As a military member, you are doing a great service to our country. Have you ever wondered if you are afforded any protections in a dissolution or other civil proceeding? The answer is yes. Are you a military spouse and are wondering about your health benefits and if you can retain them? The answer is potentially.

Below are some common areas relating to military spouses and members.

Is VA disability a community asset that is divisible during dissolution?

No.  

States may not treat VA disability payment as community property that is divisible during a dissolution action. Mansell v. Mansell (1989).  490 US 581 As set forth in Mansell v. Mansell, “the former spouses’ protection act does not grant state courts the power to treat as property divisible upon divorce military retirement pay that has been waived to receive veterans disability benefits.”  Mansell v. Mansell (1989).  490 US 581

Can VA disability be considered as income for support purposes?

Yes.  

These benefits are non-taxable and available to be considered for support purposes, such as child and spousal (alimony).  Pursuant to Rose v. Rose (1987) 481 US 619, the Court held that “A state court has jurisdiction to hold a disabled veteran in contempt for failing to pay child support, even if the veteran’s only means of satisfying this obligation is to utilize the veteran’s benefits received as compensation for a service-connected disability. . . although veterans’ disability benefits may be exempt from attachment while in the VA’s hands, once they are delivered to the veteran, a state court can require that they be used to satisfy a child support order.” 

Can Washington divide my military retirement pay as property?

It depends.  

If Washington does not have jurisdiction over the military spouse, then the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Prevention Act prevents a State Court from doing so. In determining if a Court has jurisdiction, you would look at whether Washington is the military member’s residence based on some other reason than because of their military assignment; is Washington their domicile or does the military member consent to the Court’s jurisdiction? If the military member’s residence is not Washington, their domicile is not Washington or they do not consent to jurisdiction; then Washington does not have the ability to divide retirement pay of a military member.

I have heard of the 20/20/20 rule in a divorce. What does that mean?

If your former spouse was in the military for at least twenty years, you were married to your former spouse for at least 20 years and the two overlap (meaning you were married to them for at least twenty years while they were in the military for twenty years) you are entitled to retain your medical benefits and other privileges (such as commissary and exchange) for the rest of your life; so long as you do not remarry.

What if they served at least 20 years, but there is not a 20 year overlap, do I retain any coverage?

Yes.  If the overlap is between 15 years and up to 20 years, then you can remain with your Tricare.

Pursuant to TriCare website (www.tricare.mil/Plans/Eligiblity/FormerSpouses):

Before April 1, 1985

You are eligible for care you received on or after January 1, 1985 (or the date your dissolution was finalized), whichever is later.  You will continue to receive TriCare benefits so long as you meet eligibility requirements.

April 1, 1985 to September 28, 1988

You are eligible from the date your divorce was finalized until December 31, 1988 or two years from the date your divorce was finalized, whichever is later.  

September 29, 1988, or after

You are eligible for Tricare for one year from the date of your divorce.

How can I lose Tricare benefits?

You can lose your TriCare benefits under one of the following scenarios

  • You get remarried.
  • You purchase another insurance policy via an employer-sponsored plan.
  • You were a former spouse of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization or Partners for Peace nation member.  

Hire an experienced military divorce attorney in Vancouver, WA!

If you have military family law questions about during or after a dissolution or parentage action, don’t hesitate to reach out to Navigate Law Group for an experienced attorney to assist you.

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Disclaimer

Every legal issue is very unique. Accordingly, the information in this blog is intended as general education material and not as legal advice. If you think you may have a legal issue, you should consult an attorney.