Navigating the VA Disability Compensation in Divorce
Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally draining process. This is especially true when one or both spouses are veterans. A significant concern that arises during divorce proceedings involving veterans is the treatment of VA disability compensation. This compensation is intended to provide financial support for service-related injuries or illnesses for the veteran only. However, its treatment during divorce can be a source of confusion and contention. We will explore the complexities surrounding VA disability compensation in divorce and offer general guidance on how to navigate this issue.
What Is VA Disability Compensation
VA disability compensation is a monetary payment provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to veterans who sustained injuries or developed medical conditions during their military service. The compensation is calculated based on the severity of the disability and its impact on the veteran's ability to work and perform daily duties. One key element to disability benefits is that it can change. It is very common for veterans to seek and qualify for additional disability compensation.
VA Disability Compensation in Divorce
Federal law prohibits disability compensation from being divided as community property. This benefit is intended for the military member only.
Some states have overridden this rule and consider disability benefits marital property and may be subject to division between the spouses. The actual monetary funds will only go to the veteran, however, it may be added to the total income of the veteran. In contrast, in other states, disability compensation is treated as separate property, and the non-veteran spouse may not be entitled to a share of it. An attorney experienced in military divorce can assist in the division of assets and finances without directly splitting the disability compensation.
Navigating VA Disability Compensation
Seek Experienced Legal Counsel: When facing a divorce that involves VA disability compensation, it is crucial to consult an experienced attorney in your state, who is well-versed in family law and veterans' affairs. Allow them to advocate on your behalf and educate you on the impact of disability benefits on the overall settlement. Make sure to ask the attorney how many military cases they have settled.
Seek an Equitable Distribution: Instead of directly dividing the disability compensation, if that is an option, consider an equitable distribution of other assets and debts during the divorce process. Equitable distribution aims to divide marital property fairly but not necessarily equally. This approach can help protect the veteran's disability benefits while ensuring an equitable settlement for both parties.
Work Toward an Agreement: If possible, try to negotiate a settlement with your spouse that addresses the concerns surrounding disability compensation. Mediation can be a valuable tool in finding a middle ground that respects the needs and rights of both parties involved. If your state does not allow separation of VA disability benefits, then you will need to look at other assets as a means of compensation.
Child Support and Alimony: In some cases, VA disability compensation may be factored into child support and alimony calculations. However, it's essential to consult with your attorney and consider the laws in your state, as these regulations can vary widely.
Safe Guarding Your Disability Benefits: If you are the disabled veteran, be proactive in protecting your VA disability compensation. Consider maintaining a separate account for the benefits and any funds you receive due to disability-related financial assistance. This will make the funds easier to account for regardless of the state of residence and/or divorce.
Divorce is a complex and emotionally charged event, and when VA disability compensation is involved, the situation can become even more challenging. To successfully navigate the VA disability compensation in divorce, it is crucial to seek experienced professional legal counsel who understands military laws in your state and is versed in considering alternative approaches to asset distribution. By focusing on good communication, cooperation, and respect during the divorce process, both parties can reach a settlement that ensures financial stability and addresses the unique needs of a disabled veteran.