as marital assets through this Act. When obtaining disability and the retirement account funds, the military member entering or in full retirement may offset how he or she receives based on certain factors and paperwork. This could affect the amount received by the ex-spouse, and without new rulings, these actions could complicate matters.

Offsets Explained

Through receiving both federal pension and disability pay, a veteran may offset what funds he or she acquires by up to 50 percent. This reduces one by providing more with the other. Many retirees obtain more disability instead of the full military pension because the pensions have taxes taken out while disability payments do not have these taxed payments taken from the full amount. Additionally, disability pay is not a marital asset, and the veteran may see less of his or her income transferred to an ex-spouse when offsetting his or her monthly funds. Then, the former spouse is not receiving as much.

When a veteran from military service faces splitting his or her income with an ex-spouse that did not remarry before 55, he or she may need to offset income to ensure he or she has enough to live on based on the state in which he or she has residence. Because before the Supreme Court ruling the veteran could pay up to half of his or her retirement account funds, he or she may find life difficult to manage without any other source of funds. Offsetting these circumstances become necessary to improve the quality of life.

The Ruling and Legal Support

The ruling is important to veterans and their affairs. The requirements to provide an ex-spouse with income was not consistent throughout the country. The changes will ensure that each state has the same standard. Some states have rules that forced retirees to pay for the lost income an ex-spouse has in his or her household. Additional factors include the offset aspects of retirement income. However, the negative impact to former spouses is usually only found when the veteran receives only disability and little to no pension funds. This type of offset may bypass the ruling entirely. With reductions in retirement payments to ex-spouses, the retired military member may improve his or her quality of life.

It is important to seek legal advice and help when the ruling affects the veteran negatively. It is possible that the state laws affect his or her circumstances without taking into consideration the new Supreme Court ruling. Legal representation will protect the former military memberís rights and ensure he or she may receive the full amount of retirement benefits as fitting this new ruling.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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