Widow's benefits after divorce?
July 3, 2012
Can a widow's benefits be reinstated after a divorce?
Dear Sgt. Shaft:
I read your Nov. 17, 2010, post related to a woman seeking her military ID after having divorced her second husband. You stated that she could get her ID card but not medical benefits. Do you have a sense for whether or not widow's benefits could be reinstated after a divorce? If so, what would need to done or what resource would need to be accessed?
Thanks for your help and expertise.
Via the Internet
My friend at Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) tell me that in order to retain TRICARE and direct care medical benefits following a military divorce, a spouse must have been married to the service member for 20 years, the service member must have served a 20-year career, and there must have been 20 years of overlap between the marriage and the career. This is known as the 20-20-20 rule. Depending on when the marriage and divorce took place, the spouse may retain benefits for one year only if there was at least 15 years of overlap, and all other conditions were met.
For a military widow who remarried and later divorced, the only opportunity to regain military medical benefits is to have the second marriage annulled. If the marriage is annulled in accordance with the laws of the state she lives in, the military will view her as never having remarried, and her medical benefits could be restored.
• Kudos to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees for their joint efforts in passing an amendment to H.R. 1627, which reflects an agreement reached in conference by the Republican and Democratic leadership of the Veterans' Affairs Committees in the House and Senate.
Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said: "This comprehensive legislation represents more than a year's worth of work by the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees on behalf of America's veterans. The Committees have worked in unison for months to come to agreement on a package that will improve benefits and services to veterans and their families. "This bill includes nearly 50 provisions, which combines House-passed legislation and Senate Committee-reported bills. Today, we move forward to improve health care, housing, education, homelessness, memorial affairs, and compensation for veterans and certain dependents. This legislation also protects veterans from predatory behaviors and requires increased accountability and transparency within VA.
"We have achieved this legislative accomplishment in a fiscally responsible manner, and the bill will not cost the taxpayer an extra dime. We have received a great deal of input from Veterans Service Organizations and advocates from across the country to address the most pressing concerns our veterans face today. Their participation has been key to moving this legislation forward.
"I would like to thank my colleagues, Chairman [Patty] Murray and Ranking Member [Roland] Burr in the Senate, and Ranking Member [Bob] Filner in the House, for their continued support and dedication to ensure the benefits earned by veterans are preserved and remain one of our nation's top priorities."
• The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs recently held an oversight hearing titled "Reviewing the Implementation of Major Provisions of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011." The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 is the signature veterans' legislation of the 112th Congress. Officials from the departments of Labor (DoL) and Veterans Affairs (VA) testified on the implementation of the law to date.
The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) was the main focus of the hearing. The cornerstone of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, VRAP will provide up to one-year of Montgomery GI Bill benefits to unemployed veterans, ages 35-60, for in-demand jobs and careers. The Committee applauded efforts by the departments at the program staff-level, but cautioned that more needed to be done to promote VRAP.
"I am pleased to see that over 11,000 applications have been received so far, meaning that we are well on our way to filling all of the 45,000 slots paid for in the VOW Act for the remainder of this fiscal year," stated Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "But I am concerned that not enough is being done by either department, or the President himself, to promote this benefit. Getting the message out about this opportunity is critically important to putting unemployed veterans on a path to a job in a high-demand field."
In addition, Committee Members also expressed concern that DoL and VA were not taking the appropriate steps to ensure that veterans were aware VRAP existed. Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits at VA, noted some of the challenges facing the two departments to effectively reach out to veterans about VRAP were that "a centralized system to identify eligible veterans does not exist."
Few Members had seen any outreach in their local communities, leading the Committee to ask if a plan was in place to reach unemployed veterans in non-metropolitan areas, specifically through TV advertising.
"Despite having had ample time to come forth with one, VA has failed to deliver an advertising budget," Miller said. "Advertising is a quick, effective way to control the message in order to reach a large number of veterans in a very short period of time. That is the level of promotion for VRAP that our unemployed veterans deserve. We cannot afford to let even one training slot go unfilled. I encourage all eligible veterans to sign up for this opportunity at their local one stop career center or online."
• The Sarge wishes my fellow veterans and their families a very happy and safe Independence Day. Enjoy your family and friends as we commemorate the birth of our wonderful country.