The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cannot garnish your disability benefits for child support in most cases because the law protects this compensation and separates it from marital property. Still, VA may withhold some of your military retirement payment and send it to a divorced spouse or your children in some circumstances.
When Can VA Garnish Your Benefits?
VA provides disabled vets monthly compensation to improve their quality of life and sustain their families. If you fail to provide child support to your former spouse after a divorce, the administration may garnish some of your pay.
Another circumstance where VA may garnish benefits is if you have waived some of your military retirement pay to receive untaxed compensation. However, the amount they can deduct must not be more than the disability payments you get in place of a pension.
According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), veterans with a disability rating of more than 50% may qualify for concurrent retirement and disability pay (CRDP). This means they do not have to waive one payment to receive the other. If you are eligible for CRDP, VA may also garnish your pay for child support. In this case, they will deduct from your military pension and not disability payments.
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How Much Will VA Garnish?
If you fail under the categories allowing garnishment, you may wonder how much VA can send your former spouse. Before reducing benefits, the administration will determine if you have additional income sources. If you do, they may withhold a higher percentage from your pay than they would for a vet with no other income source.
Another factor VA can consider is your health condition. If you have a disability requiring more income to treat, the garnished amount will be relatively low. On the other hand, VA will likely reduce a significant amount but not greater than the waived monthly compensation if you are in good health.
Other factors that can determine the amount VA garnishes are:
- Number of children not in your custody
- The net income of your former spouse
- If your former partner has a disabling condition or special needs
While VA will typically determine the exact benefits to deduct, the amount will likely be between 20 percent and 50 percent of your total pay. This is because any amount lower than 20 percent is considered insufficient to care for your children, but withholding more than half of your pay would cause you undue hardship.
What Is the Apportionment of VA Benefits?
Apportionment refers to VA sharing your benefits with your spouse, children, or dependent parents. When a former spouse wants to claim some portion of your pay, they must file an apportionment for themselves and your children.
They also need to present various documents alongside the application, such as financial statements. If VA approves an apportionment request, they will reduce your benefits accordingly. Your former spouse will then receive a monthly check to cater for child support and, in some cases, alimony.
Will You Know When Your Former Spouse Qualifies for Apportionment?
VA will send a notice letter if your former partner qualifies for apportionment. This document can include details like the reason for the garnishment and a breakdown of the amount they will deduct. If you disagree with VA’s decision, you can request a decision review process to reduce or stop the apportionment.
This process will involve presenting evidence showing the measure will lead to financial problems for you. If VA agrees with your claim, they may stop the garnishment or award your former spouse a lower amount.
If VA denies your previous partner an apportionment claim, you will also receive a notice. The applicant can also request a decision review process and try to get a different ruling. When your former spouse asks for this procedure, you may want to consult with a legal professional. They can help you prepare a defense against losing VA benefits. An attorney can also recommend ways to avoid garnishment, like keeping up with child support payments.
Can VA Stop Garnishing Benefits?
VA could stop garnishing benefits even if your former partner qualifies for apportionment. For example, if your spouse remarries, they will no longer receive alimony. However, VA will continue garnishing a particular amount each month for child support, unless another person legally adopts them.
Another situation in which VA will stop deducting benefits for child support is if your child joins the military before age 18.
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Get More Information About VA Benefit Garnishment Today
If you are wondering whether your VA benefits can be garnished for child support, you may want to seek help from a disability lawyer. They can assess your situation to determine if VA is likely to reduce your payments.
They can also represent you during a decision review process if VA garnishes a significant amount. If you need legal guidance to navigate VA garnishment and apportionment laws, call for a case assessment.