Tagged: military veterans

Poll: Obama Losing Ground Among Veterans

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

obama 01President Obama is hemorrhaging vet votes. That’s the takeaway from this story from Politco.com:

“The Obama campaign had been hoping that veterans and their families — especially among the post-Sept. 11 generation that served in Iraq and Afghanistan — would be part of their path to victory: They’re a high turn-out demographic and concentrated in battleground states, with nearly 1 million each in North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia, and 1.6 million in Florida.”

Veterans have long tended strongly to pull the lever for the GOP – going back to Reagan at least. But according to Politico, the Obama campaign thought that they could draw younger veterans – those who are veterans of the Global War on Terror – into the Obama fold.

Romney is winning the veteran vote by 20 percent. Obama had held a lead with Afghanistan and Iraq vets last spring – before the GOP even had a candidate. But Romney has pulled ahead substantially: 48 percent to 34 percent.

Why has Obama lost so much ground among younger veterans so quickly?

Well, as hinted above, one issue is that Obama polled better against a generic GOP candidate with this crew than against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. The previous polls were taken during the GOP primary, with the Republican candidates tearing each other apart in the press and in debates.

Once their negative ads on each other stop, and Republicans could rally around a candidate, more and more younger veterans began to accept Romney as a potential commander in chief.

Obama, on the other hand, is clearly struggling with the mission in Afghanistan. The formal Afghan surge ended ignominiously this week, just as Allied forces in Afghanistan are reeling from a spectacular insurgent attack that took out six Marine jets and a squadron commander. American forces have also abandoned joint patrolling with Afghan forces in the wake of a number of “green on blue” shootings.

As a result, the Administration is floundering without a strategy in Afghanistan. The Taliban has successfully short-circuited a key element of U.S. engagement there. Afghanistan veterans are going to weigh this much more heavily than arcane fights about pension reforms when very few vets will be receiving pensions anyway. (Career military has been pro-GOP for generations. Democrats have historically had more success with non-careerists and enlisted ranks).

Obama’s credibility is also damaged by a series of gaffes, reported last week, including his apparent inability to say “corpsman” correctly and the DNC convention blunder in which they had a number of key speakers appear in front of a dramatic photo backdrop of Russian ships.

Finally, the Administration’s debacle in Benghazi, in which an American consulate was overrun, an ambassador murdered, and the Administration resolutely denied that the attack was even premeditated for a week, is likely to weigh heavily on younger veterans’ minds. Many of them have themselves served in isolated compounds in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The Administration’s optics with that foreign policy disaster are atrocious.

 

Are you a veteran? Are you supporting Obama or Romney in this election? Which candidate do you think will do a better job with both foreign affairs and domestic issues?

Senate Republicans Block Controversial Veterans Jobs Bill

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

CongressSenate Republicans rallied to block a controversial $1 billion bill that would have created temporary jobs for veterans within the National Park System. The law, the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012, was modeled on the Civilian Conservation Corps, a much broader jobs program, primarily for young, unemployed people, during the Great Depression. The law also would have helped local officials hire veterans for certain “first responder” jobs in emergency services, such as police and fire departments. The law would also have extended funding for the “TAP” program, which provided funding for entrepreneurship training for veterans.

The bill was a legislative priority for the Obama Administration, which is eager to be seen creating jobs. But Democrats, who hold a majority in the Senate, were unable to reach the 60-vote majority that would bring it to a vote.

Democrats pointed out that unemployment amongst GWOT and veterans is over 10 percent, and assert that the jobs are desperately needed by this population. However, Democratic Senators admitted that they did not know how many jobs would be created by the $1 billion expenditure.

Republicans objected to the measure on a number of grounds: Earlier this week, Senator Rand Paul unsuccessfully moved to have the bill amended with a provision that would tie federal aid to Pakistan with the release of a key informant in the hunt for Bin Ladin, now serving time in a Pakistani prison for treason.

Republican Tom Coburn also stated that the U.S. already has six jobs programs already earmarked for veterans – and little accounting of how effective these jobs programs are.

Republicans also objected to the $1 billion price tag, coming at a time when other government programs were being rolled back.

Some GOP members objected to the provision in the law that exempted Vietnam-era veterans from consideration for the program.

Additionally, the Republicans also objected on procedural grounds, stating that the Constitution requires spending and budget matters to originate in the House, not the Senate. The law is not expected to pass the Republican-led House of Representatives.

