Mistreatment of Divorced Military Veterans
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  1. #1

    Mistreatment of Divorced Military Veterans

    I am writing this, as I want to bring attention to what is happening to me and my fellow servicemembers regarding military retirements and disability compensation. Members of the military receive a lot of support and gratitude from patriotic Americans, but I donít believe the general public is aware of what is happening to those of us who've served.

    I am a disabled servicemember who spent 36 years defending our country as part of the Marine Corps Reserve and have earned a retirement based on my years of service, rank achieved, and total reserve points earned. I married in my 15th year in the Marine Corps and my ex-wife divorced me in my 31st year. In 1982, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) which allows states to divide military retirements between spouses upon divorce. During military retirement, servicemembers are on standby in the event of a need for recall to active duty. Since this retirement income is earned after service (and in my case post-divorce), it is not legal in California, yet most judges and attorneys don't understand this and many of them don't seem to care. In my and many other service memberís cases the service member is left struggling to pay bills and make ends meet.

    Before I was married, I attained the rank of Gunnery Sergeant (E7) and at the time I divorced, was a Chief Warrant Officer 3, and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 4. In my divorce process, my ex-wife demanded a portion of my retired pay, even though she never served in the military and will not be offering anything to the taxpayer. Although the states are allowed to consider military retirement as property, they are not like pensions, as the requirements are that servicemembers are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and subject to recall at any time for the rest of their lives.

    Regardless of this fact, it is not legal under California law for any former spouse to receive any portion the servicemember earned before marriage or after divorce. Unfortunately, this is what happened to me through an uncaring and unbalanced court process. My ex-wife was awarded 50% of my entire 36 years of service, even though we were married in my 15th year and divorced in my 31st year. Using what is called the Time Rule, she should only be receiving about 25% of the marital portion (about $382), but due to the error instituted by the courts, she will receive about $1800/month for the rest of her life. This was an error on the part of the court and the attorney who prepared the order. My ex-wife knew it was incorrect and that it is a windfall in her favor, but has fought me in court to keep it the way it is because she does not want to work.

    The court ordered a third-party attorney to prepare what is called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to divide my military retirement benefits. There was nothing in my divorce decree stating that I was to provide a summary for points earned during my military career to this attorney (Richard Muir). Mr. Muir's office kept demanding it from me even though I was confused and unclear on what they were seeking and in what format. On more than one occasion, I attempted (via e-mail) to seek clarification from his office as to what information it wanted, but he and his staff would not provide the details I requested. His office went on to tell the court that I refused to provide the information. His office told me that by California law, the courts allow them to award my ex 50% of everything I earned if I didnít provide the information requested. While that information is not true, and the state does not legally have that authority since a military retirement is not an asset and has no value, it happened anyway and in my absence. The court erred and did not ask Attorney Muir for any evidence. I did not find out until a year later that it was accepted by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). Since there are many errors and unenforceable items in the QDRO, I believed it would have been rejected by DFAS.

    In addition to my ex-wife receiving 50% of my retirement, I have been ordered to pay for a survivor benefit plan for her. With the amount of my retirement that she will receive and the survivor benefit plan, she will actually receive more of my retirement than I will after my 36 years of service in the military.

    I recently filed a motion with the Riverside County Family Court in Hemet, CA in order to request a correction of the order, but the motion was denied, as my ex-wife and her attorney were able to falsify the information and convince the judge that it should stand. The judge did not weigh all the evidence, did not ask for verification of the information provided by my ex and opposing counsel, and did not seem to understand the illegality of the order.

    In addition to her receiving 50% of my entire 36 years of service, I have been ordered to pay alimony with calculations using my VA disability. I am rated at 100% disabled and am not employed, but have been paying support for the last 5 Ĺ years, as the court has used my VA disability compensation as income.

    It is illegal under Title 38 of the United States Code (38 USC Section 5301) to use VA disability as income, but it happens frequently in the family court system and leaves servicemembers who have limited earning capacities due to service-connected injuries, paying alimony to someone who didnít serve and who is able-bodied. This causes an additional financial and emotional strain on a number of servicemembers who already have issues with PTSD and other ailments.

    I am 55 years old and was planning to retire as soon as I start receiving my retirement later this year, but now will not be able to do so since this injustice has been done to me. I have been forced into involuntary servitude, and now must deal with a tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain while my ex-wife, who is 47 and refuses to work, takes multiple trips around the country and around the world. This includes separate trips to Italy, Alaska, Spain, Maui, NYC, Chicago, Texas, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Hawaii, New Zealand, etc. Clearly the amounts of money the courts have awarded my ex-wife go well beyond helping her to meet basic needs.

