Health Care Benefits Under the USFSPA

In general, Statutory eligibility for military medical, dental, commissary, and post exchange benefits exists for former spouses in varying degrees based on the length of marriage and service tests. It is notable that former spouses are entitled to the benefits discussed here without any authorization by the Court or the enlisted participant. Thus, they do not have to negotiate with the service person in the divorce to acquire them. In fact, it is doubtful that a state court could limit the former spouse's right to obtain these benefits since the entitlement is pursuant to Federal Statute. All that is required is that the former spouse qualify for the benefits under the terms set forth in the statute and meet the deadlines for application set forth therein.

A former spouse who qualifies for any of these benefits must apply for an ID card by filling out a complete DD Form 1172 entitled "Application for Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card" and presenting it at a military ID card facility along with: (i) a valid picture ID card (i.e. driver's license); (ii) the marriage certificate; (iii) the subsequent decree of divorce; (iv) a statement of the service person's service if one is available; and (v) a statement that the former spouse has not remarried and is not participating in an employer-sponsored health care plan.

In any case, the former spouse loses any eligibility for military medical benefits if he or she is covered by any type of employer sponsored medical benefits, has obtained individual medical insurance, or has remarried.

Former spouses meeting the 20/20/20 test qualify for full benefits regardless of the date of the divorce decree. This includes medical care on a "space availability" basis and qualification for the CHAMPUS/TRICARE programs.

A former spouse who qualifies under the 20/20/15 test and has a divorce decree which was final before April 1, 1985, may be entitled to permanent medical benefits through the military. If the former spouse qualifies under the 20/20/15 test, but the divorce is finalized after April 1, 1985, then the former spouse has an entitlement to transitional benefits for one year after the divorce before converting to the CHCBP private insurance program through the Department of Defense.

For former Spouses who do not meet the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 tests, coverage under the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) is still available. The CHCBP is a conversion health policy for former spouses who lose eligibility to medical care upon the divorce, and are in need of a "conversion health policy." In essence, it is a health insurance plan which is negotiated between a private health insurance carrier and the Secretary of Defense.

In order to take advantage of the CHCBP, a former spouse must purchase the policy within sixty days of the date on which the former spouse ceases to meet the requirements for being considered a dependent. Upon purchasing the policy, the former spouse is entitled to medical care for 36 months after the effective date of the final decree terminating the marriage, or, 36 months after any extension of dependency status is granted under 10 U.S.C. 1072(2)(H) whichever is later. One strict requirement of the CHCBP program is that health insurance premiums must be paid three months in advance. Thus, this program should be discussed with the spouse up front and in advance of the filing of a final decree terminating the marriage. For more information on the CHCBP program, one can contact: CHCBP Administrator, P.O. Box 1608, Rockville, MD 20849-1608, 1-800-809-6119.