This blog is both a “heads-up” and “call to action” for former spouses who meet the 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 requirements. I’ve learned over the last few years that it takes a legitimate 20/20/20 or 20/20/15 former spouse 4 to 5 months from divorce until they complete processing and have the following: (1) a DoD ID card with their own DoD ID number; (2) enrollment in DEERS under their own DoD ID number; and (3) a TRICARE health insurance policy in their own name. I find that unacceptable and I trust you do too. Why should qualifying former spouses have to endure 4 to 5 months without health insurance? There is nothing the Servicemember can do to speed up the process since the former spouse must apply for benefits under his or her own name.
Former spouse’s process through and are qualified by the Military Department to which the Servicemember belongs or belonged. A court doesn’t qualify the former spouse. The Servicemember doesn’t qualify the former spouse. The Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force process and qualify former spouses. So do the Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Each of these entities has separate offices to handle former spouse qualification.
I have a former client who qualified as a 20/20/15 former spouse. That means she got 1 year of TRICARE from the date of divorce. It took her 5 months to qualify through the Department of the Air Force and finally get her TRICARE policy. Effectively, she received only 7 months of benefit since there is no provision to compensate for the length of processing. This 4-5 month wait is across-the-board, meaning former spouses experience that lengthy wait no matter their service affiliation.
I urge former spouses to write their U.S. Congressional Representative and both U.S. Senators about this issue. I tell my client’s that I can’t fix this for them. But, if Congress opts to pay attention to this issue and demand the services report on why the time line is so long and how it can be streamlined, change can happen. I doubt any of our national leaders would find it acceptable for their loved ones to be without health care for 4 to 5 months due to administrative processing.
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC. The firm specializes in Federal Civil Service and Military Divorce matters, as well as other family law matters that affect Federal Civil Service and Military families.