VA Benefits for Divorced Spouses

By Christine Funk, J.D.

VA Benefits for Divorced Spouses

By Christine Funk, J.D.

As a general rule, when a military spouse divorces their partner, they lose the benefits they previously enjoyed as a military spouse. However, this is not always the case. For some benefits, they may continue to enjoy the benefit. But determining who enjoys military benefits and who does not is dependent on the length of the marriage, as well as the length of time the spouse served in the military during the marriage.

Book titled "Veteran Benefits"

Health Care Benefits

The United States Armed Forces receive their health care from health care provider Tricare. Some divorced military spouses are eligible for continuing Tricare coverage. Two conditions attach to ongoing medical coverage. First, the military member must have at least 20 years of service that applies to the person's military retirement benefits. Second, the couple must have been married for at least 20 years. Third, the 20 years of military service required that applies to the person's military retirement benefits must have been served during the marriage.

In other words, if a couple is married 21 years, but the military spouse served 7 years before the marriage, and 14 years in the military after the marriage, the spouse does not qualify for the benefit, even if all the service counts towards the service member's military retirement benefits. A former spouse's remarriage will disqualify them from ongoing health care coverage. Additionally, accepting health care coverage from an employer also disqualifies a former spouse from ongoing medical coverage.

Retirement Benefits

As with any married couple, a divorced military spouse may be entitled to some of their prior spouse's military retirement payments. This is dependent on a few factors. First, under federal law, to qualify for a spouse's retirement plan, the couple must be married for at least ten years. In addition, to qualify for a spouse's military retirement plan, the military service must have lasted for at least ten years of the marriage.

For example, if a couple is married 21 years, but one spouse's military service is only eight years, the spouse will not qualify for part of the military pension. However, they may qualify for other retirement benefits based on the length of the marriage. Each state can create their own laws regarding the portion of retirement benefits a spouse is entitled to.

User Privileges at the Post Exchange and the Commissary

Generally speaking, access to the post exchange and the commissary is limited to military service members, their spouses, retirees, and dependents. However, in some cases, an ex-spouse may be afforded the privilege of shopping at these stores. In order to qualify, two conditions must be met. First, they must have been married to their former spouse for at least 20 years. Second, the military spouse must have at least 20 years of service during the time of the marriage, which is credited towards their military requirement.

For example, if a couple married in 1980, and one partner joined the military in 1983, they must remain married until 2003, with the military spouse in continuous service to the country in the military, for the benefit to attach.

If you are a military spouse going through the divorce process, be sure to understand the potential limitations of continued benefits. While some benefits might continue, others might be more difficult to obtain, depending on the length of time you were married, along with the number of yours your spouse has served in the military.

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