Veteran’s Disability Benefits – Property Division

Williams v. Burks, [Ms. 2200169, Nov. 5, 2021] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2021). The court (Edwards, J.; Thompson, P.J., and Moore, Hanson, and Fridy, JJ., concur) reverses the Coffee Circuit Court’s order holding the former husband in contempt for failing to pay the former wife an amount equal to 40% of his veteran’s disability benefits, which the trial court awarded to the former wife in a divorce judgment entered on November 28, 2001. The court concludes the award of veteran’s disability benefits was preempted by federal law, namely 10 U.S.C. § 1408(a)(4)(A)(iii) excluding veteran’s disability benefits from military-retirement benefits for purposes of property division in a divorce proceeding. Ms. *11.

The former wife conceded the applicability of the federal statute but argued that she was “not awarded 40% of the VA disability benefits but, instead, was awarded an amount equal to 40% of the VA disability benefits.” Ms. **18-19. The court rejected the argument as a “semantic exercise” foreclosed by federal cases construing 10 U.S.C. § 1408(a)(4)(A)(iii). Ms. *19.

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