Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

Former military spouses may still be eligible for benefits

When military spouses divorce, ongoing benefits for the non-service member and children pose some concerns. In answer to those, Congress enacted the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA).

The USFSPA allows former spouses to continue receiving exchange, health care, and commissary benefits if certain guidelines are met. To continue receiving benefits, a marriage to a military service member must have lasted a minimum of 20 years. Further, the military member must have served a minimum of 20 years of creditable service. The service period, and the marriage period, must have also overlapped by 20 years or more. This is known as the 20/20/20 requirement. If a marriage period overlapped with a service period by only 15 years, a former spouse can maintain full TRICATE medical benefits for a one year period after a divorce is finalized. After that one year, he or she must purchase a separate type of coverage.

If a former spouse meets neither the 20/20/20 requirement, nor the 20/20/15 requirement, he or she is not entitled to continue receiving full military health benefits. However, there are other health insurance options available. A divorce attorney can assist you in determining eligibility as well as applying for those.

Military retirement benefits are not owed to a former spouse unless expressly addressed in a final divorce order executed by a Judge.

Qualified military legal assistance, especially in the case of military divorce matters, can help navigate a sometimes complex process and alleviate any future concerns. Don't walk away without making sure you are receiving every benefit you and your family are still entitled to.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

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