What Is the 20/20/20 Rule For Military Spouses?Updated: November 9, 2022
Former spouses of service members who divorce may continue to receive some military benefits, including Tricare coverage. The 20/20/20 rule refers to the requirements a divorced military spouse must meet to retain these benefits.
20/20/20 Benefit Requirements
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act protects some benefits of eligible former military spouses. According to Military OneSource, an unremarried former spouse must meet each of the following requirements to continue receiving benefits:
- The former spouse and service member were married for at least 20 years.
- The service member must have served for at least 20 years of retirement-creditable service.
- At least 20 years of the marriage must have overlapped with the military member’s time in service.
What Are the 20/20/20 Rule Benefits?
Eligible former spouses retain their official Department of Defense military ID cards, which grants them access to base commissaries and military exchanges, including Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange and Marine Corps Exchange stores. Ex-spouses who are eligible for 20/20/20 benefits can also continue to receive Tricare coverage.
Using Tricare Under the 20/20/20 Rule
Continuation of Tricare benefits for ex-spouses who qualify under the 20/20/20 rule is not automatic.
Tricare requires unremarried former military spouses to register under their own names and Social Security numbers.
Applicants must provide documentation to Tricare including their original marriage certificates, divorce decrees and applicable proof of their ex-spouse’s military service or retirement.
Eligible former spouses have the same Tricare coverage options as retired family members until they remarry or enroll in an employer-sponsored health plan, according to the Tricare website.
The Tricare 20/20/15 Rule
Some former military spouses may be eligible for limited Tricare coverage without meeting the 20/20/20 rule requirements.
If the military member served for 20 years and the marriage lasted 20 years, with at least 15 years of overlap, former spouses can receive temporary medical coverage, according to the Tricare website.
Under this 20/20/15 rule, qualified former spouses retain Tricare coverage for one year after the marriage ends. Former spouses eligible for 20/20/15 benefits aren’t eligible for other military benefits such as installation programs and shopping.
Former spouses who lost their Tricare benefits may qualify for temporary health coverage through the Continued Health Care Benefit Program. According to the Tricare website, they may be able to purchase up to 36 months of coverage that is comparable to Tricare Select.
Remarriage and 20/20/20 Benefits
If former spouse who is eligible for 20/20/20 benefits remarries, they will stop receiving any benefits available under the provision. Tricare coverage ends permanently, however other benefits – such as on-base shopping – may be reinstated if the subsequent marriage ends.
Former spouses who do not remarry can receive lifetime benefits under the 20/20/20 rule.
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Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News