Haynes v. McDonald, No. 15-7014 (Fed. Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Mr. and Ms. Haynes divorced in 1995. Mr. Haynes died in 2000. Ms. Haynes sought Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits under 38 U.S.C. 1310, as a “surviving spouse.” Because Ms. Haynes was not married to Mr. Haynes at the time of his death, the VA Regional Office denied the claim. Ms. Haynes later requested that the Regional Office reopen her claim on the presentation of new documentation showing a decision by the Army Board of Correction of Military Records to award Ms. Haynes an annuity as a “former spouse” under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act , 10 U.S.C. 1447(10), which permits former spouses to receive annuities. The Regional Office denied the request. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals agreed, while acknowledging Ms. Haynes’ argument that because the basis for her divorce was physical abuse, she should not be required to demonstrate marriage at the time of Mr. Haynes’ death in order to receive DIC benefits. The Veterans Court and Federal Circuit affirmed. Although Mr. Haynes’ abusive actions were documented, the statute requires validly married spouses at the time of the veteran’s death.