Veterans benefits for personal injury are protected under federal law from any legal or equitable process, but civil courts across the country say the law is not applicable.
The law most Veterans refer to when discussing legal matters is section 5301 of title 38 of the United States Constitution. This law states:
5301(a)(1)Payments of benefits due or to become due under any law administered by the Secretary shall not be assignable except to the extent specifically authorized by law, and such payments made to, or on account of, a beneficiary shall be exempt from taxation, shall be exempt from the claim of creditors, and shall not be liable to attachment, levy, or seizure by or under any legal or equitable process whatever.
The belief housed by most civil judges in the United States is that this law is not applicable to Child support or alimony payments. Numerous Veterans across the country suffer for these benefits, only to be stripped from them once they return home and can no longer work due to their injuries. In one famous case involving a 100% disabled Veteran and child support arrears, Rose v Rose (1987) the court found that benefits were provided by congress to support the Veteran and his or her dependents. They concluded that the benefits, once received by the Veteran, were “open game” and could be taken away for child support. As a response, Congress enacted two very crucial areas to the title 38 section 5301 statute.
As a response to Rose v Rose, Congress enacted the addition of title 38 section 5301 to include “either before or after receipt by the beneficiary.” This establishes that the benefits are not to be received by anyone other than the intended Veteran either before or after the receipt by the intended beneficiary. Still, civil court judges do not abide by this law. They stand firm that congress intends these moneys to be for injured Veterans, their ex-spouses and their children. Why? Because civil judges say that this money is accessible because ex-spouses and children are not “creditors” and therefore the law is inapplicable to the situations involved in civil courts.
In 2003, the statute was again amended under what is known as the “Veterans Benefits Act of 2003.” This amendment set forth a new standard of applicability. This amendment dissolved the term “creditor” and exchanged a new law applicable to all people who attempt to receive a Veteran’s benefits or feel they are entitled to the benefits received by an injured Veteran. The amendment states:
5301(3) (A)This paragraph is intended to clarify that, in any case where a beneficiary entitled to compensation, pension, or dependency and indemnity compensation enters into an agreement with another person under which agreement such other person acquires for consideration the right to receive such benefit by payment of such compensation, pension, or dependency and indemnity compensation, as the case may be, except as provided in subparagraph (B), and including deposit into a joint account from which such other person may make withdrawals, or otherwise, such agreement shall be deemed to be an assignment and is prohibited.
5301(3)(B)Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), nothing in this paragraph is intended to prohibit a loan involving a beneficiary under the terms of which the beneficiary may use the benefit to repay such other person as long as each of the periodic payments made to repay such other person is separately and voluntarily executed by the beneficiary or is made by preauthorized electronic funds transfer pursuant to the Electronic Funds Transfers Act (15 U.S.C. 1693 et seq.).
5301(3)(C)Any agreement or arrangement for collateral for security for an agreement that is prohibited under subparagraph (A) is also prohibited and is void from its inception.
Even through countless amendments created to ensure the money received by Veterans is only accessible to Veterans, civil court judges still claim that these laws are not applicable. But how can they say they are not applicable? The Law states that a “Child support/spousal support/family support” hearing is an equitable process, but judges still believe this law is not created to restrict an order based on the money or the seizure of the money. No judge can issue a withholding order on a Veteran’s Disability pay, they cannot garnish the money because of these laws, but they say the law is inapplicable in these situations.
Jere Beery, a disabled Veteran, created the organization OFFE, Operation Firing for Effect, a group composed of other Veterans who are fighting to enforce the federal law protecting disability benefits. Mr. Beery himself fell victim to civil court where he was ordered to pay alimony to his ex-wife out of his Veterans Disability. Through numerous legal battles, his ex-spouse ultimately gave up and said she does not want any of his benefits. This is not the case for the majority of disabled Veterans.
Disabled Veterans are provided compensation based on their percentage of disability. The money is not received due to loss of employment. If a doctor and a McDonalds worker both suffer the same % rating, they will both be compensated equally. Civil courts abuse their discretion and impose undue hardships on helpless Veterans who serve our country to protect the very laws that turn around and attack them. How is this justice?
Numerous states have enacted laws to reinforce the Federal law at the state level so there is no abuse in court. Not all states have taken this route however and continue to take away benefits that Veterans need to provide for their injuries. Every night, thousands of Veterans go to sleep in the streets because they are homeless. They cannot provide a shelter for themselves, they cannot pay their bills, but they are forced to provide alimony and child support out of disability money. Once a Veteran is homeless and the support due goes onto their credit report, they cannot purchase a home and most landlords would be hesitant to provide them a home to live in because of their poor credit rating.
The abuse has to stop. Americans need to protect our Veterans in the same way that they protect us. They fought the wars on foreign land, and return home to fight the wars in court. It is a shame.
The United States needs to uphold the constitutional rights of all Veterans and provide them with the ability to care for themselves and their injuries. By ignoring federal laws created to protect the Veterans, judges are depriving Veterans of the United States their lives.
To put this in more common terms: there are two laws that govern child and spousal support income laws: A law that protects SSI benefits and a law that protects Veterans injury benefits.
IF a person never works a day in their life and gets SSI, they do not have to pay support.
If a person works for the military and gets injured during war, they have to use their injury money to pay support. Both have laws saying they do not use this money for a child or spousal support order, but apparently if you are injured in war you are not as important as those who never worked and receive SSI.
If you see ignoring this law as a problem, please sign the petition. Enforce 38 USC 5301 to protect our Veterans' benefits.
Sign the Petition Now to support our Veterans.