Military Divorce and Changes to VA Disability Compensation

Not all Servicemembers with that same VA disability rating receive exactly the same amount of VA Disability Compensation.  For any given disability rating, the amount received varies based on whether the Servicemember has a spouse and dependent children (or a dependent parent).

In military divorce, a Servicemember receiving VA Disability Compensation must remember to notify the VA post-divorce that they no longer have a spouse.  This is done using VA Form 21-686c, which is available on the VA’s website (i.e. enter “VA Form 21-686c” into your browser’s search and download the form from the VA’s website).  The form includes the mailing address to which the Servicemember should mail the form to the VA. 

If a Servicemember forgets to notify the VA at or near the time of divorce, the VA eventually will discover the change in marital status.   Every few years the VA tasks the Servicemember receiving disability compensation to recertify the status of dependents.  If the loss of a spouse is discovered years after divorce, it can result in thousands of dollars the Servicemember owes the VA.

For example, using the 2019 VA Disability Compensation tables, a “Servicemember Only” who is 70% disabled receives $1,403 per month.  For the same 70% disability rating, a “Servicemember with Spouse” receives $1,522.71 per month.  In this example, failure to notify the VA after divorce that the Servicemember no longer has a spouse results in over-payment of $119 per month or $1,428 per year.  Stay ahead of the issue so a financial surprise doesn’t appear years after military divorce.

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC.  The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world.  The firm specializes in Federal Civil Service and Military Divorce matters.