Can a Veteran’s Spouse Claim VA Benefits During Divorce?
Although wives and husbands of military personnel typically lose benefits when they dissolve their marriage to a service member, federal law does provide certain protections for former military spouses. Depending on the length of your marriage to a service member, you may retain these rights:
- Access to the commissary and post exchange — If you were married for at least 20 years to a service member with at least 20 years of service credited toward retirement, you are entitled to use the commissary and PX. You may retain these privileges until you remarry.
- Retirement pay — For an ex-spouse to qualify for a share in a service member’s retirement pay, the couple must have been married for at least 10 years and for at least 10 years of the member’s service time. State equitable distribution laws decide how much of the retirement pay the ex-spouse receives. Retirement pay continues until the service member dies.
- Healthcare — Ex-spouses of retired or active-duty service members may continue their health insurance coverage under the Department of Defense’s TRICARE system as long as they don’t remarry or enroll in an employer’s group healthcare plan. However, the spouse’s sponsor (the ex-spouse service member) must have at least 20 years of service and the couple must have been married for at least 20 years of the credited service.
- Survivor benefit — The service member may elect, within two years of the divorce, to leave a survivor benefit to an ex-spouse. This is a monthly payment that begins upon the death of the service member, and it can relieve financial hardships that come with the termination of retirement pay.
To keep their eligibility for VA benefits alive, military couples often choose to file for legal separation rather than immediately opting for divorce. An experienced divorce attorney at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. can answers specific questions on your circumstances.