USFSPA and Divorce Update 20

Posted: March 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

Currently, an extremely heated debate is taking place every day in court rooms nationwide. The argument centers on the misuse of veteran’s disability compensation as ‘income’ in a divorce settlement from which alimony is to be paid. On one side of the battle are civil court judges, family law attorneys, Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS), and state BAR associations nationwide. On the other side of the fight is a little known grassroots veterans advocacy group Operation Firing For Effect (OFFE), and every man and woman ever injured in the line of duty or wounded on the battlefield, past, present, and future. Family law professionals claim disability compensation is ‘income’ and therefore can be used to pay alimony.
When a soldier is critically wounded in combat it can be a devastating life changing experience and can reduce a once vibrant physically-fit individual to a severely disabled person facing a lifetime of pain, medication, disfigurement, and psychological anguish. As a small token of our country’s appreciation for this distinguished service and sacrifice made by our military personnel our country bestows one of our nation’s highest awards upon that military member, the Purple Heart Medal. In addition to this honor, we also award disability ratings and financial compensation to help a disabled veteran overcome the inability to be gainfully employed and to help them achieve their earning potential as if they were not disabled at all. This veteran’s disability compensation award comes directly from American tax payers via the U.S. Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and is intended solely and wholly for use by the individual injured in the line of duty. Both the Purple Heart Medal and disability compensation are paid for with the veteran’s blood, sweat, and tears. Any combat wounded soldier will tell you they hold their disability compensation ‘award’ just as sacred and hollowed as their Purple Heart ‘award’; as they are both one in the same.
According to Las Vegas, Nevada Attorney at Law, Marshal Willick, “Zoo keepers “put their lives on the line,” as do construction workers, cops, fire-fighters, and a host of others… The source of the disability is simply irrelevant to the distribution of benefits and burdens after such a disability. If there is disability income, it is the separate property of the individual receiving it, meant to compensate for future lost wages – but it is income. Sorting out who should get, and pay, what, among the individual facts of individual cases, is what divorce courts are for.” OFFE National Chairman, Gene D. Simes takes issue with Willick’s statement. Who gets veteran’s disability compensation, when they get it, and how much they receive is the duty and responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs, not Marshal Willick or some civil court judge. Simes proposes this question; since the veteran’s disability compensation and Purple Heart Medal are both ‘awarded’ for the same combat incident, does that mean an ex-spouse is entitled to receive half of the veteran’s Purple Heart Medal as well as their disability compensation?
Veteran’s disability compensation is tax exempt and is not defined as ‘income’ by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nor the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. Simes says disabled veterans are being forced to give up their disability compensation to pay alimony, or go to jail. Thus far, nine members of OFFE have been incarcerated for refusing to honor court orders which use their disability compensation to pay their ex-spouse support. Four more OFFE members are facing incarceration within the next two weeks. Simes points out the federal laws on the books which prohibit veteran’s disability benefits from attachment, garnishment, seizure, or levy under any legal process whatsoever. OFFE has traced these federal statues back to the founding of this country, and it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that slick attorneys figured out ways to get around these federal laws and misuse veteran’s disability benefits as income to calculate alimony.
OFFE legal analyst, Simon Alvarado says our disabled veterans are being victimized every day in court rooms across the country. In many of these cases the disabled veteran is stripped of not only half of their disability compensation, but they are also being ordered to pay their ex-spouse’s legal fees as well. According to Alvarado, veteran’s disability compensation does not belong to the veteran. That money belongs to the American tax payer, and Alvarado is convinced tax payers don’t want their tax dollars diverted to ineligible non-military able body third parties in civil courts by a few low life attorneys looking to line their own pockets.
Marshal Willick has been credited as being one of the principle architects of the strategies and legal techniques used to strip disabled veterans of their earned disability compensation in a divorce. Although Willick never spent a day in military service, he wrote the very first textbook on the subject, “Military Retirement Benefits in Divorce: A Lawyer’s Guide to Valuation and Distribution” for the American Bar Association in 1998. Additionally, he has written articles and taught continuing legal education (CLE) seminars on the subject for over 20 years. In 2007, Willick authored another handbook titles; “Hitting the Jackpot in Pension Cases: Secrets to getting the Retirement Share your Client Deserves”. Apparently, Mr. Willick considers going after a veteran’s retirement pay and disability compensation as gambling or game of chance. In these two publications Willick divulges what he refers to as “secrets” on how to drain every penny possible from a retired military veteran, including any disability compensation the veteran may be receiving, or will receive in the future.
OFFE is currently monitoring over 155 cases of veteran’s disability compensation abuse across the country. Simes and OFFE volunteers have spent thousands of hours and traveled tens of thousands of miles researching this issue over the past nine years. The OFFE team has made seven trips to Washington, DC lobbing for enforcement of USC, Title 38, section 5301. OFFE members have also conducted lobbing efforts at the state level to create legislation which would enhance the federal protection of veteran’s disability compensation in a divorce. However, to date, the most heard response from Capitol Hill has been; that’s a state issue, and from state representatives; that’s a federal issue, thus leaving any resolution to the problem in limbo at this time. Simes says Willick, and attorneys who prescribe to Willick’s distorted methods and perverted tactics are directly responsible for homelessness, mental anguish, and suicide among our former military personnel. Unfortunately, there are several words our military personnel live by which this self-proclaimed expert on military issues will never know the meaning of; ‘Duty’, ‘Honor’, ‘Integrity’, ‘Pride’, ‘Respect’, and ‘Commitment’. For more information, contact Gene Simes at; (315) 986-7322. [Source: Veterans Today Jere Berry article 26 Feb 2012 ++]


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