Can We Get Military Parents' Benefits?

military parents benefits
(Sheila deVera/DVIDS)

As parents age, sometimes we feel the best course of action is to have them move in with us. That can quickly get complicated with moves and on-base housing. Often, this results in questions like the followin, asking about benefits for parents who live with you.

My mom is unable to work and lives with us. We want to make her our dependent so that she can have military parents' benefits like an ID card and the ability to get on and off base. We also want to get her health care. How can we enroll my mom in Tricare?

Again, this is an “it depends” kind of answer. But there may be some good news.

In the military, parents, parents-in-law or someone who has acted as your parent (the term for this is "in loco parentis") can be made your "secondary dependent," as can disabled adult children and minor children of whom you have custody.

While military parents' benefits are available, the Tricare coverage rules for those in the parent category are a little different than for other secondary dependents.

First, the bad news: No, they cannot be enrolled in Tricare and receive full benefits like other dependents do.

The good news is that they might have access to some health care. Depending on where you live, the Tricare option for parents, known as Tricare Plus, might be available at your local Military Treatment Facility or clinic.

Each clinic or hospital decides if it will offer Tricare Plus. If it does, your parent-dependent can be seen as a Tricare Plus user for primary care only on a space-available basis. They cannot be seen for any specialty appointments under Tricare Plus, and they cannot be referred off base unless they want to pay the full cost of those visits out of pocket.

Finally, it's important to know that Tricare Plus doesn't count as "minimum essential coverage" under the Affordable Care Act. That means your parent will still need to pay for another health care plan, or be fined for not having one.

The Defense Finance and Accounting System (DFAS) has more information about enrolling a parent as a secondary dependent and getting them military parents benefits.

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