And finally, Republicans also pointed out that the bill did not conform to the Budget Control Act of 2011, which imposes a zero sum game on all Senate committees for new spending. If any committee wants to add funding for any veterans program, it must strip that money from another veterans program.

According to Republicans, the bill violated budget caps agreed to by both parties last year. Republicans raised a point of order pointing out the violation of the Budget Control Act.

A few Republicans did break ranks and vote to move the bill forward: Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Dean Heller of Nevada, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both from Maine.

Murkowski’s state has a large number of National Park facilities that would stand to benefit from the bill. Senators Inhofe (Illinois) and Kirk (Oklahoma), both Republicans, did not cast votes. Full roll call is available here.

Veterans groups generally support the bill. The President of the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America – historically a Democrat-friendly advocacy group – issued a blistering statement:

“This Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work. Lowering veteran unemployment is something both parties should be able to agree on – even in an election year, election politics should never stand in the way of creating job opportunities for our nation’s veterans, especially with an official 10.9% unemployment rate. We hope constituents, veterans and their families across the country will hold the Senate accountable for this failure.

The blockage of the Veterans Job Corps Act, a bipartisan effort authored by Senators Murray, Burr, Boozman, Heller and Toomey, should outrage all Americans. This bill was smart bipartisan policy that would put veterans back into service for their communities as policemen, firefighters and first responders. The result of today’s vote creates tremendous doubt that this Congress will be able to pass any additional veterans legislation in 2012. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans should not have to wait until 2013 for critical support from Congress.”

The bill didn’t just receive support from the Democratic-leaning IAVA, though. The Veterans Jobs Corps Act also received conceptual support from the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The VFW also opposed the provisions of the Budget Control Act – the law that threatens a series of draconian cuts across all federal departments under sequestration, if Congress does not sooner strike a deal to limit spending.

Amazing Veterans: Chuck Norris Edition

Posted by Kelli McKinney

Happy Friday, all. It’s Friday, and we’re all thinking about the best way to ease out of the work week and into the weekend. Naturally, we’re also thinking a lot about veterans, because that’s what we do. What better way to celebrate the start of the weekend than to pay homage to one of the biggest, baddest, most jaw-droppingly awesome veterans of all time, the man’s man himself, Mr. Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris wants YOU    by AurihalconFor decades, this multi-talented man of action has roundhouse kicked his way into our homes and hearts, and inspired many a young person’s journey into martial arts and even armed forces service along the way. Born in Oklahoma, he began his career in the Air Force as an Air Force Policeman. Mr. Norris competed in martial arts for many years before starring in action films and television series, and has been an active philanthropist as well as starting his own martial arts form, Chun Kuk Do.

In 2007, Mr. Norris was awarded the title of honorary Marine by Commandant Gen. James T. Conway. Texas Governor Rick Perry named him an honorary Texas Ranger in 2010. He has been an outspoken advocate for veterans’ issues, including pensions and care for hospitalized veterans. He served as spokesperson for the U.S. Veterans Administration and was named 2001 Veteran of the Year at the American Veteran Awards.

Over the years, Chuck Norris has become the stuff of legend, inspiring some fans to devote entire web sites to ascribing mythical, superhuman qualities to him. You’ve probably heard or read about some of them over the past couple of years. Here’s just a couple of my personal favorite little known “facts” (from chucknorrisfacts.com):

When the boogeyman goes to sleep at night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water and make it drink.

Chuck Norris does not get frostbite. Chuck Norris bites frost.

Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.

Chuck Norris has already been to Mars. That’s why there are no signs of life there.

Or how about this one: Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits. (That one makes me shudder a little bit.)

He waited patiently for an invitation to visit Marines in Fallujah, and watching this clip it’s easy to see that he is as humbled and honored to be there as these Marines are to have him. And the Marines have brushed up on their Chuck Norris facts to prepare for his visit. Check it out.

Now in his 70s, Chuck Norris doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. Although he might be one of the more famous veterans in our midst, he’s hardly the only veteran who deserves our awe and respect. For those of you who have served or are serving, thank you. We owe you far more than we could ever possibly repay. And, just so you know, we are jealous that you get to claim Chuck Norris as one of your own.

Who are some of your favorite veterans? Why do they inspire you? Let us know and we might feature them on our blog! Tell us about them in the comments below.

