Disability benefits are typically meant to ease the financial hardships that workers face in the aftermath of an injury that leads to disability and being unable to work. Such benefits are disposable income, however, and beneficiaries might lose them in the event of a court judgment against them. A Vermont man found this out the hard way when a family court starting diverting his disability payments to his ex-wife to satisfy his alimony.
The man and his wife divorced back in 2000 with the court ordering that he provide $2000 a month to his wife for spousal support. He made partial payments to her until he stopped doing so in 2008. When his ex-wife went to court to enforce the order, the court found against him again, but he never resumed making payments.
His ex-wife asked the court to garnish his income, but the man’s income consisted only of Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits and veterans’ disability pay. While his veterans’ pay was exempt from the income calculation, his SSDI benefits were not. The court ordered that he turn over the maximum of 55 percent of his disability benefits to his wife.
If veterans’ benefits are exempt, should the law provide the same status to disability benefits? When a person’s income consists of federal benefits and then a court orders a judgment against that person, taxpayer money ends up being used to satisfy the judgment, as it was in this case. On the other hand, allowing the man to ignore his court-ordered duties seems unfair as well. Your comments on the issue are welcome below.
Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys