“[J]udges nationwide have routinely ignored the U.S. Code and calculated veterans” disability compensation into divorce settlements as a divisible asset and…in calculating child support awards. Very often these payments are the only assets a veteran may have. Unlawful attachment creates great hardship for those veterans who rarely have the resources to hire legal help to contest the taking of their benefits.”
One of the reasons Fathers & Families has partly focused on California legislation is that because of the state’s influence and prestige, the successes we’ve had in California often spread to other states.
For example, in 2005, Fathers & Families and its legislative representative Michael Robinson successfully worked to pass SB 1082 to protect military parents’ custody rights. Since 2005 similar legislation has been passed in dozens of states, often with our assistance, and we’ve also had some success with federal legislation on this issue.
Now Fathers & Families and Robinson are again spearheading important family court reform legislation, this time to protect disabled veteran fathers from child support and alimony abuses. Last year we helped pass California SB 285 to protect disabled veterans’ VA disability compensation from being seized, attached, levied, or divided for child support or alimony. SB 285, sponsored by Democratic Senator Rod Wright, added an existing federal statute, 38 U.S.C. 5301, to California’s Codes of Civil Procedure.
Advocates and legislators from several other states have contacted us about SB 285, seeking to pass similar legislation in their states. The first is Arizona House Member Frank Antenori’s HB 2348. Robinson worked with Major Mark Beres, USAF (retired), who is associated the American Retirees Association and helped craft the newly-introduced bill. The bill currently has 13 co-sponsors and is likely to pick up more as the legislation proceeds.
F & F is also working with advocates and legislators on legislation in Texas and New Mexico, and is laying the groundwork for legislation in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, and Illinois. It also appears that a failed 2009 legislative effort in Iowa has been revived by CA. SB 285’s passage. In addition, a U.S. Congressman has taken up this issue and we are helping him craft a federal bill which we expect will be introduced in the near future.
Senator Rod Wright’s Fact Sheet for SB 285 explains:
Although United States Code, Title 38, Section 5301 is very clear in its wording and intent, civil court judges nationwide, including courts in California have routinely ignored the U.S. Code and calculated veterans” disability compensation into divorce settlements as a divisible asset and not treated the same as SSI in calculating child support awards. Very often these payments are the only assets a veteran may have. Unlawful attachment creates great hardship for those veterans who rarely have the resources to hire legal help to contest the taking of their benefits.
Veterans” service-connected disability compensation is intended to financially compensate a military veteran disabled in the line of duty. This compensation is not an asset, or property, and should not be used to calculate a veteran”s net worth. Disability compensation is awarded to a veteran that has lost some/all physical or mental ability to work, or maintain a daily routine. Veteran”s disability compensation is tax exempt and not classified as ‘income” by the IRS. VA disability compensation is non-transferable and cannot be awarded to a third party under any legal process whatsoever. Even after the veteran has deposited these funds into their personal bank account they are federally protected from attachment or seizure. Disability compensation belongs solely to the disabled veteran that has suffered the disability…
By restating federal law governing veterans disability benefits in the Family Code attorneys, judges and government officials will get clear notice such assets are protected from attachment. This should help avoid unnecessary hardship and litigation for veterans who frequently do not have the legal resources to contest an unlawful seizure.