In Part One of this series, we looked at the 20/20/20 Rule and the requirements a former spouse must meet to retain full military benefits and privileges upon divorce from a servicemember. In the event a former spouse cannot qualify under the 20/20/20 Rule, he or she may still be eligible to retain a portion of their military benefits as they transition from being a military spouse to a former spouse.
To qualify for transitional military benefits, a former spouse must satisfy the requirements of 10 U.S.C. § 1072(2)(G), more commonly referred to as the “20/20/15 Rule.” The 20/20/15 rule requires the former spouse to show three things: first, that the servicemember put in at least 20 years of creditable service; second, that the parties’ marriage lasted at least 20 years; and third, that the period of the marriage overlapped the period of service by at least 15 years.
Should these requirements be met, the former spouse will be entitled to retain Tricare medical coverage, but only for a transitional period of one year. Unlike a 20/20/20 former spouse, a 20/20/15 former spouse will not have access to the military exchange, base privileges or commissary privileges.
If the former spouse is covered by an employer-sponsored health care plan, their Tricare medical benefits will be suspended. Those benefits will be reinstated if the 20/20/15 former spouse loses that employer-sponsored coverage, but only for the remainder of the original one year post-divorce.
As with the 20/20/20 Rule, the important dates for the 20/20/15 Rule are the servicemember’s start and end dates for their creditable service, the date the parties were married, and the date the parties are divorced.
If you are a military servicemember or spouse contemplating separation and divorce, the ability to keep full military benefits may be the single most important question in your case. If at all possible, you should seek to meet the requirements of the 20/20/20 Rule. If there is simply no way to meet all three requirements, however, you can at least secure transitional Tricare coverage for one year by making it to 20/20/15.
When meeting even the 20/20/15 Rule is not an option, all is not lost– some medical benefits are available even to former spouses who fall short of 15 years of “overlap” between service and marriage. Please bookmark this site, and check back for Part Three in this series in the coming weeks.
The military divorce lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P.C., have extensive experience with the unique issues that arise in military divorce, including former spouse benefits. We represent clients in Manassas, Fredericksburg, Fairfax, and throughout Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.