Military Domestic Problems
Victims often hesitate to report abuse because they fear the impact it will have on their spouse's career. A recent DOD study found that service members reported for abuse are 23 percent more likely to be separated from the service than nonabusers and somewhat more likely to have other than honorable discharges. The majority who remain in the military are more likely to be promoted more slowly than nonabusers.
Many military spouses don't know that federal law gives financial protection to the spouse if the member is discharged for an offense which "involves abuse of the then-current spouse or a dependent child." It doesn't matter if the discharge is a punitive discharge imposed by a court-martial, or an administrative discharge initiated by the commander. The key is that the reason for the discharge must be for a "dependent abuse" offense.
The term "involves abuse of the then-current spouse or a dependent child" means that the criminal offense is against the person of that spouse or a dependent child. Crimes that may qualify as "dependent-abuse offenses" are ones such as sexual assault, rape, sodomy, assault, battery, murder, and manslaughter. (This is not an exhaustive or exclusive listing of dependent-abuse offenses, but is provided for illustrative purposes only.)
At the time of this article, the current authorized payment is $850 per month. If the spouse has custody of a dependent child or children of the member, the amount of monthly compensation to the spouse shall be increased for each child by $215. If there is no eligible spouse, compensation paid to a dependent child or children, is paid in equal shares to each child.
The duration of the payments cannot exceed 36 months. If the military member had less than 36 months of obligated military service at the time of the discharge or imposition of the court-martial sentence, then the duration of the payments will be the length of the member's obligated service, or 12 months, whichever is greater.
If a spouse receiving payments remarries, payments terminate as of the date of the remarriage. Payment shall not be renewed if such remarriage is terminated. If the payments to the spouse terminate due to remarriage and there is a dependent child not living in the same household as the spouse or member, payments shall be made to the dependent child.
If the military member who committed the abuse resides in the same household as the spouse or dependent child to whom compensation is otherwise payable, payment shall terminate as of the date the member begins residing in such household.
If the victim was a dependent child, and the spouse has been found by competent authority designated by the Secretary concerned to have been an active participant in the conduct constituting the criminal offense or to have actively aided or abetted the member in such conduct against that dependent child, the spouse, a dependent child living with the spouse shall not be paid transitional compensation.
In addition to the transitional benefits, if the military member was eligible for retirement, and was denied retirement because of the criminal offense, the spouse can still apply to a divorce court for a division of retired pay under the provisions of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, and the military will honor the payments. (Note: Under this provision, such payments terminate upon remarriage).
Even if a domestic violence case is handled off base via the civilian criminal court system, criminal conviction of even a misdemeanor involving domestic violence can end a service member's military career. The 1996 Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968 makes it unlawful for anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence to possess firearms. The law applies to law enforcement officers and military personnel.
Information derived from Armed Forces News Service & Various DOD Directives