If you have been married to a service-member for more than 20-years, then you may be entitled to several important benefits – most importantly, long-term health care. This is subject to several requirements as detailed below. You may have heard the term 20-20-20 spouse. This simply refers to:
1. 20 years of military service
2. 20 years of marriage
3. AND 20 years of overlap between the military service and marriage.
This is important because if you are such a spouse, then you are entitled to full military medical care, including TRICARE, if you are not enrolled in an employer-sponsored health plan.
This also means you are entitled to Commissary and Exchange privileges.
Most folks know that a service-member who retires after 20 years of active military service will be entitled to healthcare going forward. The 20/20/20 spouse provision honors the long term dedication military spouses have given to their service-member spouse in supporting his or her military career.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THIS APPLIES TO UN-REMARRIED FORMER SPOUSES – AND IT IS CURRENTLY FOR LIFE!
There is also something called a 20/20/15 spouse. This refers to 20 years of military service, 20 years of marriage, and between 15 but less than 20 years of overlap between the two. If you qualify as a 20/20/15 spouse, you can receive full military medical care, including TRICARE, for a period of one year from the date of divorce - provided you are not enrolled in an employer-sponsored health plan.
A former spouse who qualifies for either 20/20/20 spouse or 20/20/15 spouse-status may apply for an ID card at any military ID card facility. You would need to fill out DD Form 1172 and bring a valid picture ID card, a copy of your marriage certificate, the court decree, a statement detailing the military spouse's service, and a statement documenting the fact that you are not remarried and that you are not participating in an employer sponsored health care plan.
This information is important for two reasons. First, if you are the service-member, there is an inherent value in the above and it can be mentioned during the negotiations with your spouse.
Second, if you are married to a service-member, and your soon-to-be ex is approaching 20-years of active military service, you may wish to defer, delay, or negotiate an agreement that provides that no divorce will occur before you qualify for 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 status.
Be cautious here! You want to discuss this strategy with your attorney before acting on it. One major pitfall is trying to negotiate via a Separation Agreement to delay the filing of a divorce action in Circuit Court. Such a clause in an Agreement may be problematic. There are however, many different ways you can go about your divorce action that you will want to strategize and consider with your attorney to obtain this important status if at all possible. It is a wonderful benefit afforded long-term military spouses and one that shouldn’t be overlooked lightly.