Berberich v Mattson

Minnesota Reverses, Will No Longer Award Disability Benefits To Ex-Spouses

Berberich v Mattson

Yesterday, the Minnesota appellate court reversed its longstanding position on veterans benefits and will no longer award ex-spouses a portion of disability compensation.

Attorney Francis White argued the pro-veteran position supporting the Congressional mandate that veterans’ disability compensation payments are not marital property. The case, Berberich v Mattson, overruled previous case law that erroneously affirmed that veterans disability compensation monies could be awarded to an ex-spouse in a divorce.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued its decision in Berberich v. Mattson, 2017 Minn. App. LEXIS 122, which restored to a retired Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) the full measure of the Disability Compensation.

It is important to note the win was not merely another victory for Attorney White, “As a disabled veteran and Air Force retiree, this serves as vindication for all veterans who were penalized by state courts.” He continued, “Those courts refused to follow the clear mandate from Congress to not award a veterans disability compensation to an ex-spouse.”

Following the win, attorney White published the Facebook group Gatfield v Gatfield Victims to help veterans affected by the unenforceable agreements get the relief they deserve.

Veterans with children can still have their benefits apportioned for child support. However, in instances where the divorcing couple has no minor-aged children, the benefits will generally not be apporitioned solely for the purpose of alimony.

Berberich v Mattson Disability Benefits Decision

Yesterday, the Minnesota State Court of Appeals undid a massive injustice that had been imposed upon Minnesota’s Disabled Veterans in 2004. This reversal is based on a recent Supreme Court decision on point in Howell v Howell that essentially reversed Minnesota’s Gatfield v Gatfield.

I will explain this below, as briefly and simply as possible for my readers who hate reading legalese.


In May of this year, the Supreme Court of the United States, in Howell, 137 S. Ct. 1400, decided that divorce decrees awarding rights to disability compensation for ex-spouses were unenforceable because they were violations of Federal Law, related to Veteran’s benefits.


In 2004, fifteen years earlier, following the lead of many of her sister State’s courts, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, in Gatfield v. Gatfield, 682 N.W.2d 632, decided it could partition disability compensation benefits despite a Congressional prohibition.

According to Gatfield, a veteran could voluntarily allocate his or her disability benefits to an ex-spouse vis-a-vis required alimony payments. If the veteran failed to pay, a court could step in to force payment through a subsequent court order.

Minnesota’s courts, as well as most courts throughout the country, had rigorously enforced these agreements, even though the judge was unable to impose that outcome his or herself.

Now, under the reversal in Berberich, a Minnesota court cannot award monies in this context. The reason is that a veteran lacks the authority to overrule Congress, even if the agreement is a voluntary contractual obligation in a divorce proceeding.

This is based on Howell’s basic acknowledgment of the lack of a state court’s authority to “’vest’ that which they lack the authority to give.”

Example Of Inappropriate Allocation

For some background, military retirees have indemnification clauses in their divorce decrees where the veteran promises to compensate the ex-spouse should their retirement pay be reduced by an offset resulting from a disability compensation award. Generally, the offset would be an equal portion of the disability pay.

This practice is no longer allowed, and it is probable that veterans previously bound by such agreements can have their decree reconsidered by a court in that limited context.

Amicus And Next Steps

I participated in the appeal as Amicus with Michigan Attorney Carson Tucker and am obviously pleased with the outcome. Attorney Tucker focuses on federal appellate matters including informing courts of the nuances related to veterans benefits. Attorney Brian Lewis served as co-counsel for Attorney White.

Believe it or not, most attorneys and judges are unfamiliar with veterans benefits and related administrative laws regulating how the benefits are administered. It is a mess, and veterans impacted by decades of bad decisions concerning benefits need to push back.

If you are a disabled veteran, subject to a Minnesota divorce decree, it might be a good idea to contact your attorney and ask him or her if you were a victim of Gatfield, and what can be done about it.

Check out the new Gatfield v Gatfield Victims group on Facebook.

Attorney White can be reached by email at francis.white (at)

Source: Minnesota Decision In BerBerich v Mattson

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  1. wow finely someone fought and won. Hopefully these veterans who are having to pay, will some how get the message that they can fight this in court.

    now we need someone to fight to stop the VA from denying disability claims that should have been awarded.

