Paycheck Chronicles

Reserve Service and 20/20/20 Benefits


I often receive questions about various aspects of reserve service and how it applies to certain benefits.  Frequently, it is beyond my area of expertise, but today's question about reserve service and 20/20/20 benefits is clear-cut and simple.

Dear Kate:

I am going through a divorce from a retired military guy. We were married 30+ years. We were married 6 months AFTER he joined military in 1980. He got out after serving 2 years in 1982. He immediately went in the reserves for 6 years, then rejoined the military for 18 years. He retired in 2006. I need to know if the 6 years in the reserves count for me to be eligible for the 20/20/20 rule?

Because we were married 6 months after he joined, I would not. But because he was in the reserves for 6 years, that puts his service at 26 years total. We/I would have been married 25 1/2 years for the 20/20/20 rule?


Thankfully, there is no crazy interpretation or guessing about this question.  The rules are quite simple:

Dear KS:

Former spouses of military personnel are eligible for military benefits, including Tricare health insurance and commissary and exchange privileges, under the 20/20/20 rule if they meet the following qualifications:

  • Your sponsor has at least 20 years of creditable service, active or reserve, towards determining retirement pay.
  • You were married to the same sponsor/service member for at least 20 years.
  • At least 20 years of marriage overlap the 20 years of creditable service, active or reserve, which counted towards your sponsor's retirement.
You will need to apply to the applicable branch's Service Personnel Component to request that they determine whether you meet the 20/20/20 eligibility criteria.  The first time you renew your ID card after the divorce is final, you will be issued a new ID card with your own name and your Social Security number listed as the sponsor Social Security number.

Good luck to you!


Benefits for spouses who meet the 20/20/20 criteria are important and generous.  Divorcing parties who are close to meeting these criteria are encouraged to consider this rule when structuring their divorce plans.

While I don't know everything about reserve issues, I have an excellent circle of friends who are absolute experts, and they are generous with their time and information.  Feel free to send me your reserve-related questions and I'll figure them out!

For more information about 20/20/20 benefits, see Understanding The 20/20/20 Rule.

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