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News | Sept. 20, 2022

How Divorce Impacts Your TRICARE Benefits

By TRICARE Communications

The divorce process can create intense emotions. You might feel frustrated or confused during this time. Thinking about your TRICARE benefits may be the last thought on your mind. However, it’s something you must consider.  
 
“TRICARE won’t pay for services or supplies provided to anyone who isn’t eligible for TRICARE, so it’s important you understand how your TRICARE coverage may change for you, your children, and your ex-spouse,” said  Shane Pham, TRICARE policy and program analyst at the Defense Health Agency. “If a former spouse or a stepchild who wasn’t adopted loses eligibility in a divorce and continues to get care, TRICARE can recoup those payments which adds an extra layer of difficulty during an already challenging time.”
 
Read through the following Q&A to learn more about how divorce affects your TRICARE health benefits.        
 
Q: How does divorce affect the sponsor?
A: Eligibility for TRICARE doesn’t change for the sponsor. Once your divorce is final, you must update your information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). To update DEERS, take a certified copy of the divorce or annulment decree to your local ID card office.
 
Divorce or an annulment is a TRICARE Qualifying Life Event (QLE). As outlined in the TRICARE Qualifying Life Events Fact Sheet, a QLE is an important life change, such as moving, marriage, birth of a child, or retirement from active duty. With these changes, your TRICARE health plan options for you and your family may also change. Since divorce is a QLE, the sponsor and eligible children (biological or legally adopted) have 90 days after a divorce to make eligible enrollment changes.
 
Q: How does divorce affect the sponsor’s former spouse? 
A: If you’re a former spouse, you may remain eligible for TRICARE coverage if you meet certain criteria. These include the sponsor’s status, length of the marriage, and other factors as outlined under the 20-20-20 rule and the 20-20-15 rule. Each rule has three components, and you must meet all three for you to have access to the same benefits as your military spouse.
 
Under the 20-20-20 rule:
  • Your sponsor must have at least 20 years of creditable military service towards retirement pay.
  • You must have been married to the same service member for at least 20 years.
  • The marriage and the spouse’s military service must overlap for at least 20 years.
 
Under the 20-20-15 rule:                                                  
  • Your sponsor must have at least 20 years of creditable military service towards retirement pay.
  • You must have been married to the same service member for at least 20 years.
  • The marriage and the spouse’s military service must overlap for at least 15 years.
 
Q: What happens if a former spouse remarries?
A: If you remarry, you’ll lose eligibility for TRICARE. You’ll also lose TRICARE benefits if you enroll in an employer-sponsored health plan.
 
Q: How do eligible former spouses continue to get TRICARE benefits?
A: You’ll need the following documents to establish your eligibility as an unmarried former spouse:   
If you meet the eligibility requirements, DEERS will reflect your TRICARE eligibility using your own Social Security number or Department of Defense Benefits Number (not your former sponsor’s). When you qualify for TRICARE as a former spouse, you have the same benefits as a retired family member. Your TRICARE health plan options depend on where you live.
 
Q: What options are there for former spouses who don’t meet the eligibility requirements?
A: Your benefits will end at 12:01 a.m. on the day of the divorce. If the sponsor didn’t adopt his or her stepchildren, they’ll also lose eligibility once the divorce is final. Some options if you lose TRICARE eligibility include:
  • You can purchase Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) coverage. If you qualify for CHCBP, you must purchase coverage within 60 days of loss of TRICARE coverage. Certain former spouses who haven’t remarried before age 55 may qualify for an unlimited duration of coverage.
  • You can get coverage through your employer.
 
Have more questions about how TRICARE works after divorce? You can go to TRICARE’s Getting a Divorce or Annulment page. If you have TRICARE eligibility questions, be sure to reach out to the Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office.
 
Would you like the latest TRICARE news sent to you by email? Visit the TRICARE Subscriptions page today, and create your personalized profile to get benefit updates, news, and more.
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