  2. Its easier for BIG Business to sue the US Gubmint for the lost of sales under NAFTA, than it is for a Veteran to sue for Medical Malpractice, or for compensational claims. There needs to be more knowledgeable attorneys that serve Veterans with VA disputes and issues. Again, just saying. – – – Nutter.

    1. My second cousin stopped by tonight for a visit that was long over due. He wanted to show me his 9 mm that he purchased on sale from a large Sport and Gun Supply Store. Anyway, bottom line from his visit, I encouraged him to purchase more guns, due to the US Political and Domestic Movements.

      And, he agreed. Good, mission accomplished. Arming citizens to help protect our Citizenship when it may be required. Having the back-up to protect our Birthright, Residency, Allegiance, Civil, and oh my, the less discussed Disability Rights.

      Citizens that have an Ailment, Disease, Impairment, Malady, or Weakness, in which limits them from rightfully competing in life, these folks are under represented, and taken advantage of. I have directly witnessed this behavior, and have been on the opposite end of the carelessness of others. I’ve learned so much in the last 5 years.

      I mention the above, especially since the spotlight is now on the 2nd Amendment, due to the current cowardly, and deadly soft target shootings in Las Vegas, Nevada. 59 fatalities with over 520 injuries, and 3 victims unidentified (source; Folks, there is going to be hot debates on the US Gun Laws. More shootings, more people are going to speak against gun ownership (RT News Source).

      Yes, I’m a BIG fan of RT, and don’t give a shit who likes it or not. I get more justified and validated news from RT than the major Main Stream Media (MSM) Networks put together. Basically, the MSM News Reports are bonk, fake, stretched, manipulated, etc. Per the MSM, its hard for me to trust the weather report, or even final sports scores. Now I’m stretching things out quite a bit. Do you get my point or don’t you?

      I’ve noticed that some of the regulars haven’t been posting for a while. The only person that ever mentioned about boycotting Ben’s site is the Lemster (Lem). Oh, come on, sit down, I’m only razzing you some. It’s all good. Hope all is well. – – – Nutter.

  3. @Benjamin Krause – – – No offense, but I’m not too hip on the flagging of posts. I think we’re all adults by believing that issues can work out amongst the authors. At first, I was under the impression that your site was not going to be monitored. I guess things change. I’m just not sold on the whole concept.

    When reviewing the reasons for flagging, I see a big potential of psychology, emotions, beliefs, and other things that can effect the communication between parties. Damn Ben, your now going to handle the bitching? Your going to have to wear all sorts of different hats, even more so now. Kind of comical. And please, I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. Know what I mean? lmao – – – Nutter.

    1. ANutterVet, did I miss something? If comments are being flagged for some reason, it would be nice to know what they are.

      If cussing is one of them, I would have to be more careful and eloquent when referring to rodents of unknown parentage.

      1. @91Veteran – – – 91, put you cursor on the shaded flay on the top right of the lighter shaded comment box. Look at your above post, see the word “SOME” on the first line of your post? Scroll your cursor over the shaded flag, a black shaded dialog type of box pops up.

        When the Black Dialog is up, tap it once. An Interactive type Dialog Box appears. Here you see where one files complaints about the content in our posts. – – – Nutter.

      2. Thanks ANutterVet. I suppose if someone wants to flag and report my comment, that is up to them. I would assume Ben can just as easily reject whoever is complaining about a comment, or block them outright if they start flagging and reporting all comments.

      3. @91Veteran – – – I’m trying to feel accepting per the “flagging” of comments. Like you said 91, it will be up to the other party whether they want to file a complaint by “flagging” a comment.

        As a matter of fact, I’m filing a damn complaint due to your hippish attitude. We’ll see how er goes. LOL Many are complaining that policies as a whole, lean forward to Conservatism. Yes that’s right, the far left are building “Hillary’s Army.” LMAO.

        Then I had to stop laughing, because their movement can actually gain ground, and their will be many that will not like the outcome.

        Then another “Army” is built (on the Republican side). And, its function will be to go against the newly items that now favors the “Liberal” side of things, or agenda. With the ultimate objective being to remove POTUS Trump. I understand all of this. Just saying to wait for it. – – – Nutter.

  4. In some respects Ben, I’m a little shocked this ruling was even still followed.

    Could you imagine the outrage if the husband of a disabled veteran took part of HER disability as alimony?

    I wonder now if there ever has been such a case.