(Image by aurihalcon on deviantart.com)

Veterans Wanted to Star in New Musical Reality Show to Raise Awareness for PTSD

Posted by Kelli McKinney

Auditions Open Through 8/31 

rock star croppedIf you have served in the Middle East, can carry a tune and live in the Delaware Valley area, you may be what producer Steve Holtzman is looking for.

Steve Holtzman is a seasoned reality tv producer, and Lou Faiola, of the Cherry Hill School of Rock, are collaborating on a new web-based reality show that will feature twelve musically gifted veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. The dozen talented men or women will form three rock bands and perform a Veterans Day concert.

Proceeds from all sponsorships, donations and ticket sales will benefit a non-profit organization called Give an Hour, based in Bethesda, MD. Give an Hour offers free mental health services to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.

According to an article on Westminster Patch, Holtzman was inspired to develop the show in part by his daughter’s transformation after attending the Cherry Hill School of Rock. He says his twelve-year-old has blossomed from a shy adolescent to a rocking lead singer in the Cherry Hill house band. And he doesn’t think tweens are the only people who can benefit from a musical experience. Holtzman believes the power of music can help make a positive impact on military vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A review of the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder reveals that between 11-20% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD. These “invisible wounds” can have a profound impact on veterans’ adjustment to civilian life as well as to their families and loved ones.

Although no one will be kicked off any island or booted from any kitchen on this program, there will be plenty of excitement and drama in the 10-episode series. Viewers will follow the bands as from the first time they meet until the season finale: a benefit concert at World Café Live on Veterans’ Day. Part of their journey will include surprise challenges, cameo appearances and advice from celebrity musicians, and guidance from professional stylists and sound engineers. A prize package awaits the winning band, but every musician will be a part of something special: knowing they have helped those who served.

The first episode in the series airs Sept. 13 on the show’s website. The season finale will be a benefit concert at World Cafe Live on Veterans’ Day. If you think you have what it takes to compete on the show, or want to find out how you can help make a difference in a veterans’ life, check out the Bands of Brothers website.

Veterans Administration Health Care – Creaking Under the Strain

Posted by Debi Teter

medical files xs“This is disgraceful!” thundered Representative Bob Filner, a Democrat representing California’s 51st district, immediately before a hearing on the tremendous delays American veterans face in receiving health care through the VA system. “This is an insult to our veterans. And you guys just recycle old programs and put new names on them!”

The VA health care system has never been a model of user-friendly efficiency. But the current backlog problems are getting insane, even by federal bureaucratic standards.

Consider:

Last month, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there were 870,000 disability cases pending. Of those, two out of three had been pending more than 125 days. The percentage of cases taking longer than 125 days to resolve had actually increased over the previous year. In some offices, such as Oakland, California, the average claims resolution time drags on for a year.

The VA’s stated goal is to resolve all disability cases within 125 days.

Jim Strickland, the manager of a website called VAWatch.org, isn’t very impressed.

“A delay to process a claim in 125 days or less is a system failure,” he wrote on his site. “No other business on the planet would be applauding itself to set a goal of only 60% of it’s [sic] work to be a failure.”

It’s not going to be easy.

As the military draws down in strength over the coming years, hundreds of thousands of servicemembers are going to transition from the military health care system to the VA. Meanwhile, the aging baby-boomers of the Viet Nam generation are now entering their retirement years, detaching from their employer plans and entering their peak years of health care consumption.

The result is a “perfect storm” that threatens to swamp the ability of Veterans Affairs officials to process claims.

Indeed, the storm is already upon us: Allison Hickey, the VA’s undersecretary for benefits, notified Congress that there had been a huge 48 percent surge in applications at the VA over the last three years. The VA has barely been able to tread water, despite bringing new computer systems online to speed claims.

What’s behind the increase? Three factors:

A decision made two years ago to expand benefits to Viet Nam veterans who may have been affected by exposure to Agent Orange. This had a particularly profound effect on the VA’s claims processing capacity, because documenting these 40 year old claims – some 230,000 of them — was so difficult. A substantial number of VA administrators had to be assigned to process these cases – at the expense of newer claims. The VA states that it is nearing the end of processing those claims.

Second, a weak economy is driving some people to file claims for benefits who might otherwise have just toughed it out. A mild hearing loss due to military service is not devastating if you have secure employment. If you’re unemployed, it becomes tempting to file that claim for 10 to 30 percent disability. And you have time on your hands to file a claim (you’re gonna need it!).

Third, increased awareness of PTSD and traumatic brain injury, combined with aggressive post-deployment screening, increased the number of referrals to the VA system from Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans. While U.S. direct involvement in the Iraq War has come to an end, these veterans are now getting discharged and coming to VA offices in the tens of thousands for treatment of physical and psychological problems.


What has your experience with the VA been like in the last few years? Let us know in the comments below.

House Passes 2013 COLA for Veterans

Posted by Debi Teter

describe the imageThe House has passed H.R. 4114, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2012. If it is signed into law by also passing the Senate vote, H.R. 4114 will increase the annual cost-of-living rate for veterans beginning on December 1, 2012. This year’s estimated COLA increase will be approximately 1.9 percent.

For many, passage of the COLA each year is merely a formality. But it has typically been pushed to the end of the year, and after there were a few last-minute votes in 2011 for military pay, it is a relief to many to have it passing through Congress at such an early date. According to the press release issued by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, taking care of the COLA now ensures that veterans will be given the benefits they have been promised without falling victim to political fighting.

Visit our website for more information about veterans’ benefits and military veterans’ pay.

Wish Upon A Wedding

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

military weddingJake and Meredith met at church and soon became fast friends. Friendship developed into even more, and they became engaged. Life, in that particular way it works, decided to get in the way. Throwing one thing after another after at Meredith and Jake, life quickly became complicated (and that’s an understatement). The money for an engagement ring was not there earlier; a wedding would most definitely have to wait. Unbeknownst to them, a friend had presented their story to Wish Upon A Wedding; Jake and Meredith became husband and wife in January 2012.

Why is this on a military blog? Because Jake is a Lance Corporal in the United State Marine Corps, and Meredith is a former Marine Corps officer. They were married at the United States Naval Academy, Meredith’s alma mater.

Wish Upon A Wedding (WUW) provides free wedding ceremonies and receptions for the terminally ill, for severely injured service members, and others having faced/are facing “seriously life-altering circumstances.” Formed in 2009, this non-profit organization wants to “to celebrate the courage, determination and spirit of these couples by granting their dream wedding wishes.” And with over 30 wishes granted in over two years, they are doing just that, and doing it well.

There are over 20 local chapters of WUW across the nation filled with wedding vendors who provide, free of charge, their services or products to ensure that those who are postponing their wedding because of dramatic circumstances have the opportunity to have a great wedding. Applicants first fill out the online application, which is forwarded on to the closest local chapter. The application not only asks for the basics (name, address, phone number) but also for medical information/other information to verify the situation. Information is verified, and decisions are made based on applicant circumstances and eligibility.

Once an applicant has been chosen, items covered in the wedding depend on the number and type of vendors involved as volunteers. What typically is covered is the officiant, venue, wedding planner, florist, cake, caterer, and most rentals. Often times, the gown and tuxedo is covered. What is never covered is alcohol; if you wish to provide alcohol to your guests, you must do so on your own and also provide liability insurance.

The wedding planner takes over for you once receiving your preferences. There are no guarantees; each chapter runs solely on volunteers. If there are no volunteers that specialize in lighting and a dance floor, it simply can’t be provided. Gathering multiple volunteers together for one event can sometimes be difficult; keep that in mind when you are requesting a wedding because you may not get the particular date you desire. Check here for the list of items that WUW can and cannot generally provide when planning a wedding.

If your circumstances prompt a wedding in less than six weeks, there is a limit of 25 guests. If you can wait longer than that, up to six months, you can invite up to 50 guests.

If you know of a couple, or are a couple, with extreme circumstances, visit Wish Upon A Wedding’s website. Like the national chapter on Facebook, as well as many of their regional chapters. You can help this unique organization in many ways; they offer eight suggestions, including financial donations, becoming a wish granter (donating time and service as a vendor), and directly volunteering with the local chapter, including helping to start a new chapter in your area.

 

(Disclaimer; I am a wedding vendor signed up to provide services in my local chapter. There has been no financial remuneration involved from WUW in the writing of this article. They are not aware of this article prior to its publication.)

VOW to Hire Heroes Act benefits unemployed veterans

Posted by Debi Teter

The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 amended the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to assist unemployed veterans and to extend the life of the WOTC to January 1st, 2013. It provides new benefits for certain unemployed veterans. Designed as an addendum to the WOTC, this act is made to not only lower unemployment rates of veterans but also to stimulate the economy by giving tax credits for businesses who specifically hire veterans.

