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Debate over division of military retirement benefits rages

There are a number of complexities that members of the military must deal with, many of them that civilians will never have to touch. Though most of these stem from battle, there are others that some civilians may sympathize with -- those stem from divorce. According to some groups, changes need to be made to the process of military divorce. Some soldiers in Louisiana will likely support these changes as they address the 1982 Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act.

According to that law, states are allowed to treat nondisability military retirement funds as property. This means that a family law court can divide them amongst divorcing spouses, right down the middle. Such a provision has left many people up in arms for some time. According to the soldiers' side, the division is not fair because they are the ones that put their lives on the line and they deserve the full retirement fund. The ex-spouses argue that they gave their lives to the military as well, moving from this base to that base in order to properly support their spouses who were serving in the line of duty.

The validity of both arguments is palpable, making any changes extremely delicate. According to opponents of the USFSPA, the division is automatically possible and can see a large portion of a retirement fund distributed perpetually to a former spouse, regardless of the changes to her or his situation since the divorce. Opponents also indicate that military retirement is not actually a full retirement; instead, these individuals are put on reserve status. They are basically receiving lowered pay in conjunction with lowered duty.

Proponents of the USFSPA argue that the time they spent supporting their military spouses barred them from using their most productive years in ways that would benefit themselves. But nowadays, that is not always the case. Many nonmilitary spouses are able to receive an education or work a full- or part-time job while they continue to support their active spouses.

Source: News Max, "Military Divorces Aim to End Lifetime Alimony Rules," David Yonkman, Feb. 18, 2013

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