No, military spouses don’t marry for TRICARE


By J.M. Noll

No, military wives don't marry for TRICARE
(Photo: DVIDS)

When I was 27, I left my career for the man I loved. It was both an easy and difficult decision. I loved teaching. I loved my school. I loved my colleagues. I loved my students.

But, I loved my sailor more.

When I resigned at the end of the school year, I did it in a heady haze of romance and happiness. My fiance was returning from a year-long stint in Afghanistan and we were getting married a month later. I was so excited about what was in front of me that I never really concretely thought about what I was leaving behind.

If you’re looking at the world in finances and benefits, you could say that by getting married, I downgraded my life. As a military spouse, my earning potential was much less than I made as a teacher. . . pitifully so. To teach in my new home state, I was going to have to shell out hundreds of dollars–if not thousands–for a license even though I had received great evaluations, had a master’s degree and five years of experience, and was rated Highly Proficient in the state I had left. (We opted against that because there was no guarantee I’d receive my license before we had to move again.)

I no longer was working towards a pension and because we were just scraping by, I spent a few years not putting anything in a retirement fund. Then there are the holes in my resume, courtesy of the military, that threw up red flags to potential employers. And to be honest, the health benefits I had left behind were better than the TRICARE benefits I’d received as a military spouse.

I married my husband–which is, hands-down, the best decision I’ve ever made– but I lost out financially. Big time.

My experience in becoming a military spouse is not new, nor is it anomalous. A 2016 study commissioned by Blue Star Families noted that military spouse under- and unemployment costs our nation’s economy between $710 million and $1 billion a year. And let’s not forget that military spouses are more likely to be more educated than their civilian counterparts. While we don’t know how many step away from great jobs and benefits, we can guess that it’s a a lot.

So this sexist idea that women marry men for solely for their TRICARE benefits? (Because no one ever accuses male spouses of doing this.) Puhleeze.

This ugly stereotype was dredged up again– probably unwittingly–by TRICARE when they recently posted this picture and caption on Facebook:

Image may contain: one or more people and wedding

And then they edited it twice to change the original copy. While they should be commended for changing their copy, the comments ranged from “What?” to “If you’re not laughing, it’s because it’s true!”

I’ll be honest: I chuckled too, because, seriously, TRICARE?

But then, after reading more and more comments under the photo, I was just saddened.

To defend this stereotype–or to snidely tell people just to laugh it off–continues to create fissures and division in a community that has helped to bear the brunt of 16 years of continual war. This stereotype, first of all, is a ridiculous assumption to make about an entire group of very diverse women. (Do some women fit the stereotype? Maybe. But vast majority do not.) Second. . . it’s disrespectful to some of the very people we venerate as heroes. Do we really want to perpetuate the idea that our male service members are too dumb to realize when they’re being used for their benefits?

The military wives I know are smart, intelligent women who often have to make the best of a situation that is completely out of their hands. They’re women who have degrees–sometimes multiple–and often they cannot use them by virtue of their spouse’s job and location. They’re women who are vastly underemployed either because they need to be for opstempo or because they have no other options. They’re women who left their lives and decided to follow love instead. And they’re women who lift others up instead of pointing, laughing, and singling others out.
J.G. Noll is the Editor of Military One Click and a veteran’s spouse. She can be reached at joanna@militaryoneclick.com.

7 Comments

  1. I have to laugh. Marrying for Tricare? I really am not is against them when it comes to civilians, but please… let them navigate that wretched system and tell me any of us married for THAT. I kept my own insurance for this reason. Wow.

  2. How do we know, at least based on this picture, that it was a civilian wife marrying her active duty husband? It could have just as easily been an active duty female and her civilian husband. For that matter, they both could have been active duty. The point about TRICARE is exactly correct, but I would also not stereotype it as a military wife issue.

  3. Eh it happens. It happens more than people think. And because tricare sucks it is hysterical when men and women do it (and yes men are accused of doing it as well). Most spouses maried their military member because they love them etc. But there is a population of spouses (and a majority of them are probably women) who married for the money, to move to a new state, loo leave a bad situation, to move to a new country, for medical care etc. And personally since the stereotype didn’t fit me I really never gave two rats about how others perceive military spouses. And yeah sorry there are PLENTY of guys who just dont catch on why their new wife married them when its for that reason. Oh and ps….simply being military does not make you a hero.

  4. Lol 4 tricare!!! Hahaha NO! It should be Called tri’a’pain-in-the-neck!!! Thankfully you can opt out! And I feel ya on that degree.. may as well have never went to school is how people can feel some days!

  5. It’s a gray issue because I know some army wives who married soldiers for the benefits. Hell, my husbands first wife married him because she needed someone to take care of her and he wanted out of the barracks. Some soldiers have contract marriages. I’ve met some crappy couples and some great ones too.

  6. It also never ends…when my husband was being discharged after 22 years of service…he is 100% Air Force disabled and 100% VA disabled…it was sudden and after 20 years of marriage I put in a chat group question to help me understand our future benefits, what it meant as far as income, and moving back to the US as civilians without the structure I had known for the last 20 years….I was called every name in the book…called lazy and should get a job…people did not know me, my family, my circumstances, they just knew it had to be about me grabbing all the free government money my husband could bring in…if they only knew the truth. I just tune them out now and manage our lives the best I can with the best information I can find for us.

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