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Tricare Help: 13 years later: Still eligible for Tricare?

Jun. 27, 2014 - 12:37PM   |  

Q. I am the widow of a Marine who retired from the Corps in 1999. In September 2000, our daughter was born. Six days later, my husband died. At the time, I had a job that offered health care insurance and we had no need of military services. My husband had always handled updates in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, and I didn’t even think about it.
My daughter is now 13. I have changed jobs and want to start using Tricare, but now I realize that my daughter was never enrolled in DEERS. Can I still get her enrolled? I have all the required documentation, including my husband’s military ID card and death certificate.

A. As the surviving spouse and child of a deceased military retiree, and armed with all the appropriate paperwork on your late husband and your daughter, you and she indeed remain eligible for Tricare. However, there is one big condition regarding your eligibility: You must not have remarried. If you have, your Tricare eligibility under your late Marine husband’s sponsorship is gone and cannot be restored even if the subsequent marriage ended in death or divorce.

As the surviving child of an eligible beneficiary, your daughter remains eligible for Tricare until age 21, or age 23 if she is a full-time college student, as long as she remains unmarried.

The place to start this process is DEERS. You can call the ID Card/DEERS office on your nearest military installation, or the main DEERS support office in California. That toll-free number is 800-538-9552.

Q. My former spouse and I were married in October 1987 and divorced in August 1997. We remarried in September 2000 then again divorced in August 2008. We could not make it work, but we’re still good friends, and I’d be willing to make her my dependent if possible so she can have Tricare benefits. Is that even possible? I certainly don’t want to marry her a third time.

A. Former spouses remain eligible for Tricare only if they meet the three criteria of what is known as the “20/20/20” rule:

The service member must have served at least 20 years in uniform and be eligible for military retirement benefits; the marriage must have lasted at least 20 years; and the marriage and the member’s military service must have overlapped by at least 20 years.

If those criteria are met, ex-spouses remain eligible for Tricare coverage indefinitely, as long as they do not remarry someone else.

If they remarry, they lose Tricare eligibility and it cannot be restored later, even if the subsequent marriage were to end in death or divorce.

Since the cumulative years of your marriage add up to only 18, your ex-wife is not eligible for continued Tricare coverage under the “20/20/20 rule.”

At this point, the only way to make your ex-wife eligible would be to marry her again. You never know — the third time just might be the charm.

Write to Tricare Help, Times News Service, 6883 Commercial Drive, Springfield, VA 22159; or http://tricarehelp@militarytimes.com. In email, include the word “Tricare” in the subject line and do not attach files. Get Tricare advice any time at www.militarytimes.com/tricarehelp.

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