Should Spouses of Convicted Troops Get Benefits?


When Kris Johnson turned her husband, then Col. Jim Johnson, in for bigamy and other crimes she thought it would mean the end of any retirement benefits for both of them. She wanted justice to be served even if it meant she would suffer.

So when a military judge gave him a lighter than expected sentence -- a $300,000 fine and no jail time unless he didn't pay -- and allowed him to retire as a Lt. Col., she knew she had to do something about the leak in the military justice system.

Had it not been for her or her children, his punishment would've been greater, she told us. But because the military offers no help to the spouses of servicemembers convicted of crimes, judges choose mercy for the sake of the family's financial future.

That may be in the process of changing. Thanks to Kris Johnson's lobbying efforts, the most recent National Defense Authorization Act, which the president signed into law early this month, orders the Defense Department to study the possibility of giving the spouses or families of servicemembers convicted under UCMJ some sort of "transitional benefit."

You can read all about the study and Kris Johnson's work to make it happen over in my story on Military.com.

When Kris originally started speaking publicly about the conundrum her husbands' crimes presented her we wrote about it both here and here.

What she is looking for from Congress is ultimately a measure that would give the spouses of law-breaking servicemembers the same transitional benefit that military spouse domestic abuse victims currently receive -- cash payments for up to three years as well as Tricare enrollment and other benefit privileges during that time.

Like I pointed out in the story, extending transitional benefits to those spouses would be extremely costly to the Defense Department. Considering the budget cuts it seems unlikely the DoD will be doing anything one could call "costly."

Nonetheless, what do you think about the idea behind this study? Should spouses of law-breaking servicemembers be given financial support while they have a chance to get back on their feet?

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