Ron Bednar married his wife because, as he puts it, “I believe in the whole act of marriage, to declare that we are married in front of friends and family and God and all that.”
Now he’s getting divorced, as his soon-to-be ex-wife explains, “In order to be able to eat.”
Bednar, 64, and Mary McCurnin, 59, aren’t the first couple to get divorced because each can collect more government benefits single than married. But when their story appeared in The Huffington Post, it set off a debate about marriage versus money, and whether it’s ethical to end the former simply to increase the latter, while still staying together.
Husband and wife say their vow of “Til death do us part” was torn asunder by health problems and medical bills, including her breast cancer and his intestinal bleeding, for which insurance covered only 10%. Her cancer’s return, plus heart surgery for him, set them on a path of repeat home refinancing, and now bankruptcy and divorce. “We literally live from week to week,” says McCurnin. “We got $300 in the bank.”
Because her first husband is deceased, McCurnin is eligible for $1,200 a month in Social Security survivor’s benefits—if she divorces Bednar. “She could divorce him now to collect short-term benefits on her earlier husband,” says a Social Security spokesman, “and then at some later point after age 60 remarry him without it affecting her widow’s benefits.”
“I agree that marriage is overrated and that if they want to game the system, it's fine for them to find the loopholes,” wrote one reader. “Game the system???” responded another. “Did you not read the part where they went broke trying to save their own lives?”
“Marriage seems to be no more than a Govt Program,” another reader wrote. “If there's a benefit, marry. If there's no benefit, unmarry.” The situation has “nothing to do with marriage,” countered another. “This has to do with 2 people who did not plan for retirement, health care, or save during their 65 years. And now have found a loop hole for the Govt to cover them.”
Tell us what you think: Is it ethical to divorce solely to collect government benefits? In this case, is the couple “gaming the system” or finding an alternate way to grow old together?