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Combat vets rally against splitting disability pay with ex-spouses

Eight combat veterans rallied Wednesday outside the office of divorce lawyer Marshal S. Willick to raise awareness about former military spouses who want half of the wounded warriors’ disability compensation.

“Divorce courts have figured a way to avoid federal law and award up to half a veteran’s disability compensation to able-bodied ex-spouses,” said rally organizer and disabled Vietnam veteran Jere Beery of Georgia.

He said his nonprofit veterans advocacy group, Operation Firing For Effect, is tracking 167 divorce cases nationwide, including some that involve amputees and bedridden veterans, whose spouses have sued for divorce.

Beery asserted that Willick is trolling for such cases and assisting lawyers in other states to strip veterans of their retirement assets and some disability compensation, leaving these veterans without money to support themselves.

“Any attorney who targets our combat disabled veterans and strips them of their earned disability compensation in a divorce settlement should be lined up and shot with a military-grade weapon in order to experience firsthand the pain and agony associated with disfiguring and disabling combat-related injuries,” Beery said.

Willick, who has handled four Nevada divorce cases involving veterans’ spouses in a year’s span, denied the allegation, saying in an interview at his office that he is representing his clients for fair and equal treatment as provided by the law.

Alleging that he received death threats from members of the nonprofit group, Willick fired back with a defamation lawsuit that he had served on the group and its leaders at the rally.

The lawsuit seeks general, compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $10,000 for each claim for relief.

Willick, 53, who is not a veteran, said the eight out-of-state veterans are a small group who don’t care about the facts or the law.

“These fellows, the other veterans groups consider them the lunatic fringe of veterans advocates,” Willick said.

“This current effort is them getting mad at the messenger. These are guys consumed with hatred for their former spouses. They think they’re entitled to special treatment under the law. No. They’re entitled to equal treatment. Their income is income like everybody else. That’s why they don’t like me.”

Beery, who is named in the lawsuit that Willick filed Tuesday in Clark County District Court, welcomed the legal action.

“He may very well have done us a big favor, because we want to get him in court,” said Beery, after showing his war scars while a Las Vegas police cruiser was parked in the shade of Willick’s law office building on Bonanza Road, east of Pecos Road.

“This could be the catalyst that brings the veterans community together,” Beery said.

He noted that the Disabled American Veterans passed a resolution in 2007 to restore protections against unwarranted awards of veterans’ benefits to third parties contrary to the intent of Congress.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at
krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

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