Sent: Sat, 1 Mar 2008 1:22 pm
Subject: U.S. Code, Title 38 not Worth the Paper it’s written on
March 1, 2008
One might think that United States Code created by Congress would be respected as the Federal Law of the land and strictly enforced. But, that is not necessarily so. Some federal statutes aren’t worth the paper they are written on, and are totally unenforceable. One example of this is USC, Title 38, Veteran’s Benefits, §5301(a). This federal statute was written by Congress to protect veteran’s benefits from third party awards under any legal process whatsoever. This federal law is violated every single day of the year in civil courts nationwide, and no one will assume responsibility for enforcing this legislation meant to protect veteran’s benefits. Please read the following very carefully and several times over. Make certain that you understand the wording and intent of this statute before proceeding with this article; TITLE 38, U.S. Code, Veterans Benefits, §5301(a) – Non-assignability and exempt status of benefits payments of benefits due or to become due under any law administered by the Secretary shall not be assignable except to the extent specifically authorized by law, and such payments made to, or on account of, a beneficiary shall be exempt from taxation, shall be exempt from the claim of creditors, and shall not be liable to attachment, levy, or seizure by or under any legal or equitable process whatever, either before or after receipt by the beneficiary.
Mr. Jim Strickland of the VA Watchdog organization is considered by some to be an expert on USC, Title 38. Mr. Strickland is often contacted by veterans requesting his opinion on a number of issues concerning veteran’s benefits. We contacted Mr. Jim Strickland for his opinion on the 5301 travesty of justice. In reference to 5301, Strickland suggests that there is a loophole in the law that allows judges to use veteran’s disability compensation as a divisible asset in a divorce. Strickland claims the catch phrase here is, "shall not be assignable except to the extent specifically authorized by law" and that's where the law has a loophole. According to Mr. Strickland because of this ‘loophole’ VA disability compensation is not protected from third party awards.
Now, ask yourself what Congress intended when they wrote this legislation? Direct your attention to the wording Mr. Strickland references; ‘except to the extent specifically authorized by law.’ What specific ‘law’ is Mr. Strickland referring to; the law of gravity, the law of the jungle, laws of quantum physics? Or is Congress saying; except to the extent specifically authorized by ‘Federal law’? And since there is no federal law that trumps 5301, and state laws do not take precedence over federal law, Mr. Strickland’s suggestion that there is some hidden clause or loophole that allows judges to award a disabled veteran’s disability compensation to a third party is not accurate.
Operation Firing For Effect challenges Mr. Strickland’s vague explanation of the 5301 situation. The problem is enforcement of this particular law, not interpretation of 5301. The federal code is very clearly worded and staunchly focused on the protection of veterans’ benefits from third party awards. To suggest there is a loophole in the law that makes it ‘OK’ to ignore the entire intent of the legislation is not even remotely correct. State judges routinely over-step their authority and illegally strip veterans of their earned disability benefits, and there is very little a veteran can do about it. Some veteran’s advocates suggest that 5301 doesn’t really mean what it says, and civil court judges have the authority to ignore this statute when awarding spousal support or alimony. Contrary to this train of thought, the wording in 5301 is very clear and makes no provisions for veteran’s disability compensation to be diverted to a third party under any circumstances.
The truth of the matter is; the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal law enforcement agencies, Congress, and all of the Congressionally Chartered veterans’ service organizations are guilty of betraying our disabled veterans by allowing disability compensation to be used in civil courts as a divisible marital asset. Every single day in court rooms across the country severely disabled veterans are wrongly stripped of their earned disability benefits, and no one will stand up to enforce the law. It doesn’t take a college English professor to understand the wording in 5301. Any fifth grade student could comprehend the content of this federal statute. Congress was VERY clear in their phrasing and intent to protect veteran’s benefits from being awarded to ANYONE other than the veteran that earned those benefits under ANY circumstances.
So, in conclusion, if you are a wounded soldier (man, or woman) recovering at Walter Reed, or Brook Army Medical Center, BEWARE! If you are faced with an ugly divorce in the future, you may lose your disability compensation to an able body non-military ex-spouse in divorce court, and no one will lift a finger to help you, or stop this illegal practice.