- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sgt. Shaft, While doing a Google search on the topic of division of military retirement, I came across one of your articles. So here is my situation:

I retired from the Army in 1993 after 231/2 years of service. While in the Army, I was married for 111/2 years. When we divorced in 1986, my ex received a judgment for the appropriate share of the military retirement, approximately 24 percent. We were divorced in New Mexico. After that, both of us remarried. She was married for just a few (less than five) years, and I am still with my wife of over 20 years. Since my retirement in 1993, my ex has received approximately $450 a month for the past 15 years.

My question is: Can that judgment be changed? I feel that I have paid more than enough out of my military retirement - certainly more than she contributed to it. Is this something that I would have to go back to court for or can some sort of appeal be filed through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS)? I am sure I cannot be the only one that has tried this. Have others, to your knowledge, been successful?

Thanks,

Frank

Dear Frank:

My source tells me that he did not want to speak for DFAS, but their advice is usually that the divorce decree is king. Whatever the decree says is what they try to follow, so long as it meets the guidelines that they must follow as a DoD entity.

“Your reader´s divorce judgment can be changed. But to change it he will have to petition the court and convince a judge to reopen the case and establish a new settlement. That won’t be easy to do. Plus, he leaves himself vulnerable to a worse judgment than he has now. He needs to speak to an attorney,” my source told me.

Shaft notes

The Sarge joins House Veterans´ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, California Democrat, who recently urged this Congress - House of Representatives and Senate, Democrat and Republican - to support reinvestment in America’s veterans. After years of funding neglect, the needs of veterans are great.

“We must work to stabilize the economy, create jobs, and provide economic development in local communities throughout our country. We can accomplish these goals while also honoring our veterans. We can invigorate the economy by modernizing the 153 existing VA medical facilities, repairing veterans´ cemeteries, constructing new VA hospitals, addressing the claims backlog, and investing in vocational rehabilitation for our returning combat veterans.

“The House of Representatives included $1 billion in veterans spending in the economic recovery plan. The Senate plan for economic stimulus includes $3.94 billion in veterans spending. I favor the Senate plan and will continue to work with my House and Senate colleagues as this process moves forward.”

Kudos to Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican, for introducing H.R. 24, a bill that would redesignate the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. In each Congress since 2001, Mr. Jones has introduced legislation aimed at giving the Marine Corps the recognition it deserves as one of the official branches of the military.

The National Security Act of 1947 defines the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force as the four services given statutory missions. It clearly indicates that the Marine Corps is a legally distinct military service within the Department of the Navy.

Furthermore, in 1986, through landmark legislation known as the Goldwater-Nichols Act, Congress formally acknowledged the roles of each service´s commanding officer. The act stated that each branch´s commander serves equally as a member of the Joint Chiefs and, when called upon, as a military adviser to the secretary of defense, the National Security Council and the president.

“There isn’t a subordinate relationship between the chief of naval operations and the commandant of the Marines Corps,” Mr. Jones said. “They are equivalent parts of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and it is time to recognize their equal status. This legislation is not about changing the responsibilities of the secretary, reallocating resources between the Navy and Marine Corps or altering the course of their missions. Rather, it is about showing the nation the true meaning of the department and recognizing the overall importance of the Marine Corps to our national security.

“I am encouraged by the overwhelming support I have received for this change from so many members of the U.S. Armed Forces. With their backing, I will continue to work diligently to see this bill through the House and push for the Senate´s support. The Navy and the Marine Corps have operated as one entity for more than two centuries, and H.R. 24 would ensure the name of the department they share exemplifies this fact,” Mr. Jones said.

One million veterans are in line to share $319.8 million in annual insurance dividends during 2009, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“These dividends are tangible evidence of VA´s continuing commitment to safeguard the interests of America´s veterans,” said former Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake.

The VA operates one of the nation’s largest life insurance programs, providing more than $1 trillion in coverage to 7 million service members, veterans and family members. The dividend payments are being sent to an estimated 1 million holders of VA insurance policies on the anniversary date of their policies. Sent automatically through different payment plans, the amounts vary based on the age of the veteran, the type of insurance, and the length of time the policy has been in force.

• Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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