Veterans Benefits in Divorce

Former military members may be eligible to receive a number of different veterans benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Possible benefits include disability compensation, pension benefits, life insurance, educational benefits and more. Veterans benefits cannot be divided as an asset in a divorce case. This is due to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). The Pennsylvania Divorce Code confirms this rule. Under 23 Pa. Section 3501(a), discussing the definitions for marital benefits, veterans benefits exempt from attachment, levy or seizure are defined as non-marital.

VA disability payments are non-marital as are any military disability retirement payments. When discussing which benefits should be classified as non-marital, the statute goes on to draw a distinction as it relates to benefits received in lieu of military retired pay. Specifically, veterans benefits may be considered marital to the extent that a service member has waived military retired pay to receive the veteran benefit. This is because military retired pay is subject to distribution as a marital asset so any benefit received in exchange for their retired pay should be treated the same way. Veterans should also be aware that disability payments can be considered as income for an alimony award.

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