    1. Even some of the woman FemiNazi’s are sporting braided underarm hair these days, anything could happen, esp. in Pacific Northwest (no offense Dennis) 🙂

      1. I was never one way or the otherwise with you, Leatherneck. You probably have me confused with someone else. See, I have always been considered an asshole to one person or group all my life, so I consider myself asshole neutral these days. 🙂

      2. @namnibor
        I don’t mind at all dude but your information is pretty dated. Braided armpit hair on the chicks here went out with the unibrow look. Armpit hair is now properly worn by the chick as dreadlocks. It takes less time to get ready in the morning and is a much less technical achievement – a bonus these days for those educated in public schools.

      3. Always handy to have a dreadlock jump rope around for kiddies that get bored and need some playground games. The beads would add some weight but could put an eye out.

  5. Congratulations on this success Ben.

    Can you comment more on this? Was this a state by state issue? I ask because I had always understood veterans disability was off-limits in a divorce case.

    Put another way, is this an issue in some states where they ignored (or didn’t know) the law?

    1. I had heard a judge couldn’t tell disabled veteran they had to give up their disability compensation but the judge could order them to pay a certain amount of money and the judge didn’t care where they got it which is a loophole around this.

      1. I can believe this. I assumed in divorce court, anything ordered to be paid would be made based on the ability to pay…meaning, how much income from working. I suppose if a judge just decides to look at totals in a bank account…

  6. Off-Topic: We know of one Veteran’s life’s loss in the Las Vegas massacre; “[Chris Roybal, 28, of Southern California, was a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, ABC News said. Roybal was shot in the chest, ABC said.]”

  7. @Benjamin Krause – – – What do you think of an app that can measure the vote of a post, by being more specific than using a format of positive or negative voting? Instead of a plus or minus vote, what about using a scale of how some agrees with the post? Say from 1-5, or like our lovely, caring, corruptible, and unaccountable VA scales our pain, 1-10? I’ve found that their have been many statements where I only partially agree. A positive or negative vote doesn’t reflect this difference, whereas the 1-5 or 1-10 scale will still reflect if someone likes or agrees totally to the contents of the post.

    I don’t even know if there is a WP app that can do something like the above. Plus, if there is an app that can better fine tune the rating of a post, this would still be better then the + or – voting of a post. And, this would better reflect on how we rate the comments by those who post FEEDBACK APPRECIATED. – – – Nutter.

    1. Boo, negative responses. Don’t worry, I’ve been through worse. The current app is too broad IMO to file a complaint on. Too broad. Again, BOOOOO. – – – Nutter.

  8. A lot of pissed women. Doesn’t mean much. They can still order payment, just can’t garnish benefits, just go to jail instead

    1. Mike, your comment brings up another question:

      If the woman was awarded $1000 month in the divorce because the disability benefit paid to the man allowed that much, but the man actually only made enough working to pay $500 a month, are you saying he would go to jail now that the other $500 was cut off?

      Are you saying the woman would continue to have ordered $1000 from the man without regard to where it was coming from?

      1. @91Veteran – – – 91, in your scenario, they would accrue back awarded support payments. Even though someone can’t pay the full amount, the balance is still owed. The amount of support that is set in the Court is still ordered. The payment amount has to be changed in the original support order to reflect any changes.

        And, in my lovely ex-State, I’ve heard of some Judges ordering support payments based on one’s potential, and not based on one’s income. Its a bunch of shit. Should be simple to figure things out. The powers at be make it complex. Plus, when my ex was supposed to pay support, she didn’t until she was ordered. There was a lot more sympathy for my ex-wife when paying support. – – – Nutter.

    1. @Faycal Ferhat – – – These GREAT men may have powerful and fantastic women that support them in the background during their lives. Got to love our GREAT giving women too. Shootz bruddah, my wife puts up with this challenged Veteran, and I definitely know that this benefits me GREAT-ly. Although, I do know what you’re saying per your post.

      Question, with no offense; Where are you from? I’ve NEVER heard of your first name. Hey look, I’m not fooled, to Westerners, your name stands out like a stick in the ground.

      Suggestion, with no offense; Please don’t misspell your first name. Why? Because it is very similar to the word “FECAL,” which is what we flush down the bowl when we need to take care of business (poop). And, I take NO MEASURE IN DEMEANING your name, its origin, or how or why you were named Faycal. Plus, if my name looked like, sounded like, or spelt like, a name that could cause me to get cut up about, or made fun of, I’d like some one to stand-up and let me know. That’s another reason the I had to share this with you.