Benefits for Veterans

  • Individualized counseling and support through Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor or an Employment Coordinator
  • Easy to apply through the eBenefits website (for both programs listed below)

Vocational Rehabilitation

  • up to an additional 12 months of benefits for disabled veterans whose disability is related to their military service

Veterans Retraining Assistance Program

  • up to 12 months of retraining assistance

 

Benefits for Businesses

Through the WOTC

  • Up to $9,600 in tax credits for businesses ($6400 for tax-exempt organizations) who hire eligible veterans between November 22nd, 2011 and January 1st, 2013
  • Only two forms to fill out!
  1. IRS Form 8850, Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit, and
  2. either U.S. Department of Labor form ETA Form 9061, Individual Characteristics Form or ETA Form 9062, Conditional Certification Form

Through the VOW to Hire Heroes Act-Special Employer Incentives (SEI)

  • Up to 50% reimbursement of employee’s salary for up to six months, including cost of training, supplies and equipment, and loss of production reimbursement during employee training
  • VA provides needed tools, equipment, uniforms, and other supplies necessary for the veteran to gain employment
  • VA supports related to training, accommodations, and initial placement of the veteran

 

Employer or employee, these programs are worth your while. The federal government has made an effort to help to both lower the unemployment rate for veterans and reward those to employee them. Each program has its own specific requirements regarding age, disability, and length of unemployment, as well as other conditions and provisions. Make sure you talk to your benefits counselor to ensure you have access to as much assistance as you qualify for; you’ve earned it.

Accusations Fizzle Against Congressional Candidate David Bellavia

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

BellaviaAn accusation of misappropriation of charity funds against a veteran and Congressional candidate appears to be coming apart under scrutiny.

David Bellavia, an Iraq War combat veteran, Silver Star recipient, author and Congressional candidate has been caught up in a flap over a charity he helped co-found. Bellavia, currently running as a Republican for the 27th district of New York, co-founded the Warrior Legacy Foundation – a non-partisan organization that is “committed to the protection and promotion of the reputation and dignity of America’s warriors,” as well as Vets for Freedom, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping elect veterans to public office.

Bellavia is currently locked in a primary election battle against County Executive Chris Collins for the Republican nomination. The winner will run against Democratic incumbent Kathleen C. Hochul in the general election in November.

At issue: One Marian Gray wrote a letter to a local newspaper detailing an encounter with Bellavia, describing Bellavia’s relationship with his charity. The letter stated that Gray questioned Bellavia about his source of income since being discharged from the Army. The also letter asserted that Bellavia had “no visible means of support,” other than being supported by his charity operation, and that Bellavia was “evasive” when questioned about how he was supporting himself.

The letter concluded by accusing Bellavia of using his charity to support himself and to pay himself to run for Congress:

“Obviously after discharge, he has not held a “real” job. His “charity” as he calls it is for himself. Even if he did contribute to another’s campaign, this alleged foundation is basically for his own material gain. David Bellavia has neither legislative experience nor any apparent intellectual skills indicating he could represent anyone but himself. His vague and clearly inadequate responses and his own description of his life border on my definition of sleazy.”

Bellavia is the author of the critically-acclaimed House to House: An Epic Memoir of War, which was published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. House to House, an account of the vicious 2nd Battle of Fallujah of 2004 – the battle in which Bellavia was recommended for his Silver Star, was one of the most commercially successful memoirs of the War on Terror. Recently, Bellavia and his publisher signed a deal with an Oscar-winning Hollywood director to make a movie version of Bellavia’s book – which would seem to account for his recent ability to support himself and his family. Bellavia co-wrote and sold the screenplay.

As of this writing, Charitynavigator.org had no independent review of the operations of the Warrior Legacy Foundation or of Vets For Freedom.

However, the Vets for Freedom IRS Form 910 tax filing is a matter of public record, and Bellavia has released his tax returns from 2006 to 2011 for local journalists to inspect at a press conference on 30 April. Bellavia and stood by to answer questions from the press as they examined his tax returns. According to the Buffalo News, which reviewed the tax returns, the bulk of Bellavia’s income since his discharge from the Army has come from his authorship of House to House, though he has also received compensation at various times as an executive for Steuben Foods and from his work with running a Washington charity foundation.

Bellavia has received a number of milestone payments from his authorship over the last five years, including additional payments upon the release of the paperback edition, translation into additional languages, the sale of international rights, film rights and the sale of the screenplay itself.

