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Ask Lawrence D. Gorin Your Own Question
Lawrence D. Gorin
Lawrence D. Gorin, Lawyer
Category: Military Law
Satisfied Customers: 1544
Experience:  Military & Family Law. 30+ years experience. USFSPA pension division expertise.
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For the 20/20/20 rule entitlement if you are married over 20

Customer Question

For the 20/20/20 rule entitlement if you are married over 20 years, the military member serviced 20 years however you don't have the overlap of active duty time please tell me if there is any circumstance that would afford you the entitlement 20/20/20 if you are short a few months of active duty time?

You lose too many benefits under the 20/20/15 for only short a few months of 20 years overlap of active duty time. Because the military member knows this rule and delibertly plans his retirement short of the 20 year overlap of active duty time, is there no recourse for the military spouse?

Thank you
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Military Law
Expert:  P. Simmons replied 7 years ago.
The 20/20/20 rule is part of the Former Spouse Protection Act, 10 USC 1408, is federal law that allows state courts to divide military pension as part of the property settlement in a divorce proceeding. This is federal law...and to meet the 20/20/20 provision, you need to have 20 years of qualifying service and 20 years of marriage that overlap. There is not an exception to this in the rule...if you have the overlap you qualify, if not...not.

Sorry to bear bad news...but the only recourse would be to contact your congressional representative and request a change in the law.

Expert:  Lawrence D. Gorin replied 7 years ago.
Lt. Col. Simmons (Ret.) is correct and his answer should be accepted.

I add the following just to be helpful.

To qualify for continued benefits a former spouse must show that the service member served at least 20 years of creditable service, that the marriage lasted at least 20 years and that the period of the marriage overlapped the period of service by at least 20 years. A former spouse who meets these requirements is known as a ”20/20/20 former spouse” and is entitled to full commissary, exchange and health care benefits. These benefits include TRICARE and inpatient and out-patient care at a military treatment facility. Former spouses who do not meet these requirements lose their commissary and exchange privileges once the divorce is final.

If a 20/20/20 former spouse remarries, eligibility for the benefits is terminated. If the subsequent marriage is ended by divorce or death, commissary, base exchange and theater privileges may be reinstated. Medical care cannot be reinstated.

In cases where the servicemember served 20 years of creditable service, the marriage lasted 20 years, but the period of the marriage overlapped the period of service by only 15 years the former spouse is a “20/20/15 former spouse” and is entitled to full military medical benefits only for a transitional period of one year following the divorce. After this year of coverage, the spouse may purchase a DOD-negotiated conversion health policy. Full coverage also requires that the former spouse does not remarry nor enroll in an employer-sponsored health insurance plan.

If a 20/20/15 former spouse remarries during the one-year period, eligibility for the benefits is terminated. If the subsequent marriage is ended by divorce or death, commissary, base exchange and theater privileges may be reinstated for any remaining balance of the one year period; however, medical care cannot be reinstated.

Former spouses who are neither 20/20/20 nor 20/20/15 former spouses are not entitled to any military health benefits after a divorce. But they are eligible for the DOD Continued Health Care Benefit Program, a premium based temporary health care coverage program for 36 months of coverage until alternative coverage can be obtained, if they enroll within 60 days of losing full military health care benefits.

If you have questions regarding USFSPA, call your local military legal office and schedule an appointment with an attorney. You can find links to military legal assistance offices at the following web page.

ALSO..... some words about life insurance:
As to life insurance, USFSPA allows a former spouse, like a current spouse, to be designated as a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) beneficiary. The SBP provides an annuity that allows retired service members to provide continued income to a named beneficiary in the event of the retiree's death. A retiring servicemember will be enrolled in the SBP unless he or she declines to participate. If divorce occurs after retirement and the servicemember had initially elected to participate when retiring, the divorce terminates the initial beneficiary designation in favor of the "spouse." However, coverage may be continued in favor of a "former spouse" either voluntarily, to honor an agreement between the parties, or to comply with a court order. The former spouse however, must elect "former spouse coverage" from the appropriate military finance center within one year of the date of the final divorce decree.

The USFSPA statute itself is viewable online at:

USFSPA Frequently Asked Questions:

For an overview of military benefits for former spouses, see:

Short article on “Benefits of Former Spouses of Military Personnel”

Military Divorce Guide: Life Insurance:

More questions and more answers.......

Just trying to be helpful.