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Divorcing Spouse Wonders if 20/20/20 Rule Applies

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband and I have been in process of getting a divorce for four years. He refused to go to counseling with me and, instead, he moved in with another woman while we're battling this out. It is on record that they are engaged to be married, and he pays no living expenses there.

He is collecting a full VA pension, part of which he has awarded to help care for me; however I do not receive it. I am a 51-year-old, permanently and totally disabled woman and, during the 20 years he and I have been married, he pretty much drank away what savings I had in the bank.

Is there a way for me to receive the part of the VA pension he is receiving at her house now that is given to him for my care? He is currently spending it on his new life and his wife-to-be. I absolutely cannot support myself, having just had a brain tumor removed and am now in residual care.

I am a veteran, as well, so I will still be eligible for medical care when the divorce is final but, in the meantime, I sure could use the money he is collecting on my behalf.

He and she are gambling it away while I try to get by on $1,500 monthly alimony and $525 in Social Security benefits.

I married him one month before he retired after 20 years' of service, so I don't think I'm entitled to part of his Navy retirement pay, even though we have been married for 20 years. Or am I wrong on that because of the 20/20/20 rule? Thank you for your time.

-- Jessie

Dear Jessie,

I'm very sorry to hear about everything you are experiencing. You should contact the VA at and present your question to them. I don't want to give you the wrong information.

The 20/20/20 rule says that a spouse would qualify for medical benefits and commissary and exchange privileges for the remainder of their life (as long as they remain unmarried) if ALL of the following requirements are met:

* Married for at least 20 years.

* Service member performed at least 20 years of service creditable for retirement pay.

* You have at least a 20-year overlap of marriage AND military service.

So, it doesn't sound like the 20/20/20 rule helps you in your situation because you were not married to him for 20 of the years that he served. However, there is a still a divorce settlement to be determined. I can't say definitively what you would receive.

Please get legal advice. Don't show up in court without representation. I hope you are doing well.

-- Ms. Vicki

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Ms. Vicki, a native of Dallas, has been the ‘Dear Abby’ for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her column has appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Ms. Vicki has retired from writing new columns for Although Ms. Vicki is no longer offering new advice on, you can still email military benefits questions to our Questions and Benefits team. Need military spouse career help? Email our Dear Career writers.