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Veteran chooses jail over giving his disability money to ex-wife

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CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. -- A Suncoast veteran went to jail Wednesday in order to keep all of his VA disability check. It's all because he and his wife are divorcing and she wants half.

Under federal law, the money is exempt from alimony payments. But state law says she may be entitled to it.

Terry Lynn says he wants to set a precedent to help all veterans in similar situations. He is on full disability from injuries he suffered while serving as a Marine during the Gulf War, but is now going through a divorce battle with his wife he met after his time in the military.

He says she wants nearly half of what he gets: $1,500 of the roughly $3,000 he says he receives a month.

"It's how I pay my bills. There is no way I can afford to pay that amount and still survive," says Lynn.

He says he's bought her a house and made other compensations, but that's as far as he's willing to go. "There is actually federal laws which protect the veteran's compensation check from alimony and being garnished."

**UPDATE** Ex-wife of jailed veteran defends her situation.

**UPDATE 9/25** Groups come to aid of disabled veteran's alimony battle

ABC 7 contacted the National Veterans Legal Service Program in Washington D.C. They say it's an issue which has been argued across the country. U.S. Title 38 says VA benefits are exempt from taxation, claims of creditors, and other legal processes. It makes no exception for alimony.

Lynn says Florida courts, though, are not following it. “Florida law does allow for alimony. What they are doing is putting state law over federal law. To get around it they don't say you have to give your VA check. They say you have to pay alimony and they don't care where you get it from."

Some states have passed laws to specifically protect the veteran in this type of situation. Florida is not one of them.

"I don't believe the American people want to be paying for people who didn't serve; who didn't support the veterans when they were serving. They were not there during that time of conflict. They don’t feel the pain the disabled veterans do."

Unwilling to pay, Wednesday afternoon in a Charlotte County courtroom, Lynn was put in handcuffs and placed under arrest.

He says his goal is to fight for change and set a precedent. "It's not about me, it's about other veterans. We have 1.6 million veterans in Florida. How many of them are going through this same thing?"