    Additionally she has her second brand new car in 5 years and does things I cannot afford to do because a large portion of my money goes to her. She will be receiving lifetime alimony in the way of my military retirement.

    Because I retired as a Reservist, I will not begin receiving pay until later this year when I'm 55 1/2. Generally Reservists cannot begin receiving retirement pay until age 60, but in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, Congress allowed reserve members to deduct from age 60, each active duty period of 90 consecutive days. Since I served a considerable amount of active duty time since 2008 (including a deployment to Afghanistan), I will be collecting earlier than originally planned. It will have been 37 years from the time I joined the Marine Corps in January of 1984 at the age of 18 until I begin receiving my retirement pay. Spouses who marry and divorce servicemembers do not have the burdens we do, nor do they have to wait a certain amount of time to collect. It is completely effortless on their part.

    I have been forced to work excessive hours despite my disabilities in order to support my ex-wife (until June of 2022) and myself even though we have no minor children and she is able-bodied. She has not taken any actions to obtain or secure work at any level. I understand there are ADA laws protecting disabled vets, so that is something I'm looking into. My disabilities are service connected and as such are compensation to help accommodate my medical conditions, and are not intended to support my ex-wife.

    Please understand that it is not my intention to gain sympathy from others nor do I seek any sort of crowdfunding or donations on my behalf. If I were to be allowed to keep my own money, I would do just fine. My intent is to bring awareness to the general public of the injustices with which those of us who serve our country are faced.

    Don Wenger
    CWO4 USMCR (Ret)

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  2. #2
    Super Moderator Platinum Member Mongoose's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    I think this is a crying shame. I don't know the laws, but, it seems to me you and those in your situation, are being screwed big time.

  3. #3
    Marine Free Member FistFu68's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    I hear You Marine !! I was married too Woman who got the Gold Mine and I got the $haft...funny how the Lord works in Mysterious wayís...I guess that night I stuck a 44mag in her mouth and Told Her Im not the Guy too F**K with She got the Message ? I paid for my Daughterís till they reached 18 but dam sure wasnt gonna give her a dime of the Cashish that me shedding my blood for so she could play F**K F**K...now Shes married too my Cousin lol Good Luck too Yah Marine Oh dont go pulling the Chit I did though !!

  4. #4
    I hear you,I was divorced and My ex got all...

  5. #5
    Gunner: MOVE out of CA.... find a state that is more sympathetic.. like Texas, get a good lawyer... regardless of WHAT some CA judge says, your VA disability CANNOT BE TOUCHED OR COUNTED AS INCOME!!!!!... file in another state, and if she does not show up in court, or send a representative, too bad... DFAS will follow the latest court order, but VA will tell the court and judge to go pi$$ up a rope.....

    Si vis pacem, para bellum

  6. #6
    Gunner: MOVE out of CA.... find a state that is more sympathetic.. like Texas, get a good lawyer... regardless of WHAT some CA judge says, your VA disability CANNOT BE TOUCHED OR COUNTED AS INCOME!!!!!... file in another state, and if she does not show up in court, or send a representative, too bad... DFAS will follow the latest court order, but VA will tell the court and judge to go pi$$ up a rope.....
    Yes, CA laws are only good when it comes on protecting celebrities or politicians. Everyone else is out of the list

  7. #7
    I agree with what has been said- this is not a fight I would give up on.

  8. #8
    Squad Leader Platinum Member Zulu 36's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    I'm glad not to have been divorced in CA. In Florida, my divorce judge knew VA disabilities were untouchable, but military retirement was fair game. I pay my Ex 50% of my military retirement and 50% of my police retirement. It would have been silly to make me pay 50% of my VA disability, if legal, as both of us are 100% and I could have claimed 50% of hers.

    The judge didn't require a QDRO as my Ex agreed to take direct payments from me. I've been very good about making those payments for nine years. The Ex and I actually get along pretty well now.

    Good luck with that crap in California.

  9. #9
    Damn, with all of my marriages it looks like I came out smelling like a rose. Tennessee and Florida are great states to live in.

  10. #10
    I don't know for sure how true it is, but I have heard that if a military member retires in the state of Kommiefornia, the state puts a lien on their retirement, as in taxes their retirement, regardless of their state of residence.... one reason why I made damn sure that I was NOT in Kommiefornia when I retired, and that I NEVER applied for or received a Kommiefornia DL or ID during any period when I was stationed there.....

    Si vis pacem, para bellum

  11. #11
    Agree with post above. I love Florida and going to relocate to this state

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