Supreme Court rules in veteran's favor in closely watched divorce settlement case


The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday, in the case of Howell v. Howell, that a state court cannot offset the loss of a divorced spouse’s portion of a veteran's retirement benefits when that veteran waives retirement pay in favor of disability pay. The issue has been hotly debated for years. 

In 1991, a court awarded Sandra Howell half of Air Force veteran John Howell’s retirement pay when the couple was divorced. However, after becoming aware in 2005 that he was eligible for disability benefits, John, who had received a 20 percent disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, elected to waive $250 of his $1,500 a month in retirement pay, which is taxable, in favor of $250 monthly disability pay from the VA, which is not taxable. That reduced Sandra's monthly divorce settlement by $125, so she went back to court, arguing that she should get half of what his retirement pay would have been if he had not opted for disability pay. Supreme Court

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