TRICARE Coverage Options for Your Adult Child (East Region)


This article has information specific to beneficiaries in the East Region. Check the map to find your region. 


Do you have adult children? You may have questions about how TRICARE covers them. There are certain milestone ages for an adult child of a sponsor that change their TRICARE eligibility: 21 (or 23 if enrolled in college full-time) and 26. Here are helpful answers for what changes to expect in your child’s TRICARE benefit as they become an adult.


Q: My child is turning 18. Will they stay on my TRICARE benefit?

A: Yes. In most cases, your children can keep their TRICARE coverage until age 21.Children who enroll in college full time can keep their TRICARE benefits until their 23rd birthday or until they graduate—whichever comes first. Your child must be a full-time student in an approved institution of higher learning. The sponsor must also show that they provide more than half of the child’s financial support.  You must provide this information to a Uniformed Services ID card office. Visit Going to College for more information.


Q: What happens when my child turns 21?

A: Unmarried biological children, adopted children, and stepchildren can get TRICARE until their 21st birthdays. You have 90 days after your child turns 21 to make changes to your TRICARE health plan. There are some exceptions to the age limit, including disability. Learn more about QLEs related to children becoming adults.


Q: Is there a way to continue TRICARE coverage when my child graduates from college or turns 23?

A: Your adult child may qualify to purchase TRICARE Young Adult (TYA) for extended coverage up to age 26.Another option is the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP). CHCBP is a premium-based program that offers coverage for up to 36 months after the loss of TRICARE eligibility. If your child leaves college before their 23rd birthday or before graduating, they’ll lose eligibility for TRICARE.


Q: Can my adult child stay on my TRICARE plan until age 26?

A: No. At age 21, adult children are no longer eligible for TRICARE coverage unless they are a full-time student at an institution of higher learning or if they’ve been granted secondary dependency status by the sponsor’s uniform service. Full-time students remain eligible for coverage until age 23 or graduation, whichever comes first.  


Q: Are there other coverage options for my child after their 21st birthday if they aren’t in college?

A: Yes. They may be eligible for TRICARE Young Adult (TYA) health plan.


Q: What is TRICARE Young Adult?

A: TYA is a plan that qualified adult children can purchase after eligibility for TRICARE coverage ends at age 21 (or 23 if enrolled in college). Adult children are eligible if they’re unmarried, don’t have employer-sponsored coverage, and have aged out of regular TRICARE coverage.


Q: Where can I find more information?

A: To learn more about how TRICARE eligibility changes for your adult children, go to Children Becoming Adults.

Last Updated 6/4/2024