Many issues arise when a service member and their spouse decide to get a divorce. The military spouse's continuing eligibility for commissary, exchange and health care benefits, as well as their eligibility for a portion of the service member's military retired pay are a large concern. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) addresses these concerns.
Former Spouse Eligibility to Retired Pay
The USFSPA does not automatically entitle a former spouse to a portion of the member's retired pay. A former spouse must have been awarded a portion of a member's military retired pay as property in their final divorce order. The USFSPA provides a method of enforcing current and/or previously owed child support and current alimony awarded in the court order.
For division of property to be enforced under the USFSPA, a member and former spouse must have been married to each other for 10 years or more during which the member performed at least 10 years of military service creditable towards retirement eligibility (the 10/10 rule).
Tricare, Commissary, and Exchange Privileges for Former Spouses
The USFSPA also permits former spouses to continue receiving commissary, exchange, and health care benefits after a divorce in certain cases.
In order to qualify for continued benefits a former spouse must show that the service member served at least 20 years of creditable service, that the marriage lasted at least 20 years and that the period of the marriage overlapped the period of service by at least 20 years. A former spouse who meets these requirements is known as a 20/20/20 former spouse and is entitled to full commissary, exchange and health care benefits.
These benefits include tricare and care at a military treatment facility. Former spouses who do not meet these requirements lose their commissary and exchange privileges once the divorce is final.
In cases where the servicemember served 20 years of creditable service, the marriage lasted 20 years, but the period of the marriage overlapped the period of service by only 15 years the former spouse is entitled to full military medical benefits only for a transitional period of one year following the divorce. This is the 20/20/15 rule.
After this year of coverage, the ex-spouse may purchase a DOD-negotiated conversion health policy. Full coverage also requires that the former spouse does not remarry nor enroll in an employer-sponsored health insurance plan.
Former spouses who are neither 20/20/20 nor 20/20/15 former spouses are not entitled to any military health benefits after a divorce. But they are eligible for the DOD Continued Health Care Benefit Program, a premium based temporary health care coverage program for 36 months of coverage until alternative coverage can be obtained, if they enroll within 60 days of losing full military health care benefits.
If you have questions regarding USFSPA, call your local military legal office and schedule an appointment with an attorney. You can find links to military legal assistance offices at the Military.com Free Legal Assistance web page.
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