Military COBRA

Today we hear from Liz in Georgia who asks, “Is it true that the U.S. Military does not have to follow the 36 month COBRA rules in a divorce?

My brother in law tells me that when his divorce is final, his wife will not get COBRA for 36 months – that her benefits will stop immediately.
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So he is having to do a legal separation until she finds a job with benefits and before he can finalize the divorce. Double work on the legal front! And she has no incentive to get a job quickly, thus accruing more of his retirement benefits. Does our government not have to follow the same rules as employers?”

Hi Liz,

Yes, I can see why that would get you incensed!

But, much as you might think that TaxMama knows all, I haven’t a clue about COBRA rules. However, I found this on the Divorce Center of New Jersey website of Theodore Sliwinski, Esq. (See below for the link)

30. Can a former military spouse receive COBRA health benefits after the divorce?

Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), Tricare will provide a divorced civilian spouse with 36 months of health insurance. This type of program is called the Continued Health Care Benefit Program.

Unfortunately, the COBRA program is very expensive, and it is cost prohibitive for many military families. However, if the civilian spouse has a preexisting medical condition, it could be worthwhile.

A former military spouse has to be very prompt to apply for COBRA. The military spouse must submit a DD Form 2837 Continued Health Care Benefit Program Application within 60 days of the divorce, and mail it in with proof of your eligibility and a check for the first quarter of coverage.

Basically, it says, SHE can get the coverage. All she has to do is apply and pay for it.
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Interesting thought. That would free him up to live his life and let him keep his retirement.

You can do some more searching on Google for “COBRA military spouse” to get additional information in your own state, if Georgia’s military have a provider other than Tricare .

However, if I’m not mistaken, even in the case of a civilian divorce, the husband’s company does not pay for the insurance. COBRA requires the company’s insurer to continue to provide the same kind of coverage the couple always had for 36 months – but someone must pay for it. In this case, it’s either going to be ex-husband, or the newly divorced wife.

And even in the civilian world, the premiums tend to be costly. So, it’s no surprise that the military insurance policy is expensive, too, when COBRA’d. (Is COBRA a verb?)

I hope this helps?

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about divorces and all kinds of other tax issues, free. Where? Where else? At

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  • Ask TaxMama :: Where taxes are fun and answers are free
  • TaxQuips :: The number ONE tax podcast online
  • Divorce Center of New Jersey :: Information about COBRA from Theodore Sliwinski, Esq.
  • Tricare :: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) and the TRICARE Management Activity

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