Unmarried biological, step-children and adopted children are eligible for TRICARE until age 21 (or 23 if in college, see "College Students" below).

  • Eligibility may extend beyond these age limits if he or she is severely disabled.
  • At age 21 or 23, he or she may qualify to purchase TRICARE Young Adult.  

Register in DEERS

To do this, the sponsor must go to a Uniformed Services ID card office and present the child’s official birth certificate or SF-240 Consular Report of Birth Abroad, record of adoption, or letter of placement of your child into your home by a recognized placement or adoption agency or the court. >>Learn More about Required Documents

What kind of certificate is needed?

If the child is ... Then you need:  
Born in the United States An original or certified-copy of the official birth certificate
Born Overseas Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America
Adopted A record of adoption or a letter of placement of the child into the home by a recognized placement/adoption agency or the court before the final adoption

Is a Social Security number (SSN) required?

No. You don't need your child's SSN to register them in DEERS. But, remember to update DEERS with the SSN as soon as you have it.

To get an SSN for your child, you can:

  • Apply online or
  • Call 1-800-772-1213  

Registered in DEERS doesn't mean "enrolled" in TRICARE

Registering your child in DEERS doesn't automatically enroll them in any TRICARE health plan option. Visit the "Getting TRICARE For Your Child" page to learn more.

Child Scenarios


  • Step-children are eligible for TRICARE as long as the parent of the child and sponsor are married.  
  • If the marriage ends in divorce, the step-children lose eligibility on the date the divorce decree is final.
  • If the sponsor adopts his or her step-children, they remain covered as adopted children even if the marriage ends in divorce.

Children with Special Needs

TRICARE offers several services under the basic TRICARE benefit and some special programs for those with special needs.

College Students

Eligibility can be extended up to age 23 if:

  • Your child is enrolled in a full course of study at an approved institution of higher learning
  • You (the sponsor) is still providing more than half of their financial support 

The school’s registrar’s office must provide TRICARE a letter with proof of full-time enrollment in an accredited college in pursuit of an Associate's Degree or higher.

Eligibility ends on your child's 23rd birthday or when he or she is out of school, whichever comes first. 

Surviving Children

Children whose sponsor died while serving on active duty remain eligible for TRICARE until they lose eligibility for TRICARE due to age, marriage or any other reason.

Other Scenarios

Children in the following scenarios may be eligible for TRICARE under certain conditions:

  • If born out of wedlock 
  • When placed in the custody of a sponsor, either by a court or recognized adoption agency, in anticipation of legal adoption

Last Updated 2/1/2023