Treatment of Veterans’ Benefits

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. Additionally, the veteran gets to decide how to use educational benefits and who to designate as beneficiary for their life insurance.

Veterans benefits can be classified as income for purposes of determining a child support award; specifically, disability payments. The disability payments are intended to compensate the veteran for lost earnings and to support their family. There are restrictions as to when veterans’ benefits can be garnished. In the event the benefits cannot be garnished, that does not mean that the veteran is not still responsible for the support payments as determined by the guidelines.

Copies of the current support order and records of any arrears owed and former payment history will need to be supplied to the VA to review as evidence when making its determination on whether garnishment is appropriate and a reasonable amount to be garnished.