      Faycal, I first wrote this post out, then didn’t go back to it for about 45 minutes. I THOUGT ABOUT DELETING my comment, but then I said to myself, “ANutterVet, how do you know that someone didn’t say something to Faycal about these matters? You that us Westerners can be cruel sometimes.” That’s why I posted this context. Again, with no offense. – – – Nutter.

  9. If you are offended by sexist poitically irreverent first ammendment speech, please stop reading here….

    We live in a culture now of young women no longer willing to put off morbid obesity until after marriage and who have now come to expect child support payments (here in Oregon) until the kid reaches 21. Yep, we have to pay until they can legally enter a bar now and that cash gets sent to mommy, the blob on the couch watching Oprah until the kid is legal when they come home drunk.

    Nancy Reagan was hardly an intellectual giant yet a whole country swooned when she labelled men “Deadbeat Dads”, despite records clearly showing women skip out on ordered child support on a three to one ratio compared to men. Think about it. What kind of women hang out in hollywood trying to bag a movie star? I know images of slutty prostitutes come to mind, but Ronny Reagan was a movie star LONG before he was a politician. Nancy hung out in hollywood and bagged her a movie star… What kind of woman hangs out in Hollywood offering her wares to bag a famous husband? Answer: clearly the Nancy Reagan kind.

    Nancy then became a politcal power. Women began enjoying support awards (cash taken from men and given to women) not based on what a man earned anymore, but rather what a lawyer could argue that a man could “potentially” earn. This meant for me that even though I only earned about $20,000 per year at the time of my own support order, my ex was awarded support as if I earned $35,000 per year because it was shown that a previous job paid this. No matter that my previous employeer went bankrupt and jot matter at all that I lost the ability to pay my mortgage and had to move into a 19 foot Airstream in the woods to survive.

    This veteran issue Ben dangerously admits to supporting stems from that same tolerance showe to an idiot slutty first lady allowed to flap her gums and convince the women of America that they were being cheated of their rightful slice of the man’s wallet. Any legal begal like Ben who pointed out the inequities was also labelled a deadbeat, sexist, child hating pig and was shunned by media.

    In return America was awarded now with a whole new generation that no longer moves out of Mom’s house until well past the age of 30 or 40. We have a booming bariatric furniture industry now targetting kids younger than 13, and a whole generation of women living in the best upper East Side luxury apartments who have never lifted a finger to work while the deadbeats who laid upon them in marriage live in poverty at Southside RV park with zero hope of improving their lives. Women account for 80% of all consumer spending in America yet only as a statistic earn 20% of the money that is so spent.

    Why do I bring up Nancy? Simple. As Ronny’s mate who,laid upon her she shared his ideals, knowledge, interests, sense of morality and enjoument of his pecker. While she was labelling all men as deadbeats do you know what our buddy Ronny Reagen did after he dismounted her? He took an agency well known to be totally corrupt, the VA, and granted enormous new powers to it elevating it to a cabinet level position. Moreover despite fierce opposition, he did it in a way that precluded judicial review protections for vets. Yep. He also saw the men (any wonder?) as part of the problem and just did not want all those deadbeat men getting their day in court. Besides if he went to bat for the men he would have been cut off at bedtime, right? Ronald Reagan decided vets deserve no justice, and that the rights in a marriage was reserved for the women alone.

    Do not misinterpret my rant here – I am not trying to suggest that Reagan was pussy whipped at all. Except for what pants he put on, who he spoke to, what he said, when he ate, what he ate, and when he went outside, what he remembered and so on, she had practically no influence on the man that I can see. Still though, it does appear at first glance that man hating was a shared interest between the two.

    Nice job Ben but be warned – as a lawyer who openly acknowledges participating in the partial shutting of the American man’s wallet you too my friend are now on the American male shit list. Good luck, and nicely done!

    1. I can just imagine the little college campus social justice femi-nazi’s hyperventilating while planning an assault on Ben if they were aware of his role in this.

  10. Good job! ANY win for Veterans is one less Right loss and regained. Now perhaps Attorney White can investigate the VA’s illegal “Appointed Fiduciary Program”….for entire US of A, not just Minnesota.

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