My husband and I live in Texas and have common-law marriage. Does Tricare recognize this, or would we need to be legally married to get full benefits?
Tricare does not make these kinds of eligibility determinations; the military services ultimately make determinations on who is and is not eligible for Tricare. If a service member’s service branch rules that a family member or other individual is eligible for registration under the service member’s sponsorship in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, then that individual is eligible for Tricare coverage. DEERS is the Defense Department’s eligibility portal for Tricare benefits.
I can tell you that the Veterans Affairs Department’s CHAMPVA health benefits program recognizes the eligibility of common-law spouses in states where common-law marriage is legal. So does the Federal Employe Health Benefits Program, the health plan for federal civilian workers.
However, I can find no definitive reference to Tricare eligibility policy specifically toward comomn-law marriage. The federal regulations governing Tricare simply refer to “lawful spouse.” One of the most basic aspects of being the lawful spouse of a military service member is whether the spouse has been deemed eligible for a uniformed services identification card. If you already have a valid military ID, then I would expect you’re eligible for Tricare in the state of Texas. If not, you’ll have to seek a Tricare eligibility determination through your husband’s military service branch. Every military installation has a Military Personnel and Services Division that oversees an office usually referred to as the ID Card/DEERS office or something similar. That’s where you and your husband need to start.
You can also call the main DEERS support office at toll-free 1-800-538-9552 for further guidance.