Does my military healthcare have to stop once I’m divorced?

Posted on Apr 13, 2016 by Katie Carter

There are a lot of disadvantages to the military, and certainly to military healthcare. Regardless of whether you have TriCare Standard or TriCare Prime, you probably have a lot of gripes. Most military families I know have some complaints about the military healthcare system. One thing they can agree on, though? The price is right, and it’s certainly better than no insurance at all. In fact, for a lot of people, especially if they or their children have ongoing medical needs, it’s downright critical.
Military or civilian, one of the first questions most women ask me is whether (and how) they’ll be able to keep their current health insurance in place. It’s scary to imagine not having health insurance. If you don’t have a job that offers health insurance or if you’ve got some kind of a pre-existing condition (or maybe even conditions, plural!), you’re probably pretty afraid. After all, an independent health insurance policy is often prohibitively expensive—whether you obtain your own policy or go through an organization like COBRA.
Today, though, we’re talking about health care in a military divorce, and what happens after divorce for a former military spouse.

Usually, women ask me, “Will my military healthcare have to stop once I’m divorced?”

If I have to give a short answer, I have to say that it really depends! Your military healthcare doesn’t have to stop once you’re divorced, but you’ll have to meet certain narrow qualifications for it to continue on after you’re divorced. So, not necessarily, but maybe. But, of course, that’s not very clear.

Only 20/20/20 spouses can keep their military health insurance permanently.

Are you a 20/20/20 spouse? To qualify, you have to have been married for over 20 years to a military service member who simultaneously (at the same time as your marriage, that is) served in the military. It’s a little confusing, but, basically, you have to meet 3 specific criteria.
1. You have to be married for twenty years (or more).
2. Your husband has to have served for twenty years (or more) in the military.
3. The twenty years of marriage and the twenty years of military service must overlap.
A 20/20/20 spouse is entitled to full military medical care, including TriCare, as long as you’re not also enrolled in an employer sponsored health plan. An extra bonus? You also keep Commissary and Exchange access.

Why are 20/20/20 spouses so special?

Well, the 20/20/20 designated was designed to honor the support and dedication provided by the military spouse to the military service member during the course of their marriage.

If I’m a 20/20/20 spouse, how long can I receive healthcare coverage through the military?

Permanently. Great news, right? Though the military may change policies at some point in the future (and, if their past behavior is any indication, at some point it certainly will change), at this time, if you’re a 20/20/20 spouse and you get a divorce, you’re entitled to permanent healthcare coverage.

So, what if you’re NOT a 20/20/20 spouse? Are there any other levels that the military recognizes?

Yes, there are. There’s one other classification level, and that’s 20/20/15. A 20/20/15 spouse is similar to a 20/20/20 spouse in that both the military service and the marriage must be at least twenty years in duration. The difference, though, is that only fifteen of those years overlap, rather than the 20 required by the 20/20/20 classification.
A 20/20/15 spouse, though, is only entitled to receive full military medical benefits for one year after the final decree of divorce is entered. (Assuming, of course, that the former spouse is not enrolled in an insurance plan sponsored by your employer.)

What if I’m not a 20/20/20 or a 20/20/15 spouse?

If you’re not a 20/20/20 or a 20/20/15 spouse, you will not receive military medical benefits after divorce.
It’s a military policy. It works that way for civilians, too. Well, it works that way in the sense that, after divorce, medical coverage stops. Civilians don’t have any 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 designation so, regardless of the duration of their marriages, health insurance coverage stops after divorce.
Most insurance companies decide to extend coverage based on a family relationship. Without that family relationship (because, at the divorce, you become legal strangers and are no longer family members), they can’t extend coverage. It’s just the way it works. So, it’s not so much that your husband is being a jerk or unhelpful; it’s really that there’s no other way around the way those policies are written.
It’s the same with the military. Though they DO have policies that allow coverage to continue after marriage in the event that you meet certain criteria, at this point there’s really no way around it if you don’t meet those (super stringent!) requirements.

What’s a continued health care benefit program (or CHCBP)?

A Continued Health Care Benefit Program is a premium based (meaning, you pay a fee) program administered by Humana. It’s available to former military service members and their families, including unremarried former military spouses.
CHCBP isn’t Tricare. (Obviously not, because you pay a premium!) It offers coverage that is very similar, though, to what you’ve come to expect under TriCare Standard, except that it doesn’t include eligibility at military treatment facilities for routine, urgent, or specialty care, or pharmacy services at military treatment facilities.
The main difference is that premiums are required. CHCBP offers individual and family plans, which are purchased in 90 day increments and billed to you quarterly.

How do I prove that I’m eligible for CHCBP?

You will have to provide a number of documents to Humana to prove that you’re eligible for coverage under CHCBP. You’ll probably have to fill out DD Form 2837, provide a DD 214 (a certificate of release or discharge from active duty of the military service member), and a copy of your final divorce decree.
If you’re a woman married to a military service member and you’re concerned about maintaining health insurance after your divorce, it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney about the CHCBP benefit. Applying for CHCBP also involves specific time limits, so you’ll want to be sure that you’re aware of these before the clock starts ticking.
You’re not in this alone, though. You’re in the right place, and you’re asking the right questions. We can help you figure out a plan to make sure that you remain covered by insurance—through your divorce and beyond. Depending on your status (whether you’re 20/20/20, 20/20/15, or none of the above), we’ll help make a plan that you’re comfortable with, so that you walk away from your marriage knowing that your medical needs will be met.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia military divorce attorneys, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.