Paycheck Chronicles

Health Care After Military Divorce


Many people feel that Tricare and military medical services are one of the best benefits of military service.  When a military marriage ends, the non-serving spouse usually loses their Tricare coverage.  However, there are exceptions AND there is the option to continue coverage, on a premium basis, for a certain period of time.

In most cases, military health care coverage ends for the non-military spouse effective the date of the divorce.  However, there are two sets of exceptions.

The 20-20-20 Rule

Under the 20-2o-2o rule, an unremarried former military spouse may have continued eligibility for Tricare IF the marriage lasted at least 20 years, the service member served at least 20 years, and there at least 20 years where the service member was on active duty and the couple was married.  If the former spouse is covered by an employer healthcare plan, they are not eligible for Tricare coverage.  Medical coverage will end upon remarraige.

The former spouse may choose to enroll in either Tricare Prime or Tricare Standard, under the same terms and conditions as a military retiree.  This includes enrollment fees and co-pays for Tricare Prime, or co-pays and excesses for Tricare Standard.

The 20-2o-2o rule also gives former spouses commissary and shopping privileges.  These privileges are also lost upon remarriage, but may be reinstated if the subsequent marriage ends.

The 20-20-15 Rule

The 20-20-15 rule applies to marriages in which the marriage lasted 20 years, the service member served for 20 years, and the overlapping period (both service and marriage) exceeds 15 years but does not reach 20 years.  In this circumstance, unremarried former spouses who do not have employer sponsored healthcare coverage are eligible for one year of transitional medical care coverage.

The terms of this coverage are the same as for 20-20-20 rule former spouses and military retirees.

Continued Health Care Benefit Program

Unremarried former spouses may enroll in the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP).  The plan must be purchased quarterly and a former spouse may retain the plan for 36 months after the loss of eligibility for military medical care.

CHCBP enrollment must occur within 60 days of the loss of TRICARE eligibility.

Coverage under this plan is almost identical to TRICARE Standard and covers pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy.  It also includes prescriptions at network pharmacies or through the mail order pharmacy program.

2014 premiums for the CHCBP are $$1,193 per quarter.  For the most up-to-date premium rates, visit the CHCBP website.

Former military spouses who have not yet obtained new health care coverage will find that one of these three programs will provide coverage for some period of time.


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