Every marriage comes with its own set of challenges. This is particularly true for service members and their spouses, who face difficulties that civilian couples will never have to consider. Military divorces also have unique aspects to them, raising questions that don’t come up in other divorces. For instance, as the spouse of a service member, you enjoyed certain benefits – will they continue?
Commissary and exchange privileges
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) is a federal law which was created to provide financial protections to the spouses of service members following a divorce. It addresses a number of significant concerns for spouses, including retirement pay, child support and property division. But it also handles less critical issues, such as commissary and exchange privileges.
Under USFSPA, some former spouses will retain their privileges, if they qualify. They must meet what’s known as the 20/20/20 rule – the service member must have served for at least 20 years, the couple must have been married for at least 20 years, and there must have been 20 years of overlap between the service time and the marriage. If this rule is satisfied, the former spouse will retain full commissary and exchange privileges for life.
For Tricare benefits, there is also a 20/20/20 rule which, if met, secures Tricare to the former spouse for life. However, there is also a 20/20/15 rule – if the service was at least 20 years, the marriage lasted at least 20 years, but the overlap period was only 15 years, the former spouse will be eligible for Tricare for one year following the divorce. Spouses who meet neither the 20/20/20 nor 20/20/15 rules will no longer have access to Tricare. Instead, they are granted access to a temporary, premium-based program which lasts up to 36 months. This program is intended to bridge the gap between the ending of Tricare benefits and the former spouse obtaining healthcare coverage on their own.