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Are there any veterans benefits for divorced spouses?

Status: Open    Feb 18, 2015 - 01:43 PM

VA Benefits

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Feb 20, 2015 - 08:02 AM

The general and standard answer to your question is "no". The one instance that I have worked with a divorsee involved a common-law marriage. At an assisted living in California, the divorced wife returned to her former husband's home to care for him. She stayed, caring for him, for long enough to fulfill the commonlaw requirements for that state and was, therefore, justifiably remarried to him. The state and the VA recognized her commonlaw marriage and she was then eligible for benefits as a surviving spouse. This was in 2008 and I have not personally worked a similar case since that one.

According to Merwyn J. Miller from

Divorced spouse of Living Veteran: A spouse of a living veteran cannot apply. Therefore, a divorced spouse of a living veteran cannot apply. The only person who can apply for the Pension Benefit is the veteran or the surviving spouse. [Veterans Benefits Manual, §7.1, 2009 Edition, Lexis-Nexis] This is apparent from the pension programs that exist. There is a Non-Service Connected Disability Pension available to Veterans. There is also a Non-Service Connected Death Benefit in the form of the Death Pension. This latter benefit is one to which the surviving spouse may be entitled, but not a divorced spouse of a Living Veteran. [38 USC 1541(a)] Whether a veteran could apply for his former spouse on the basis that a divorced spouse is a dependent due to terms of a court divorce order would probably occur rather rarely and is a different question than the one presented. This article does not deal with that latter issue.

Divorced Spouse of Deceased Veteran: To qualify as a surviving spouse of a veteran, the claimant must show that he or she was the valid spouse of the veteran at the time of the veteran’s death. [38 USC 101(2), 38 CFR 3.50] By definition, a person divorced from the veteran was not the valid spouse of the veteran when the veteran died. There is a possible exception as to being a “valid spouse” for someone who attempted to marry a veteran but the marriage was invalid due to a legal impediment. It would not appear that this exception would apply to a divorced spouse situation. Another possible exception would be if the surviving spouse separated from the veteran due to physical or emotional abuse and was not “at fault.” This latter exception has been applied to excusing the failure to cohabitate at the time of the Veterans death but does not appear to have ever been applied to a divorce situation. [Gregory v Brown, 4 Vet App 108, 113 (1993), Westberry v Principi, 255 F 3d 1377 (Fed Cir. 2001)]



Mar 05, 2015 - 07:03 AM

I have one client she is widowed of veteran who worked in navy and can she get VA care. She is living in my facilty RCFE. Thanks.


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