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U.S. Supreme Court decides on military retirement benefits case

Veterans, military members and their non-service member spouses who reside in or are stationed in Missouri and are getting a divorce will undoubtedly have questions about how their benefits will be allocated when the case is decided. Divorce issues are complicated, but when there is a dispute over military benefits, it is of greater difficulty. A case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court was decided and it will have an influence on how a military divorce and its benefits are handled.

The decision by the highest court in the land ruled that states are not allowed to increase the amount the former spouse will get out of the veteran's retirement pay to account for lost benefits that were part of a necessary waiver to get disability. The couple in question got divorced more than 25 years ago. The husband was a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force when he retired in 1992. They began getting retirement pay the year after and it was split as part of the divorce.

The husband claimed that he suffered from a degenerative issue in his shoulder and it was due to his service. The claim was approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2005. He was eligible for disability payments from the VA and decided to take them. For that, he had to waive the equal amount from his retirement pay so he would not get double payments.

His wife subsequently had the amount she received as part of the divorce settlement reduced. She filed a case four years ago to try and have the divorce decree enforced and receive full retirement payments again. The Arizona court decided in her favor. The case was affirmed in Arizona Supreme Court. However, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision based on the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act.

This decision is important for military members and their spouses to understand particularly with many people coming back from service with injuries that might eventually lead to them getting disability from the VA. To have a fuller understanding of this decision and help with a case involving military retirement benefits, a lawyer can be essential.

Source: courthousenews.com, "Justices Clarify Benefits in Military Divorce Case," Kevin Lessmiller, May 15, 2017

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