Vets for Freedom has donated $1,000 to Congressional races in the 2012 cycle thus far – all to Josh Mandel, a Republican in Ohio, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org). In the 2010 cycle, Vets for Freedom donated $500 to Sean Bielat, a Republican running in Massachusetts.

However, the Vets for Freedom 2009 tax filing (IRS Form 910) lists $75,000 in compensation to Bellavia, for an average of 40 hours per week of work. During that time, Bellavia declared that income on his 2008 individual tax return, according to a campaign source. Vets for Freedom’s tax filing also lists compensation to Pete Hegseth, the VFF president, of $100,000 that year – also for 40 hours per week of work. This was against revenue of $8.72 million that year.

As of March 31, the David Bellavia campaign had raised $31,970, had spent $33,019 and had $7,109 in cash on hand according to OpenSecrets.org. He had not taken any money from political action committees, or PACs; all but $305, which Bellavia had contributed himself, came from individual contributions.

In contrast, the incumbent Representative, Democrat Kathleen Hochul, had raised over $2 million, including $250,000 of her own money. 24 percent of her campaign contributions had come from political action committees.

OpenSecrets listed no data on Collins’ campaign opposing Bellavia’s in the primary election. As of this writing, the Collins campaign has not released any recent tax returns on the candidate.

 

Are you following this congressional race? What are your thoughts on the accusations against Bellavia? Do you think we need more candidates with military experience as their main resume item? Tell us in the comments!

Disabled Veteran petitions Supreme Court over benefits in divorce

Posted by Debi Teter

US Supreme CourtIn a petition filed with the Supreme Court earlier this month, a disabled veteran in Oregon is seeking a reversal of a lower court decision to count his VA disability benefits as communal property in his divorce.

At issue is whether states violate federal law when they allow divorce courts to include disability pay in calculating spousal support. 

In the divorce of Peter Barclay, an Air Force veteran, and his wife of nearly 20 years, an Oregon district court judge included considered the value of Barclay’s VA disability payments when awarding spousal pay of $1,000 per month. Barclay’s only income is from VA benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance, a tax-free amounnt of slightly more than $4,400 per month.

Barclay suffers from PTSD from his role as a first responder during the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. His PTSD made him unemployable and eligible to draw VA compensation at the 100% disabled rate.

Barclay and his attorney, Michael D.J. Eisenberg, have argued that Title 38 US Code, Section 5301(a), which makes VA disability benefits immune “from taxation, claims of creditors, attachment, levy and seizure” would also bar the inclusion of disability pay in spousal support calculations.

Eisenberg is arguing that disability pay is meant to compensate the veteran for loss of income due to a service-connected medical condition. If the veteran is married, VA compensation tables set payments higher. But that extra amount, given in recognition of the spouse’s sacrifice in living with a disabled individual, stops when the veteran gets a divorce. That should mean the spouse has no direct claim on the compensation anymore. Eisenberg stated, “It’s not like the veteran’s disability caused the spouse a military-related disability.” 

Barclay’s former spouse claims she has diabilities of her own, but Barclay and Eisenberg argue that she should receive help from state or federal programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance, rather than from VA disabiliyt benefits.

Oregon and most other states disagree, based on a 1987 Supreme Court decision which said the legislative history of the VA disability benefits shows that payments are meant to compensate both the veteran and his/her family. Further, the 1982 Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) allows courts to distribute “disposable” military retired pay as marital property or as alimony or child support. 

Barclay’s petition notes that the USFSPA excludes disability compensation from the definition of “net disposable income.” The petition also references a 1989 Supreme Court decision in favor of a retiree who sought to reduce his spousal support when he won a disability award from the VA. When the retiree began drawing VA benefits, it lowered his military retirement being shared with the former spouse. Barclay is a veteran but not a retiree, but still claims the protections of disability pay should extend to all veterans.

Barclay’s petition also points to three states which offer protections similar to the federal law. In Arizona, a recently passed law shields veterans’ disability benefits from alimony calculations. Texas and Vermont have laws whcih proclude VA disability benefits from being included in the division of property or in alimony calculations.

Eisenberg argues that it is time the Supreme Court addresses the states’ various interpretations and clarifies the law in favor of Barclay and other disabled veterans. 

At least four justices will have to agree to review the case. We will follow the petition and report back if the Court decides to hear arguments.

 

Which side of the argument do you agree with? Should disability compensation be solely for the veteran affected or for the spouse/family who also lived with the consequences of the disability? Let us know in the comments.