TRICARE for Dependent Parents and In-Laws
Parents and parents-in-law who rely on sponsors for care may qualify for some TRICARE benefits. Those who are eligible can receive medical attention in military hospitals and clinics, and receive some medications at military pharmacies, just like sponsors and their families. A military service member must be on active duty for more than 30 days for a parent or in-law parent to receive health care benefits.
TRICARE for Medal of Honor Recipients
Military personnel who receive the Medal of Honor are eligible for TRICARE, and their families are, too. The sponsor and their family can enroll regardless of if they are still on active duty, if they have separated from active duty, or if they have retired.
If you are registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (also known as DEERS), its possible that you could sign up for TRICARE benefits. DEERS is a worldwide database that lists U.S. Armed Forces members and their families who may be eligible for medical benefits. Registering through DEERS is required to obtain TRICARE coverage (for more information, see How to Apply for TRICARE Benefits), and the system may analyze your unique military situation to determine if you qualify. While not every person who registers on DEERS may be eligible, the database is a good place to start when determining if you can obtain military health benefits.
Foreign Force Members
Foreign force members, and their families, are also eligible to apply for TRICARE benefits. But, these benefits do differ from U.S. Armed Forces benefits. Foreign Force personnel can either receive medical care in the United States in military hospitals and clinics, or military clinics and hospitals, as well as non-military health care providers; whichever designation you receive may depend upon your military organization and government agreements. To qualify for TRICARE as a Foreign Force member, you must:
- Be from a country that participates in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or
- Be from a country that participates in the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), or
- Be from a country that participates in the Partnership for Peace Agreement (PFP), with or without a SOFA agreement, or
- Be From a country that participates in the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement
You must also:
- Conduct business with the Department of Defense on military orders and within the United States
- Be registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and have a military identification card
- Foreign force members should contact their home country’s embassy if they have questions about health care coverage through TRICARE.
Families of Military Personnel Who Are Missing in Action
If your sponsor has been deemed Missing in Action, you and your family may be eligible to receive TRICARE coverage. Inquire with your local identification card office to see if you or family members are eligible to obtain or keep health care benefits. To find a nearby identification card office, visit the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) website (https://www.dmdc.osd.mil).
Families of Court-Martialed and Discharged Service Members
If your sponsor has been discharged from service following a court-martial conviction, you or some members of your family may still qualify for TRICARE benefits. Inquire with your local identification card office to see if you or family members are eligible to obtain or keep health care benefits. To find a nearby identification card office, visit the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) website (https://www.dmdc.osd.mil).
Victims of Abuse/Domestic Abuse
Any person who has suffered abuse or domestic abuse from an active duty sponsor may qualify for health coverage benefits, as well as other assistance programs. After a sponsor separates from duty, victims may qualify for the Department of Defense Transitional Compensation Program, which provides:
- Monthly compensation payments for up to 36 months
- Use of base facilities for up to 36 months
- Some basic TRICARE benefits for up to 36 months
After the transition time (between 12 and 36 months) is up, abuse victims will no longer receive TRICARE benefits, but can still receive services for health or mental health issues related to abuse from their active duty sponsor.
How Activating and Deactivating From Duty Affects Eligibility
Activating For Duty
National Guard or Reserve members generally receive different TRICARE benefits compared to active duty uniformed service members because of their status — essentially, you may receive fewer or limited benefits based on your duty status. But, National Guard or Reserve members who enter active duty are able to receive the same benefits as other active duty personnel.
Upon activating for duty, National Guard or Reserve members can choose a TRICARE plan that fits their needs, and will also receive active duty dental benefits. Your family members will also become eligible for TRICARE benefits.
WARNING: When your active duty orders are given can affect your health care benefits. In some cases, your benefits may begin up to 180 days based on when you are to report for duty, while other times, benefits may not begin until the first day of active duty. Be sure you understand when your benefits will begin when entering active duty status.
Deactivating From Duty
Leaving active duty status means you’ll transition from TRICARE benefits to another form of health insurance. But, how you’ll transition depends on your military operation, and if it was in support of a contingency operation or not.
