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Military retirement for the 21st century

A few months ago we posted a blog entry about a letter [PDF] we wrote opposing a bill in the Oklahoma state legislature that would limit the ability of former spouses to receive an award of military retirement pay in a divorce settlement. The blog entry received a number of comments - several disagreeing with our position.

In the blog entry, we noted that assets, including retirement benefits, earned during a marriage are marital property that are subject to division at divorce. Some of the comments complained about the fact that a former spouse, married to a service member for, say, 10 years, could receive a share of the military pension, even though the member must serve for at least 20 years in order to earn that pension. (Of course, if the member didn't serve for the full 20 years, neither the member nor the former spouse would be entitled to anything.) 

Other commenters complained about the fact that, if a military service member forfeits his or her pension under a so-called "bad boy" clause (in which certain bad behaviors - such as being convicted of a crime, refusing a recall to active duty, or becoming a citizen of another country - causes the service member to lose the right to a military pension), the ex-spouse still gets a share of the pension.

These comments raise two important questions: First, is requiring 20 years of service in order to earn a pension reasonable? Years ago the laws were changed for the private retirement system and other federally regulated retirement systems (civil service, railroad retirement, foreign service). In general, an employee in the private sector earns a nonforfeitable right to a pension benefit after a maximum of seven years of service and as little as three years. Isn't it time for the laws for military personnel to be changed as well?

Second, isn't it also time to re-examine the bad boy clause as applied in the military retirement system? In the private pension system, bad boy clauses are allowed only under very narrow circumstances and rarely result in the full forfeiture of a benefit. In the military, the bad boy clause is much more broadly defined, and the service member almost always loses the entire benefit.

We think a 21st  Century military deserves a 21st Century retirement system. What do you think?

Comments

I truly need help trying to obtain military pension from my former military husband. I have spent many years and lots of money trying but because of jurisdiction issues, it keeps getting rejected. I was married 13 years and in my divorce decree, it stated I was entitled but it did not state how much as we did not know how long he would remain on active duty and how many years in he would serve. We married in MO, divorced in California. His home of record is MO. Please, is there someone who could help me???

What are we supposed to believe? When someone for whatever reason turns down ( I cant imagine) or is ineligible for their government pension, regardless, the funds have to exist. I am left to suppose the government issues the pension to themselves. If so; who trades the currency?

I would like to add that Dad not knowing the government is indifferent would not get a lawyer to restart collection. The question is why would the government stop the allotment to begin with when Dad is clearly eligible unless found ineligible as a result of the assault?

In the last comment from usfspa it is stated:The Divorce court judge says the USFSPA can allow the court to decide that Mom?s retired pay is ?jointly earned marital property? and up to 50% is allocated to abusor ?dad? as a life-time REWARD for criminally assaulting his military wife!
Wrong... Dad would only collect til Mom 'the abused' ceases to exit. The lifetime award only if they were still married when Mom the military abused person kicks the bucket.

First, thank you for writing that you finally realize that a military member MUST complete 20 years of honorable service to just be entitled to apply for retired pay; yes, there are members that choose to separate with 20 or more years and do NOT apply for retired pay for their own personal reasons. If a military member separates with anything less than 20 years - - - such as 19 years, 11 months and 29 days, there is NO law that entiles application for retired pay, because the member is ONE DAY short of the minimum required 20 years. Therefore, you have verified and accepted your own finding of fact that during the member's first 19 years, 11 months and 29 days NO military retired pay entitlement has accrued - it is only after the next day - the completion of 20 years of service that a military member may request military retired pay. Please understand that the "10 year requirement" is ONLY to have the military retired pay finance center withhold the court ordered "property" payment from the retiree and send it directly to the former spouse ! There are many "less than 10 year" marriages that the retiree has been court ordered to pay their former spouse directly out-of-pocket !

Second, there is no such animal as a military "pension" - it has misnomered since its inception because when it was developed, the reasons for its bringing into being were never fully explained to the eligible military members nor to the general public. There is an excellent explanation of why military retired pay is NOT a "pension" at www.ulsg.org and click on the "Did you know" link on the homepage; there are 18 reasons based in law as to the separateness of military retired pay from any other civilian pension.

Third - your "bad boy" oratory - you must separate the listings of criminal acts (Domestic Violence, refusal to return to active duty) from purely civil, legal, self-chosen acts (renouncing US citizenship for another Soverign state) to keep the discussion on level ground. There is a part of the USFSPA that does properly and appropriately hold military members accountable for Domestic Violence of which a Courts-Martial Conviction is rendered. 10 USC 1408(h) - the Abused Military Dependants Act (AMDA) requires the military member to forfeit all retired benefits including military retired pay to their victim spouse. Traditionally, the male is the aggresor and the female is the victim. Even though the statute language is gender-free, either spouse can be the member and the other spouse can be the "civie". For instance, let's put "Mom" in uniform and "Dad" in civies - "Dad" is the usual agressor, and Military member Mom is his victim - after 20 years of his domestic violence, Mom says "Enough" and files for Divorce. The Divorce court judge says the USFSPA can allow the court to decide that Mom's retired pay is "jointly earned marital property" and up to 50% is allocated to abusor "dad" as a life-time REWARD for criminally assaulting his military wife! Now tell me WHERE IS THE JUSTICE IN THIS ? ! ? ! Don't get me wrong - Domestic Violence has NO place in any home, regardless of who is the aggressor and who is the victim - it's illegal and needs to be stopped - period !

Finally, after reading the 18 reasons about military retiner pay "myths", please feel free to continue to discuss why you feel military retired pay should be treated as a "pension" and not what it was originally intended to be - a reduced pay for reduced service to keep a knowledgable "back-up" cadre of experienced and trained military members "on call" to return to active duty in the event of a great national emergency ! When a military retiree does return to active service, the entitlement to receive military retired pay ceases and they receive appropriate active duty pay until they re-retire again. Thanks for listening !

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