The short answer to the question of whether a person’s Veterans Administration (VA) disability benefits can be garnished is a qualification sometimes. When a veteran falls behind on paying child support or spousal support, the court or the state might issue an order to garnish the veteran’s VA benefits. Sometimes those benefits can get garnished, but not always.
A Michigan VA disability claims attorney can help you navigate the process of the attempted garnishments of VA benefits. Let’s explore the question, can a VA disability claim be garnished?
Who Gets to Decide if a Veteran’s VA Disability Benefits Can Be Garnished
You might think that the judge or the state administrative agency that issued the garnishment order would decide if a veteran’s VA disability benefits can get garnished and, if so, the amount to be garnished; but that is not the case. The VA, not the courts or the states, gets to determine if the particular veteran’s VA disability benefits can get garnished and, if so, how much garnishment is reasonable.
The General Rules of Garnishing VA Disability Benefits
Usually, one can only garnish the VA disability benefits of a veteran if the veteran waived military retired pay in order to get the VA disability benefits. If the veteran did waive a portion of it their military retired pay for that reason, they can only garnish the part of the veteran’s disability compensation that the veteran received in place of military retired pay.
The other portion of the disability compensation cannot get garnished. Also, one cannot garnish the VA benefits at all if the veteran did not waive any military retired pay to receive VA benefits.
Factors the VA Uses to Determine How Much of the VA Disability Compensation Can Get Garnished
Determining the amount of the disability benefits that represent the retired military pay the veteran waived is only the first step in the process. The VA will analyze several additional factors to determine how much of the eligible VA disability compensation would be a reasonable garnishment. Usually, the VA only allows between 20 to 50% of a veteran’s VA disability benefits to get garnished. A higher amount would likely cause undue hardship to the veteran.
The VA will not garnish a veteran’s VA disability compensation for taxes, student loans, debts to creditors, or medical bills if the VA disability compensation is the veteran’s sole source of income. The VA will explore whether the veteran requires more income than the average person because of any special needs the veteran might have.
The VA also examines extra expenses caused by special needs of the former spouse and children not in the custody of the veteran. The other income available to the veteran’s former spouse is an additional factor the VA will look into when determining the reasonableness of the garnishment request.
In some situations, the VA could refuse to enforce a garnishment order of VA disability benefits if the garnishment would cause the veteran undue financial hardship, or if:
- The veteran’s former spouse was found guilty of infidelity by a state court.
- The former spouse or child of the veteran has not filed for apportionment.
- The ex-spouse of the veteran is living with another person with whom they have a romantic relationship.
The VA does not always review the criteria fully, sometimes resulting in improper garnishments. There are ways to demonstrate that you would meet an exception, precluding garnishment, especially if you can show it would be unreasonable or cause undue hardship. A Michigan VA Disability attorney can help you with your garnishment of VA disability benefits situation. You can contact our office today for legal assistance, we gladly offer a free consultation.