The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a federal law called the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act preempts any applicable state law approach to the contrary regarding property division rights. The state law would classify a waived portion of retirement pay as community property, eligible for division in a divorce. However, the USFSPA law expressly prohibits that approach.
The case involved a couple that had divorced one year before the husband retired from a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force. The divorce agreement prospectively granted each spouse half of the anticipated military retirement pay. Several years into retirement, the husband sought treatment for a degenerative joint disease in his shoulder. He concurrently filed a claim for disability benefits, which the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs approved.