As a military spouse, you are eligible for veteran benefits such as education reimbursements, healthcare and more. However, if your marriage to a military member ends in divorce, you may lose many of the benefits that you were once entitled to.
In some cases, as a former spouse you may qualify for a portion of the benefits you received as a spouse. Nevertheless, you will not be able to receive all the benefits you once received.
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If your former spouse is a longtime service member, you may still qualify for health coverage, retirement pay and exchange and commissary benefits after your marriage ends. However, you may not be able to access other benefits.
To learn more about the different types of benefits you may be entitled to as a former military spouse, review the sections below.
About Health Benefits
One benefit that former spouses of military members generally retain is healthcare coverage through TRICARE. Former spouses can enroll in TRICARE Prime, Select, US Family Health Plan, Select Overseas or Life depending on their residence.
However, spouses do not retain TRICARE permanently. This benefit is only available to ex-spouses who are not remarried and do not qualify for employer-sponsored health coverage. Former spouses who remarry or qualify for an employer-sponsored plan lose their TRICARE eligibility.
Additionally, an ex-spouse’s former military partner must meet the 20-20-20 Rule or the 20-20-15 Rule for the ex-spouse to retain coverage.
Under the 20-20-20 Rule, the following must apply:
- The sponsor (military member) must have at least 20 years of credible military service.
- The marriage must have lasted 20 or more years.
- The sponsor’s 20 years of credible military service overlaps with at least 20 years of marriage.
If former spouses qualify for healthcare under the 20-20-20 Rule, they will qualify for TRICARE coverage as long as they continue to meet the minimum eligibility requirements.
Additionally, ex-spouses who qualify for coverage under the 20-20-20 Rule will receive a new TRICARE identification card with their own name and Social Security Number. However, they will not receive the new card until they renew their benefits for the first time after the divorce.
To qualify for coverage under the 20-20-15 Rule:
- The sponsor must have at least 20 years of credible military service.
- The marriage must have lasted 20 or more years.
- At least 15 of the sponsor’s 20 years of credible military history should overlap with the sponsor’s 20 years of marriage.
If ex-spouses qualify for coverage under the 20-20-15 Rule, their coverage will last:
- Indefinitely if they continue to meet eligibility requirements and the marriage ended before April 1, 1985.
- Two years from the date of the divorce or annulment if the marriage ended between April 1, 1985 and September 28, 1988.
- One year from the date of the divorce or annulment if the marriage ended on or after September 29, 1988.
To qualify for TRICARE coverage under either scenario, ex-spouses must prove their eligibility by submitting a marriage certificate, a divorce decree and a copy of the sponsor’s military discharge papers.
Learn About Retirement Pay
In addition to health coverage under TRICARE, qualifying ex-spouses of military members may receive a portion of the service member’s retirement pay as part of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).
To qualify, however, ex-spouses must have been awarded a portion of the military member’s retirement pay as property in a court order. Acceptable types of court orders include a decree of divorce, annulment, legal separation or a dissolution of marriage document.
Additionally, ex-spouses must also meet the requirements of the 10/10 Rule to qualify under the USFSPA. To meet the requirements of the 10/10 Rule, the marriage must have lasted 10 or more years and at least 10 years of the military member’s credible service must overlap with the marriage.
About Exchanges and Commissaries
Under the USFSPA, former spouses of military members may also qualify for portions of a military member’s post-exchange and commissary privileges. These benefits are available under the USFSPA’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation program.
To qualify for these shopping privileges, however, ex-spouses must not be remarried and must meet the requirements under the 20-20-20 Rule. Former spouses who only meet the requirements of the 20-20-15 Rule are not eligible for these privileges.
As part of the USFSPA, ex-spouses who meet the requirements of the 20-20-20 Rule may obtain a military identification card as well. However, former spouses will lose their military ID credentials if they remarry.
If the next marriage ends in divorce or death, the former spouse may regain their post-exchange and commissary privileges, but not their medical benefits. If the next marriage ends in annulment, however, former spouses of military members may regain medical coverage under TRICARE.
Learn About Survivor Benefits
Under the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), former spouses of retired military members may qualify for monthly annuities following the death of the service member.
These lifetime annuities generally account for 55 percent of the retired service member’s elected coverage amount. However, military members must designate their beneficiaries during or after retirement, or the former spouse may request SBP coverage on their own.
Designating an ex-spouse as a beneficiary is known as “former spouse election.” When an ex-spouse makes a request on their own, this process is known as a “deemed election request.”
Service members may voluntarily elect a former spouse at the time of retirement, even if military members are remarried during the time of election. In some cases, however, military members may be court-ordered to elect a former spouse for coverage.
Service members may elect a former spouse at the time of retirement even if the divorce took place more than one year prior. However, military members who want to elect a former spouse after they retire must do so within one year of their divorce date.
Furthermore, former spouses of military members may submit a deemed election request on their own if service members have been court-ordered to elect them for SBP coverage. However, ex-spouses must submit their deemed election request within one year from the date of the court order to receive benefits.
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By Larissa Shelton –