Overview of the adverse consequences for former spouses of military personnel
Proposed Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Authorization Bill
A proposed amendment to the FSPA in the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Authorization Bill has been approved by both Houses of Congress, but not yet forwarded to the President.
The amendment will freeze a former spouse's entitlement to military retired pay to the member's rank and number of years of service at the time of divorce. This is a major change.
Under current law, if a wife of 15 years divorced her husband in 2001when he was a major, and he retired 15 years later as a colonel, she would receive 25 percent of his military retired pay, or $2,080 per month.
Under this amendment, the former spouse would only receive $685 per month, even though she had to wait 15 years to begin receiving it. The former spouse would lose $1,395 per month after having had to wait for the member to retire, during which time she received nothing.
FY 2016 Defense Authorization Bill
The FY 2016 Defense Authorization Bill passed last year is worse still. It becomes effective in 2018 and under this law, the former spouse would only receive $549 per month.
Unfair Treatment of Former Spouses of Military Members
The economic impact will be greatest for those who are divorced at the midpoint of the member's military career. For those who divorce closer to retirement, there will be little impact.
The restriction on a former spouse's receipt of military retirement benefits is much harsher than under comparable civilian pension systems, such as those for school teachers and police, or other Federal pension systems. A former spouse employed as a teacher could wind up paying far more of his or her retirement to the military spouse than he or she will receive in return.
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