VA Benefits for Divorced Spouses

By Anna Assad

Most military benefits to a spouse automatically terminate once a divorce is finalized, but some former military spouses are entitled to benefits even after the marriage ends. Federal laws provide some protections to former spouses of service members regarding retirement pay and base privileges. Some former spouses of long-time service members are entitled to continuing health benefits.

Commissary and Post-Exchange

A former spouse of a retired or active service member is entitled to use the commissary and post-exchange as long as he was married to his former spouse for at least 20 years or more and at least 20 of those years of service were credited toward his ex-spouse's military retirement. A commissary is typically the base supermarket, and the post-exchange, or PX, are the base shops. Although the former spouse loses his privileges if he remarries, access to the commissary and post-exchange is sometimes reinstated if he divorces his second wife.

Retirement

A divorced spouse might be entitled to part of his former spouse's military retirement pay, depending on what state he divorced in and his spouse's residency at the time. Federal law allows states to decide whether disposable retirement pay -- retirement money left over after deductions and disability pay -- is subject to the marital property division in divorce. However, the divorced spouse must have been married to the retired service member for at least 10 years, and for at least 10 years of the service time the military spouse used to qualify for her retirement benefits.

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Tricare

Tricare, a health provider of the U.S. armed forces, allows health insurance coverage for a divorced spouse of an eligible service member as long as the divorced spouse hasn't remarried. The service member may be retired or active. The sponsor -- the eligible service member -- must have at least 20 years of service that counts toward military retirement benefits for his former spouse to receive coverage. The couple must have been married for at least 20 years and during at least 20 years of service credited toward retirement. Tricare coverage for a divorced spouse ends when he remarries, or if he takes private health insurance through his employer.

Considerations

If a retired armed forces member divorces after retirement, she can still choose to leave a survivor benefit for her former spouse. The survivor benefit is a monthly payment the divorced spouse receives upon the service member's death and is designed to ease the financial loss of the service member's retirement pay. The service member must take the election within two years of the divorce. A former military spouse can't regain medical benefits that are terminated because of remarriage, even if he subsequently divorces.

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Can My Spouse Cancel My Tricare Benefits if We are Going Through a Divorce?

References

Related articles

Military Retirement Pay & Divorce

Military divorces are a unique legal area with several federal considerations. When it comes to retirement benefits, however, Uncle Sam takes a step back and allows individual states to rule on dividing them in a divorce. The federal government is still involved, but it defers some decisions to state courts.

Divorced Spouses Benefits of Retired Veterans

As a result of the passage of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, or USFSPA, by Congress in 1982, former spouses of military personnel are eligible to receive a portion of a spouse’s military retirement benefits during divorce proceedings and are also eligible for continuing medical and dental coverage. The law accomplishes this by permitting state courts to treat the pension as marital property.

Spouse's Rights to Military Benefits

As a civilian spouse, your military benefits are typically based on your marital status and a divorce may mean losing those benefits. For example, you may have to give up military health insurance and the ability to shop at the exchange and commissary. However, federal law may allow you to keep these benefits if you have been married for at least 20 years. A divorce court can also award you a portion of your spouse’s retirement pay and can force your spouse to sign up for a plan that pays benefits to you if he dies after retirement.

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