Wives who are divorced from their military husbands are usually entitled to some benefits ranging from health care to commissary privileges to retirement pay. The extent of the privileges is dependent on the length of the marriage, the length of the husband's military service and the length of the overlap between the two.
The benefits for which former spouses of military personnel are eligible are dependent on the length of the marriage and the amount of military time served. A former spouse whose marriage lasted 20 years and whose ex-spouse served 20 years in the military, with a full 20-year overlap between those two, is known as a 20/20/20 spouse, and is eligible for full medical benefits as long as the former spouse does not remarry or does not have an employer-sponsored health plan. These benefits include the right to be treated at military medical facilities on an in-patient or outpatient basis.
A former spouse whose marriage lasted 20 years and whose ex-spouse served 20 years in the military with only 15 years overlap between those two is known as a 20/20/15 spouse and is eligible for one year of health benefits if the former spouse does not remarry and does not have employer-sponsored health insurance. After the year has expired, a 20/20/15 spouse may purchase a health insurance policy through the Department of Defense. A former military spouse who doesn't meet the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 criteria is not eligible for any health benefits, but may be eligible to purchase COBRA benefits.
Federal law considers military retirement pay to be marital property, even though not all states agree. States are required to treat military retirement pay just as they would treat a civilian pension plan for the purposes of divorce. A former spouse only has one year to claim a share of the retirement pay and is not entitled to any disability pay. Retirement pay benefits are lost if the former spouse remarries before the age of 55.
A person retired from the military may designate his or her former spouse as a beneficiary under the Survivor Benefit Plan, which provides an annuity to a survivor upon the retiree's death. If the divorce occurs after the retirement, the retiree must redesignate the former spouse as beneficiary.
20/20/20 former spouses are entitled to commissary and exchange privileges in perpetuity. 20/20/15 former spouses are entitled to these privileges only for one year after the divorce.
Benefits During Separation
In some states, a former spouse retains full spousal benefits, including health benefits, commissary benefits and military ID card, until the divorce is final. Military housing is not available to former spouses undergoing a separation, but reasonable time to vacate the housing is usually granted.
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