Active duty service members and their immediate family members receive health care coverage under TRICARE. If your former spouse served in the armed forces, you might be able to keep your military health care policy—at least in part—after a divorce if you satisfy the eligibility requirements. This article covers the types of TRICARE insurance available to an ex-spouse after a military divorce.
After divorce, a non-military ex-spouse might be able to receive continuing TRICARE benefits under one of two levels of coverage. Which level of coverage you might be eligible for depends on a number of factors.
Under the 20/20/20 rule, the ex-spouse keeps all TRICARE health care benefits if they meet the following strict set of requirements:
A former spouse who fulfills all three prongs of the 20/20/20 rule is eligible to hang on to the full TRICARE package, retain access to the military Post Exchange (PX) and keep base and commissary privileges. A qualifying ex-spouse receives comprehensive TRICARE benefits through age 65, which is the age most people first become eligible for Medicare benefits.
Calculating the period of overlapping marriage and service requirements can be a source of confusion for some people. The critical dates for evaluating the three sets of 20-year requirements are the:
The years of marriage need not be consecutive. If the parties were legally separated during the marriage and later reconciled, the former spouse can still qualify as long as the total years of marriage add up to 20.
If you don't meet the eligibility criteria of the 20/20/20 rule, you might still qualify to receive TRICARE health benefits for one year after the divorce if:
Former spouses who meet 20/20/15 guidelines (but not the 20/20/20 guidelines) do not receive PX access or base and commissary privileges.
To secure your separate coverage, you need to bring the following documents to your local ID card office:
It's best to call first to make an appointment and confirm what documents that you'll need to bring.
As a former spouse, you'll establish your TRICARE coverage and health care information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), but it will be under your own Social Security Number (SSN) rather than your former spouse's. You will also make doctor's appointments and file health insurance claims under your own SSN.
Post-divorce TRICARE benefits will end if you fail to meet the eligibility requirements. Also, you will lose the benefits if you:
Note that if there's a determination that you continued receiving TRICARE benefits after you lost eligibility, you might be responsible for refunding the cost of the coverage and benefits you received after losing eligibility.
If you don't qualify for coverage under either the 20/20/20 rule or the 20/20/15 rule, you'll be eligible for TRICARE benefits until the divorce is final.
Once your divorce is final, you have a few options, including:
If you and your sponsor spouse are living apart or are legally separated, you are still covered by TRICARE. (Note, though, that legal separation is not available in all states.) That's because neither of these arrangements legally end your marriage—as long as you are legally married, the dependent spouse is still eligible for TRICARE. In fact, military spouses might choose to legally separate instead of divorce in order to keep the dependent spouse's TRICARE coverage.
TRICARE is just one of many potential military benefits that a former military spouse might be eligible for. If you're a military spouse who's thinking about divorce or legal separation, consider discussing your situation with a lawyer who's knowledgeable about divorce and military benefits.