James Noel Higdon, CAPTAIN, USN Retired

Fair winds and following seas, Mate

It is with a very sad heart that I share the peaceful passing of James N. Higdon on March 4, 2018, from the flu and pneumonia. He was a lawyer extraordinaire, a national expert on military divorce; a great patriot and veteran (retired Navy captain), and a great family man, active in his community.  I would call him when veterans called me about their military divorces. Always willing to help military divorce couples, I referred them to Jim and his extremely competent and ethical team.

Jim wasn’t like most lawyers; he was well respected in the legal community, heading up the Military and Veterans Section of the Texas State Bar Association.  He was an advisor to the American Bar Association on military retirement matters, taught classes to lawyers on military divorce matters, and served as a consultant on military divorce cases all over the country. Jim wrote the foreword to my second book, Divorce and the Military II, and he and I were collaborating on a third book for military divorce couples.

Jim’s funeral will be Friday, March 9, at 11 a.m. at the Woodland Baptist Church at 15315 Huebner Road, San Antonio, TX. There will be a reception following the service. In lieu of flowers, people may make a donation to the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc. 1033 Long Prairie Road, Suite 5, Flower Mound TX 75022 Phone: 214-888-0220 Fax: 214-888-0230 (

Jim is survived by his wife, Barbara, sons Travis and Andrew and their families, his grandchildren and other relatives. He will be terribly missed. But his legacy will live on for his support to veterans and their families.

Marsha L. Thole


The Washington Ramble

ARA Quarterly Newsletter - October 2017, ARA Vol 33 Issue 4 - Get it here in PDF

Your voice on Capitol Hill,
Michael P. Smith,
Executive Director

(Excerpt from "Patriotism" 2017, used by permission of the author)

Patriotism. That is the focus of this month's Ramble.

Walking the halls of Congress for years I'm always overwhelmed by those who have served honorably...took their oath of office...taken it seriously and fulfilled their Congressional mission. Walk down Statuary Hall in the Capitol. You are surrounded by Patriots. Sadly, many today have not served their country and clearly cannot say they are Patriots in the full sense of the word.

What is a Patriot. Take a trip to your nearest VA hospital...a military cemetery, a military base. Our country has been fortunate to have the best and the brightest supporting our National Security. The current debacle with the National Football League (NFL) has disappointed many Americans. The players have "slapped their country in the face!" They were probably never taught Patriotism while attending formal school...liberal educators took the subject lightly and they themselves never served in the military...thus the arrogance and total misunderstanding by the players. It appears our country is is not...only by the reflection of confused football players by not respecting the National Anthem or US Flag.

Continue to Read more

Attention all members who have or have had any of their VA disability compensation included in assignment to pay ALIMONY or SPOUSAL and/or CHILD SUPPORT

Attention all members who have or have had any of their VA disability compensation included in assignment to pay ALIMONY or SPOUSAL and/or CHILD SUPPORT, be it from a rendered DIVORCE DECREE or CHILD SUPPORT ORDER: There now exists a Microsoft Word LAWSUIT Template which allows you to sue your state or commonwealth actors & principles involved in that illegal assignment. This lawsuit allows you to seek redress from the system when you properly assert your 38 USC Section 5301(a) rights to "VOID from its INCEPTION" regarding your illegal decree and/or order. Should you be granted a void decree or order, you will also then be entitled to total RECOUPMENT with interest of any and all VA compensation stolen from you since day one! You will also then have a claim for additional damages to settle in your U.S. District Court for federal and constitutional civil rights violations. THERE ARE NO TIME LIMITATIONS FOR FILING THIS SUIT. To receive more information, send your contact information after you click and open

Uniformed Services Retiree Population with USFSPA Monthly Deductions

Data provided by DFAS Cleveland, OH and USCG PPC, Topeka, KS

Get the PDF File Here
Oct 2017

Statistical Data Concerning the Impact of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act on Retired Members of the Uniformed Services

For: U.S.Army; U.S. Navy; U.S. Marine Corps; U.S. Air Force; U.S. Coast Guard; Comm Corps of NOAA; Comm Corps of PHS

Get the PDF file here
Oct 2017

Supreme Court rules in veteran's favor in closely watched divorce settlement case

By: Shawn Snow, May 17, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday, in the case of Howell v. Howell, that a state court cannot offset the loss of a divorced spouse’s portion of a veteran's retirement benefits when that veteran waives retirement pay in favor of disability pay. The issue has been hotly debated for years. 

