In our previous military divorce posts, we’ve spent some time discussing the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, a landmark piece of legislation passed by Congress 34 years ago to extend a measure of financial protection to the civilian spouses of servicemembers regarding the division of military disposable retired pay.

As significant as this is, it’s also important to understand that the USFSPA extends other protections to civilian spouses, including the right to receive full or partial medical benefits.

Specifically, the law provides that civilian spouses are entitled to full medical benefits upon divorce provided they meet all three requirements of what is known as the 20-20-20 test.

These requirements include:

  • The civilian spouse was married to the servicemember for at least 20 years.
  • The servicemember has put in at least 20 years of creditable service toward retirement.
  • The marriage must have corresponded with at least 20 years of active service (the date of the final divorce decree doesn’t matter).

If a civilian spouse does not meet the requirements of the 20-20-20 test, they may qualify for partial benefits — i.e., a year of transitional medical benefits — provided they meet all three requirements of what is known as the 20-20-15 test.

These requirements include:

  • The civilian spouse was married to the servicemember for at least 20 years.
  • The servicemember has put in at least 20 years of creditable service toward retirement.
  • The marriage must have corresponded with at least 15 years of active service.

Once the 12 months of transitional medical benefits expires, the spouse has a right to secure coverage via a DOD-provided private health insurance plan.

Two important factors for qualifying civilian spouses to keep in mind are that their access to full or partial medical benefits terminates upon remarriage, or coverage by any other medical insurance (employer-provided, individually secured, etc.).

To learn more about this and other complicated military divorce matters, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.