In support: When you deactivate, you and your family will qualify for the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP) and will receive health care coverage through this program for six months. After your TAMP eligibility ends, you’ll need to look at other options, such as the TRICARE Reserve Select program for National Guard and Reserve members, private insurance through an employer or through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Not in support: When you deactivate, you and your family will not qualify for the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP). When your active duty benefits are revoked, you will need to find another form of insurance, such as the
TRICARE Reserve Select program for National Guard and Reserve members, private insurance through an employer or through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Any injuries, illnesses or medical issues you obtain during your time as an active duty service member will still receive care, regardless of your insurance status after deactivating. Line of duty care will help provide coverage for your recovery from that specific injury or illness, but does not provide you any other coverage — so it’s important that you make arrangements to find another form of health insurance.
How to Apply For TRICARE Benefits
Applying for TRICARE health benefits is relatively easy, and consists of three main steps:
- Register for the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
- Check health benefit eligibility
- Select a TRICARE plan online
Anyone applying for TRICARE health benefits must first register in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). The DEERS system is a global database that catalogs information about uniformed service members, their families and dependents, and anyone else who can receive military health benefits.
TRICARE Eligibility Verification and Utilizing the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
Enrollment: Military sponsors (any individual who is currently on active duty, is retired or is a National Guard or Reserve serviceperson) are automatically registered in DEERS, but they are responsible for registering their family members or dependents — family members are not automatically added to the system.
Up-to-date Information: It’s important to keep your DEERS information up-to-date, including a new address or contact information, or becoming eligible for Medicare. Career changes should also be noted, such as retiring or separating from active duty, activation or deactivation for National Guard or Reserve members, or changing rank or branch. You should update DEERS as soon as any big life event occurs, such as marriage or divorce, having a baby or a death in the family.
Failing to Update DEERS: If you forget or fail to update information on DEERS, your TRICARE coverage may lapse and you can lose health benefits. If this happens, simply updating your DEERS information can resolve the issue and health benefits will once again be granted.
Help with DEERS registration: Visit the Mil Connect site (www.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect) or call the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) at 1-800-538-9552.
After registering with DEERS, you can login to the Mil Connect website (www.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect) to determine if you eligible for TRICARE benefits, and what plans you may be eligible for.
If you qualify for health benefits, you can then proceed to the TRICARE website to explore plans and enroll in the one that best fits your needs.
Using TRICARE Benefits With Other Insurance
In some cases, its ok to use your TRICARE benefits along with other forms of insurance you may have. For active duty service members, TRICARE is the only insurance you’ll be able to use; part of your military and active duty benefits is TRICARE coverage and this requirement ensures that you’ll receive any medical attention you need without worry about insurance providers.
If you have health insurance through an employer or a private plan, you can use this in conjunction with TRICARE, but you should be aware that TRICARE benefits will be used last. That means your other form of insurance will be applied to medical services first, and TRICARE benefits will be applied to any remaining services. This doesn’t mean that all of your health care costs will be completely covered; for this reason, it’s important to understand what all of your insurance plans and providers cover and include.
If you use Medicare alongside TRICARE, you should understand that this is slightly different. Medicare is not considered other insurance; instead it’s considered a “federal entitlement.” This means that Medicare will cover some services, then any private or other forms of insurance will pay for services second. When using Medicare, TRICARE is always the last form of insurance that is applied to any medical services you receive.
WARNING: It’s important that you understand exactly what all your health insurance plans cover before receiving any health services. This can help you avoid bills or fees that your plan does not cover, and that you may not have expected to pay out of pocket. It may be necessary to keep track of what each insurance provider and plan covers, and review that before scheduling or receiving health care.
It is possible to lose TRICARE benefits, and for many reasons. If you are going to lose your TRICARE eligibility, you’ll first be notified, as well ever person in your family who is covered. In some cases, you may qualify for up to 180 day of temporary coverage through the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP), or through the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP). Now is the time to consider your other health insurance options, such as an employer’s health insurance or a private plan while you still have time.
The most common reasons for loss of coverage include:
- Leaving active duty before being discharged
- Divorce or remarriage
- Aging out of TRICARE eligibility (for adult children)
- Conflict issues with Medicare
- Failing to Update DEERS