Does TRICARE Cover Stepchildren?

Military Doctor and Soldier
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Your unmarried stepchildren and adopted children are eligible for enrollment in TRICARE until they reach age 21 (or age 23 if they are enrolled in college), as long as the parent of the child and sponsor are married. However, coverage is not automatic. Before a child—or anyone, for that matter—is eligible for TRICARE benefits, they must first be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).

How to Register Your Stepchild in DEERS

To get started, you must take several documents with you to the personnel department or ID card office located at the duty station nearest you. These documents include:

  • Two unexpired IDs. One must be a government or state-issued photo ID. Examples include driver's license, passport, and Social Security card.
  • A completed DD Form 1172
  • The child's birth certificate (or certificate of adoption). If the child was born in the United States, you will need an original or certified copy of the birth certificate or certificate of live birth. If the child was born overseas, you will need a Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America. If the child was adopted, you will need the record of adoption or, if adoption is not yet final, of the letter of placement.
  • The child's Social Security card (if available). If not available, update DEERS when it becomes available.
  • The marriage certificate of the sponsor and the child's parent

If your stepchild is aged 10 or older, take the child with you for a military ID card. The sponsoring service member must be present to sign DD Form 1172.

Overall, the process is relatively simple and—depending on the line at the facility—you could be in and out in 30 minutes or less.

Registration in DEERS doesn't mean the child is enrolled automatically in TRICARE.

Enrolling Your Stepchild in TRICARE

Your stepchild will be enrolled in the same health coverage that you have. If you live close to a military hospital, you may have to apply there. If not, you can enroll the child online at the TRICARE website.

  • Choose a primary care provider.
  • Fill out an enrollment application.
  • Pay any enrollment fees.
  • Go to the Beneficiary Web Enrollment website. Click "Log On' and select the "Medical" tab to enroll. (You need a DoD Self-Service Logon, DFAS (My Pay) Account, or a Common Access Card.)
  • Call your assigned regional contractor and mail the enrollment form to that person.

The regional contractor will notify you when the child's enrollment is approved. 

Requirements for TRICARE Coverage for Stepchildren

  • The stepchild must be unmarried and under 21 years old.
  • The stepchild can be eligible for coverage until age 23 if enrolled full time at an approved higher learning facility and the sponsor is still providing more than half of the child's financial support. You will need a letter from the school's registrar stating the child is enrolled full-time and pursuing a degree.
  • Stepchildren are eligible while the child's parent and the sponsor are married.
  • In the event of divorce, stepchildren are no longer eligible.
  • If the sponsor adopts the stepchildren, they are eligible for coverage as adopted children even if the marriage ends.
  • If the sponsor dies while serving on active duty, the surviving children are still eligible for TRICARE until they lose the eligibility for age or other reasons.