Search this site:
Stay Informed:  Please enter your e-mail address below:

Become Active

Contact Us

Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!

Disabled Veterans' Benefits

The California Alliance for Families and Children is thrilled that nearly a year of work has resulted in the introduction of a bill SB 285, Wright Veterans Disability Benefits) in the California Legislature that will uphold existing federal law (USC, Title 38, Section 5301) governing third party disbursement of disabled veterans' benefits compensation.  In fact,SB 285 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was place on the Senate consent calendar, where it quickly passed out of the Senate on April 23, 2009.  The bill has now moved to the Assembly where its first scheduled committee hearing will be in the Assembly Judiciary.


Although the United States Code is very clear in its wording and intent, civil court judges nationwide have routinely ignored federal law and calculated veterans’ disability compensation into divorce settlements as a divisible asset or income. And it's just not men; disabled female veterans are also experiencing this problem when they get divorced or declare bankruptcy.

In California, only one family law code section ( FC 4504 even mentions disabled veterans benefits and application of those benefits in support cases.  FC 4504 also applies to SSI/SSDI cases yet other code sections that cover SSI/SSDI fail to cover disabled veterans benefits. (See FC 5246, FC 17400.5 and FC 17450.  As a result, California courts routinely treat Veterans Disability Benefits differently than a disabled person on SSI/SSDI thereby causing disabled veterans serious hardships.

We have to ask ourselves:  "What is the difference between a civilian who has suffered car accident (or a fall off a ladder) and been permanently disabled compared to a military service person that is blown up by an IED (or exposed to Agent Orange, or suffers from severe PTSD from combat related experiences) and is similarly disabled?"  There is no difference except that they are covered by seperate federal programs:  the Social Security Administration which covers disabled civilians, and the Veterans Administration which covers disabled veterans. In some cases a veteran may be entitled to both.  Bottom line is that both people are disabled as a result of a permanent injury, and have a partial or 100 percent disability that causes loss of future earnings.

Both federal programs have provisions for separate allotments or apportionments for dependent children. This means either the SSA or the VA send one check to the disabled person or veteran, and another check to the dependent children.  But here too disabled veterans and their dependents are treated differently. SSA pays substantially more for dependent children.

For example, if the disabled person, based on their percentage of disability, is receiving $800.00 a month, then a child dependent would receive half that amount.  The SSA would send an additional check for the benefit of the dependent child to the custodial parent for $400.00.  (This does not include medical benefits children may also be entitled to as an additional benefit.)  On the other hand, the VA only pays a maximum of $71.00 per child. The children of disabled veterans should be entitled to the same amount that a child of a disabled person on SSI/SSDI would receive. (Children of disabled vets do have VA medical benefits available to them also.)

For more information about SSI in Family Law, here is an excellent paper on SSI for family law attorneys.

CAFC Involvement:

CAFC’s Executive Director, Michael Robinson, first became aware of the disabled benefits issue mid-year in 2008, after hearing from other veteran groups about the problem, and we've been working to correct this issue in California ever since. Though CAFC spearheaded the issue in California, we asked one of the veterans groups with whom we've had a long association, the American Retirees Association (ARA), to make the formal request to Senator Wright’s office to be the bill's official sponsor. The bill, SB 285, is being carried by California Senator Rod Wright.  You can learn more about the specifics of the bill and the US Code by reading the CAFC Fact Sheet or SB 285 author, Senator Rod Wright's Fact Sheet.

SB 285 was originally written to amend a different family law code, but its author, Senator Wright, amended the bill on April 2, 2009, to specifically adddress the problem faced by disabled veterans. That same day, CAFC’s Michael Robinson was already scheduled to attend the California State Commanders Veterans Council (CSCVC) meeting. His attendance was requested by Dennis Egge, President of the ARA. The CSCVC is made up of representatives from 19 veterans groups and meets every six months. The purpose of the April 2, 2009, meeting was to review current California legislation affecting veterans. Robinson left the meeting with unanimous support from all 19 veterans groups to back SB 285. CAFC and CSCVC are organizing support letters and witnesses to testify before the committee hearings.

CAFC also intends to push this issue at the federal level in order to end this discrimination and enable the children of disabled veterans to receive the same as children that receive SSI/SSDI benefits.

Photo of a flag draped veteran's wheelchair

CAFC is acutely aware of the unfairness disabled veterans face, so we have once again taken a leading role to educate policy makers and the legal communities. We will share real stories of service men and women who have been impacted, and we will continue to provide data to demonstrate the seriousness of the legal problems facing our veterans (men and women) in the family courts.

In The News:

The plight of disabled veterans in family law proceedings is starting to become a national issue. As it happens, on the same day Senator Wright, the CAFC and the CSCVC took up the issue in California, a news story on the issue broke in Iowa on KWQC-TV6. You may also view part of the video broadcast by KWQC-TV6 for this story.

We Need Your Continued Support:

As always, much more needs to be done. We are asking everyone who enjoys the protection and freedoms they have — because of these men and women who proudly served and sacrificed for our nation — to donate as much as possible so that CAFC can continue to help these service men and women and their families.