In 1991, a court awarded Sandra Howell half of Air Force veteran John Howell’s retirement pay when the couple was divorced. However, after becoming aware in 2005 that he was eligible for disability benefits, John, who had received a 20 percent disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, elected to waive $250 of his $1,500 a month in retirement pay, which is taxable, in favor of $250 monthly disability pay from the VA, which is not taxable. That reduced Sandra's monthly divorce settlement by $125, so she went back to court, arguing that she should get half of what his retirement pay would have been if he had not opted for disability pay. 

The Arizona Supreme Court upheld her claim in its interpretation of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, a law that regulates how military retirement pay may be divided up after a divorce.  

The Supreme Court's ruling Monday overturned the Arizona court's decision. 

Until 2003, disabled veterans had to select either their full retirement compensation from the Department of Defense or their VA disability benefit with a reduced retirement annuity. This penalty became known as the "VA offset." Many veterans choose the offset, however, because disability payments are tax free. In the 2003 and 2004 defense authorization bills, Congress waived this offset in certain cases, and veterans with career-ending combat injuries or a disability rating of 50 percent or higher were allowed to concurrently receive both types of payments. 

Full Reference here

Supreme Court Decision




Hot off the Presses


Thanks to DFAS and the Freedom of Information Act, we are able to share the current toll USFSPA provisions are taking on uniformed services personnel, and by extension, the very national security that protects us from our foreign and domestic enemies.

The 97th Congress passed USFSPA provisions to President Reagan and he signed it into law. Iowa Senator Harold Jepson apologized to me, in a Memo, for the harm his legislation (it was his version of the Bill that cleared the joint conference) has done to career uniformed services personnel and by extension to the national defense team we all rely on to protect us from our foreign and domestic enemies.

State legislators dodge the USFSPA reform issue, by falsely claiming it is a Congressional mandate. Interestingly, six of our great States protect their government employee pensioners from the harm USFSPA provisions lay on our Federal Uniformed Service pesonnel. Ironically, other states want us to believe they too cannot similarly protect those who make their every existence possible.......Learn More->


Divorce and the Military II


Discover how unpublicized Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act provisions target career Military, PHS and NOAA personnel! .......................ORDER THE BOOK..............................

Divorce in the military(1) What You Don't Know CanHurt You
(2) What USFSPA Is and What It Is Not
(3) Where Were You in '82? (Things the Recruiter Didn't Tell You)
(4) Controversy Aplenty
(5) Is it lncome or ls it Property?
(6) Women in Uniform
(7) The Reserves and the Guard
(8) All Divorces Are Not Alike: What you need to consider
(9) Federal Benefits: Here Today and May be Gone Tomorrow
(10) Financial Management Before and After Your Divorce
(11) Survivor Benefit Plan
(12) 51 Flavors and Counting
(13) The Divorce Process
(14) Selecting an Attorney
(15) Strategies
(16) Legislative Environment:
(17) About the ARA
(18) Restoring Fairness and Equality

View the Complete Table of Contents of Divorce in the Miliary


The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA)

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) was implemented ostensibly to protect deserving uniformed service member former spouses. Ironically, it created a class of service member casualties, larger than those it was designed to protect.

The American Retirees Association (ARA) was founded in 1984 specifically to address the numerous inequities found in Title 10 USC 1408 et seq (USFSPA). ARA is a 501(c)(19) Veterans Support Organization (VSO), chartered in California, as Tax Exempt Corporation 1551226, with Federal Tax Exemption ID  33-0246743. Our field membership is comprised of all male and female members of the Uniformed Services, residing across the United States and around the world.

USFSPA 1099-R Fraud Alert

There is no easy method for a concerned State Department of Revenue to determine which Form 1099-R is from a military retiree or a former dependent military spouse. In addition, there is no easy way to determine whether a Form 1099-R is reporting tax exempt military retired pay or non-exempt payments, pursuant to a divorce decree, for which Title 10 of the United States Code,

Section §1408(c)(2), applies. If you can identify a resident you believe has committed or is committing this USFSPA related fraud, consider reporting their contact information to their Department of Revenue, Audit Bureau, (anonymously, if you prefer). We are confidant their case-by-case basis investigation results are confidential.

DISCLAIMER: The American Retirees Association provides general information on the issue of non-disability military retirement benefits as a divisible marital asset. It is with the understanding that this Web Site is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services. State laws relative to domestic relations vary and change frequently. If legal or other expert assistance is required, please consult with competent professionals.