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Former Military Spouses May Face Steep Reductions In Benefits

Last month, U.S. Congress began to consider a proposal that might drastically reduce the income received by divorced spouses of military personnel. As reported by Action News Jax, the proposal could cut back the amount of retirement pay to which these spouses are entitled, enabling service members to keep more for themselves.

"It's definitely a good step in the right direction," one veteran said. The measure offers financial protection to military personnel who divorced early in the careers and remarried - and started new families - later on. Simply put, it ensures such individuals would have means to support their families during retirement.

The question, of course, is whether it's fair to the original spouse.

The issue at-hand

The proposal is part of an amendment that would reform the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA), which recognizes the rights of former military spouses to receive retirement pay.

Currently, former spouses may, depending on the case, receive retirement benefits based on the service member's rank at the time of retirement. If reformed, spouses' benefits would be based on the rank at the time of the divorce.

According to the Action News article, the changes are a means to correct an absurdity in the system. Namely, personnel are sometimes "required to give large portions of their retirement pay to ex-spouses even if those service members divorced the spouses years before achieving their highest rank."

Is it fair to former spouses?

Nevertheless, it is important that the former spouses' interests remain protected, too. In cases where a couple has had several children, or where the military life has prevented a spouse from pursuing a career of his or her own, the former spouse may have a rightful claim to robust retirement benefits. Such matters would likely require an experience attorney to sort out.

How the proposal will play remains to be determined. But the results could have a profound effect on families throughout the country.

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