Current spouses of retirees receive the same benefits the retiree does -- including health care coverage. Military members and retirees are given health care for life for themselves and their qualifying family members. That's the benefit, plain and simple.
The Pentagon does not consider the benefit "earned" by the spouse or family -- it's simply a part of the benefit the military member earned.
The only exception for this is for divorcing spouses who meet the 20/20/20 rule -- at least 20 years married to a service member who was in the military for at least 20 years, with an at least 20-year overlap of the marriage and the time in service. In that case, the spouse carries the benefit through a divorce.
That rule pays homage to the time the spouse spent supporting the veteran, likely giving up any chance at a successful career and any shot of providing her own health care and other benefits as a result.
Your friend is benefiting from the benefits her retiree husband was promised when he joined and then served more than 20 years in the U.S. military.
Be happy for her that she has stability.
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