Hampton Road's Military Heritage
The Hampton Roads area is a major hub for military individuals and their families. However, the stress of base life and deployment may cause strains on a military family that can lead to divorce. While divorces are fairly common, it is important to note that military divorces have their own concerns. In each military divorce you must consider the Uniformed Service Former Spouse Protection Act, or USFSPA. The serviceman’s spouse in the divorce is often referred to as the ‘former spouse.’ Former spouses, in some cases, may be able to obtain health insurance for the rest of their lives if they meet certain requirements.
Retaining Benefits After a Military Divorce
While the USFSPA addresses many issues, some of the most personally impactful issues it addresses are the benefits a former spouse will receive after a divorce is final. These benefits include health care and the ability to take advantage of the military exchanges after the divorce. In order to fully receive these benefits the 20/20/20 rule must be met. Pursuant to 10 U.S. Code §1072(2)(F), the following requirements must occur prior to the divorce: 1) there was at least 20 years of marriage, 2) the service member had 20 years of military service, and 3) at least 20 years of the marriage overlapped with 20 years of creditable service. If these conditions occurred then the former spouse will be entitled to TRICARE for the rest of his or her life, unless they become disqualified. With the current state of health insurance coverage in the United States, this benefit could be very valuable.
Benefits End With Re-Marriage
If the former spouse remarries then they will no longer be entitled to TRICARE for life and their commissary benefits will end. It is important to note that the medical benefits will not be reinstated if the new marriage terminates.
Benefits End with Re-Marriage (cont.)
Additionally, if the former spouse enrolls in an employer-sponsored health plan, then TRICARE will be suspended for the duration that the employer covers healthcare. As such, if the employer healthcare terminates, there is a possibility that the TRICARE can be reinstated.
The 20/20/15 Rule
From time to time, you see a scenario where the military individual served 20 years, the marriage lasted 20 years, but these dates did not overlap for 20 years. Pursuant to 10 U.S. Code §1072(2)(G) & (H), there is an additional 20/20/15 rule.
In these circumstances there is only a 15 year overlap. When this occurs the former spouse will only receive full medical coverage for ONE year. After that, the former spouse may receive a reduced cost coverage through the Department of Defense. However, this reduced cost may only last for up to three years. Please take note that if you only qualify under the 20/20/15 rule, you are not entitled to commissary or exchange benefits.
If you do not meet the requirements for the 20/20/20 rule, or the 20/20/15 rule, then you will not receive TRICARE coverage. As such, you must discuss with your divorce attorney as to how you should move forward. In some circumstances it may be advisable to enter into a Separation Agreement that specifically requires that neither party will file for a divorce until enough time has passed for the 20/20/20 requirements to be met.
Other Military Divorce Benefit Issues
Additionally, it is important that the former military spouse contact DEERS to ensure that your insurance is transferred over correctly. If a former military spouse is receiving insurance under the 20/20/20 rule then their eligibility is under the former spouse’s own SSN, not the service member’s SSN. Thus, there will be additional paperwork that is needed to ensure the insurance coverage exist after the divorce.
Lastly, one should keep in mind that these benefits are not directly connected to military retirement. Thus, the ex-spouse can still receive these benefits even if the military service member never retires. Additionally, there are rare occurrences where the military member is offered early retirement. As such, you may see a service member retire after 18 years of service.
If this occurs, the ex-military spouse DOES NOT qualify for the 20/20/20 rule and will not be able to receive TRICARE after a divorce.