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EFMP Spouse Wonders If There Are Exceptions to 20/20/20 Rule

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I am an Army spouse going through a very difficult separation and divorce after 19 years of marriage from a newly retired soldier.

He deployed to Iraq four times for a year each time, and he is suffering from PTSD. We had a great life and a wonderful marriage, or so I thought. Then, in July 2013, he attended a military school in Virginia and, out of the blue, he texted me to say that he wanted a divorce.

Ms. Vicki, my husband cheated on me and kicked me out with nothing but my kids and my car. He instantly closed and denied me access to all of our joint accounts. I have not been able to get any child support or spousal support.

I have a lawyer now, but my lawyer does not specialize in military law.

My question is this: My husband was in the military for 20 years and some months and we have been married for 19 years; it will be 20 years in August. I've been in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) due to me having stage 3 cancer, a stroke and seizures.

Does the military make any exceptions with 20/20/20 divorce benefits for spouses due to the fact that I was married to him for 19 years, almost 20, and under EFMP the whole time he was in the military?

I appreciate any information you can give to me so that I can let my lawyer know. Thank you.

-- Worried About Benefits

Dear Benefits,

I'm very sorry to hear about all of your different health concerns. I hope you are better. Please know I am thinking of you. When a spouse meets all of the 20/20/20 requirements, he or she will be able to keep their ID card and will have access to military bases, health care, and other benefits. Here are the requirements:

•Married for at least 20 years.

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

•Has at least a 20-year overlap of marriage AND military service.

In your case, I'm sorry to say you wouldn't meet those requirements because your husband had already retired before the two of you reached 20 years of marriage together.

However, all is not lost. You may be able to secure other medical coverage in the divorce.

For example, I've known spouses to receive 20 years of paid health care or until they are eligible for Medicare. In other words, I don't want you to think you may not be awarded anything in your divorce.

Call Ex-Spouses of Servicemembers for Equality (EX-POSE) at 703-941-5844 or go to their website. They will refer you to a military divorce lawyer. I wish I could do more for you.

-- Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is 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.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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