How to Get Military Healthcare Benefits After Divorce

Posted on Apr 5, 2013 by Katie Carter

Healthcare after divorce is a major issue for many Virginia women. Since husbands are traditionally the primary breadwinners, most families are insured under his health insurance policies. In military families, the children will stay on the military service member’s insurance policy after divorce, but because health insurance benefits can only extend to family members, yours will end after the divorce decree is entered.

What are your options? Well, unless you qualify for continued military health insurance coverage, you can either (1) get insurance through your own employment, (2) get short-term (expensive) health insurance through COBRA, or (3) hope for the best and go uninsured.

How do you know whether you qualify for continued military health insurance coverage?

The 20-20-20 Wife

Eligibility for military health insurance post-divorce runs from the date of marriage to the date of divorce, and you are only eligible if you’re what’s called a 20-20-20 spouse. A 20-20-20 spouse has 20 years of military service, 20 years of marriage, and those 20 years overlap—so at least 20 years of your marriage was during 20 years of military service. If you qualify, you take on retired military status, and you can keep your benefits (including health care, commissary, etc).

The 20-20-15 Wife

A 20-20-15 spouse is someone who has 20 years of military service, 20 years of marriage, and AT LEAST 15 of those years overlap. For example, if your husband joined the Navy in 1980, you married in 1985, he retired in 2000, and you filed for divorce in 2013, you would qualify, because 15 years of service and marriage overlap. This means that you would get one year of benefits—but you’d have to apply for it.

Otherwise, you’d have to manage to set up your own health insurance. This could be through COBRA, or through your own separate employment. Of course, this would mean that you would incur additional expenses. COBRA is particularly expensive, so if you have to pay for it, that would be something that your attorney would add into your expenses for the purposes of determining spousal support. Still, that probably won’t entirely offset the cost—and COBRA is only a temporary solution.

Healthcare after divorce is a tricky issue for many women. If you and your husband are getting close to the 20-20-20 mark, I would definitely suggest waiting if at all possible. As you can probably tell, the benefit to you can be substantial, and it costs your husband nothing (and it may in fact save him money because you won’t need to ask for additional support to cover the cost of separate insurance).