Educate Your Beneficiaries

Defense Finance
and Accounting Service
Providing payment services of the U.S. Department of Defense

Educate Your Beneficiaries

It's important for your survivors to understand how the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) works. Please print this page and share it with your designated beneficiary.

The Nature and Extent of the SBP Benefit

The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) provides eligible beneficiaries with a monthly payment known as an annuity. The amount of the benefit is a percentage of your retired pay and it depends upon whether you chose full or reduced coverage. The recipient of your SBP annuity is referred to as the annuitant.

The Benefit's Duration

The SBP entitlement begins upon your death and ends either when your elected beneficiary becomes ineligible to receive the annuity or when your beneficiary dies.

Reasons Payment May Be Temporarily Stopped

Each year we mail annuitants a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). We use the information we request on that form to determine an annuitant's continued eligibility for monthly payments. If we don’t receive the COE by the deadline on the form, we will stop all payments until we receive a properly completed COE (see instructions).  If you have not received a COE from us within the last year and feel you should have, please call us to request one at 800-321-1080.

Reasons Payment Can Be Permanently Stopped

Annuity payments stop when your beneficiary dies or becomes ineligible to receive the annuity. For example, payments stop for many children covered under the SBP annuity when they reach age 18. Payments also stop for spouses covered under SBP if they remarry before age 55.

Continuing Children's Benefits after Age 18

Payments typically stop for children covered under SBP when they reach age 18. If a child attends school in a full time status at an accredited college or university, the payments will continue until they reach age 22. Each semester, we mail a Child Annuitant's School Certification form to verify the child is still enrolled. If we don’t receive the form by the deadline listed, we will stop all payments until we receive a properly completed form (see instructions).  The SBP annuity will terminate at any time if the child marries. If you have not received a School Certification for the past semester and feel you should have, please call us to request one at 800-321-1080.

Effects of Remarriage on an Annuity

If the annuitant remarries before age 55, annuity payments will stop. However, if the annuitant's marriage later ends, for any reason, even after age 55, the annuity payment will restart from the date the marriage ends.

The annuitant is responsible for notifying DFAS Cleveland of any changes to their marital status.

Benefits from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA)

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monetary award offered by the VA. 

Annuitants cannot receive both SBP and DIC concurrently. When DFAS is informed that an annuitant is eligible to receive DIC from the VA, DFAS will deduct the amount of DIC received from the amount of SBP. For example, if an annuitant receives a monthly annuity of $500 from DFAS and becomes eligible to receive a monthly DIC award of $400 from the VA, DFAS will deduct the $400 DIC from the $500 SBP and pay the remaining $100 to the annuitant.

If the SBP is greater than the DIC award, a partial refund of premiums paid into the program during the service member's retirement will be made. If the DIC payment is greater than the SBP payment, SBP will be stopped completely and all basic spouse premiums paid into the program during the service member's retirement will be refunded.

To receive concurrent SBP and DIC payments, the annuitant must not only be eligible for both, but the DIC entitlement must be a result of a remarriage after the age of 57.

What initiates the SBP benefit and what will my beneficiary have to do?

Your designated beneficiary becomes eligible to receive SBP benefits on the day after your death. The first step a beneficiary must take to initiate receipt of benefits is to report your death. Please visit our Reporting a Death page for step-by-step instructions.

What happens if there is a delay in reporting a retiree's death?

Late notification of a retiree's death may result in burdensome consequences, including delays in finalizing a member's account, payment of arrears of pay and the establishment of an SBP annuity. A retiree's entitlement to retired pay ends on the date he or she dies. Therefore, delayed reporting of a retiree's death may result in an overpayment that will be collected from a financial institution, the member's estate, or from the annuitant if the annuitant is found to be in receipt of the retired pay funds.

Learn more about SBP

  • Advantages & disadvantages - Things to consider before enrolling
  • Enroll - How to set up your SBP account
  • Eligible beneficiaries - Find out who can be covered
  • Cost - What SBP costs at the different coverage levels
  • Paying for SBP - How you can pay
  • Update beneficiary - How to update beneficiaries or update contact information
  • Change or stop coverage - When you can change coverage or beneficiary 
  • What happens when you die - Next steps for your beneficiary

Read about these topics at SBP overview

Page updated June 20, 2016