Erroneous Termination of ID Card Eligibility for Surviving Stepchildren
Recently, a surviving spouse told the MyArmyBenefits (MAB) Help Desk that her husband had died while on active duty a few years back, leaving behind herself and the deceased Soldier’s stepchild (her child from her previous marriage). Both the spouse and stepchild were living with the Soldier at the time of his death. She went on to say when she recently remarried, she and the stepchild (her natural child) had their ID card and TRICARE privileges terminated. She was aware remarriage would cause the termination of her privileges but was surprised at the action against the stepchild and thought it was unfair.
After some research, The MAB Help Desk determined that in the absence of governing DOD policy ID card offices were applying a revocation policy that pertained to divorced spouses not remarried surviving spouses. The issue was referred to the Defense Human Resources Agency (DHRA) and the Defense Health Agency’s General Counsel, who agreed, although policy was absent, existing statutes supported the stepchild retaining benefits following the sponsor’s death and the natural parent’s remarriage. As a result stepchildren who were qualified DEERS beneficiaries at the time of their military stepparent’s death are to retain their ID cards and medical benefits even if their natural parent remarries. Any stepchild who had their ID cards revoked should be issued a new one.
DHRA's initial outreach effort to share this information with the field is in the early stages yet and many who may be affected remain unaware. Readers are asked to share this information with any surviving spouse they know and suggest they contact the MyArmyBenefits Help Desk at 888-721-ARMY (888-721-2769) 9:00 am – 5:00 pm ET, Monday – Friday, with any questions.