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Military Spouse Benefits

Benefits for Military Spouses

What Benefits do Military Spouses get?

Being married to someone in the military comes with a number of benefits. These are intended to make your spouse's service easier on you and ensure both of you are provided for, even in your spouse’s absence. These benefits include:

Health and Child Care Benefits

In addition to base pay, military spouses receive something similar to shared healthcare insurance. As a civilian or military spouse, you will have access to Tricare, which is the military’s healthcare service. Though not technically an insurance provider, Tricare functions in the same way and helps service members and their families get:

  • Necessary medication
  • Medical procedures
  • Other important healthcare services

Shopping and Commissary Benefits

Most branches of the military also provide what it calls non-monetary pay. This typically takes the form of a commissary, where military spouses and their children can go to get food and other grocery items. There may also be other stores or services provided on or near a military base that provide goods and services at cost and contribute a portion of their revenue to military programs, benefiting both that particular branch and the military spouses (and children) who save money.

Military Housing Benefits

The U.S. military also has what is called a basic allowance for housing (BAH). This is a portion of pay given to a service member and their spouses in order to float all or most of the cost of housing. If your spouse is deployed to a location where you cannot follow them, the military will pay for you to live somewhere else during your spouse’s period of deployment.

How to Apply for Military Spousal Benefits

  1. The only way you can access military spouse benefits is by being officially married to someone in the military.
  2. You must also register as official personnel with your spouse’s branch (i.e. Navy, Air Force, Army, etc.).
  3. After you register, you will be given a military ID. However, you cannot register or receive a military ID at any point before you are officially married.

Military Spouse Benefits Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are civilian spouses entitled to any military benefits like exchange, commissary, and health care benefits after a divorce? Can the civilian spouse collect a portion of their soon-to-be ex-spouse’s military retirement pay? These questions can be answered by the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, or USFSPA.

To help our clients better understand military spouse benefits, our firm's attorneys have explained the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about this topic. For more information, please give us a call.

Is the civilian spouse permitted access to any part of their spouse’s military retired pay in the state of Florida?
  • Yes, but this is not automatically allowed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA). It instead defers to the state law of wherever the military divorce has been filed. Military retired disposable pay is considered a marital asset under state law and is therefore subject to division during a divorce.
  • In Florida, the civilian spouse is entitled to an equitable, but not necessarily equal, share of whatever portion of the service member’s military retirement was earned while they were married.
When can a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) be completed?
  • A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) can be completed at any time for the military. However, the amount the civilian spouse is designated to receive is only determined at retirement.
Can military retired pay be subject to garnishments?
If the civilian spouse remarries, what happens to the retirement pay?
  • While remarriage may affect the survivorship rights under the survivor benefit plan (SBP), it likely will not affect the civilian ex-spouse’s right to a share of the retired pay.
Will a former civilian spouse be able to collect payment directly from the military for retired pay?
  • Yes, on the following condition: the former spouse must have been married to the military member for at least ten years during the time the member completed ten years of creditable service.
Will a former civilian spouse be able to continue receiving exchange, commissary, and health care benefits post-divorce?
  • The answer to this question depends on:
    • Length of the marriage
    • Length of the member’s service
    • Amount of time both periods were concurrent
  • In order to be eligible to continue receiving benefits, a 20/20/20 ex-spouse must provide proof that the military spouse provided at least 20 creditable years of service, was married to their spouse for at least 20 years, and that the marriage was concurrent with the service. If the former spouse meets these requirements, he or she is permitted full access to benefits, including TRICARE and outpatient and inpatient care at military treatment facilities.
  • 20/20/15 former spouses must provide proof of 20 years of service, 20 years of marriage, and proof of 15 to 20 years of concurrence to be eligible for one year of benefits after a divorce. After a year, they will have the option to buy a (Department of Defense) DoD-negotiated conversion health policy.
  • Ex-spouses not meeting these criteria will lose their commissary and exchange privileges as soon as the divorce is finalized.
Can we agree to have benefits continue if we do not qualify for 20/20/20 or 20/20/15?
  • Unfortunately, if you do not qualify, you will not be able to receive any benefits.
Will retirement pay continue past the service member’s death?
  • Unless there is a specific provision in the QDRO called the survivor benefit plan (SBP), the award for the civilian former spouse will not continue after the death of the service member. SBP is a pension for retired service members which provides income to an elected beneficiary at the retiree’s death.
  • SBP beneficiary status must be elected by the service member or awarded to the civilian spouse at the time of the divorce (please note that "former spouse coverage" must be elected within one year of the divorce date).
  • Also note that a divorce will terminate any previous beneficiary designations in favor of the "spouse." Unless the service member voluntarily designates "former spouse" or the court orders the designation, the SBP beneficiary will not be the civilian spouse.
If the former civilian spouse remarries, what will happen to their health benefits?
  • If they remarry, the former civilian spouse will lose their coverage. Access to full coverage also requires that they do not enroll in a health insurance plan through their employer.

Do You Have Further Benefits Questions? Contact Owenby Law, P.A. for the Answers

If you have more questions about former military spouse benefits or need more information about military divorce or on one of the topics mentioned above, do not hesitate to contact our Jacksonville military divorce lawyers at (904) 770-3141. With more than 125 years of combined experience and thousands of successful cases, we are able to help you better understand this specific and unique area of the law.

Contact us today for your free initial consultation.

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