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
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
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
"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
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
• 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.