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Active Duty/Line of Duty Survivors Spotlight 

Special Initiatives for Active Duty/Line of Duty Survivors:

Cleveland Customer Care Center Active Duty Survivor Line 
The Active Duty Survivor Line was established to provide dedicated customer service to those annuitants who had service members pass away while on active duty or in the line of duty. This special phone number is provided to Casualty Assistance Officers to give to survivors. Dedicated Customer Care Representatives are available to answer annuity questions on this line during normal business hours. Please contact your Casualty Assistance Officer to get this phone number. 

Special Prioritization and Monitoring for Active Duty/Line of Duty Survivors
When DFAS receives a new Survivor Benefit Plan package for an Active Duty/Line of Duty death, they are prioritized and monitored daily. If there is missing information, and we have a phone number, we will call to obtain the information and speed up the process. 
We also closely monitor changes to accounts for Active Duty/Line of Duty annuitants.

The SBP-DIC Offset Phased Elimination - Information of Special Note for Active Duty/Line of Duty SBP Spouse Annuitants:

Some of the elements of the SBP-DIC Offset Phased Elimination are different for Active Duty/Line of Duty surviving spouses and children than for those of retired service members. Here are a few clarifications that may be helpful. 

(1) Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) coverage for service members who die in the line of duty is generally for spouse and child (if the service member was married and had a dependent child or children). Typically, for most SBP beneficiaries, this means that the spouse receives the SBP annuity unless the spouse loses eligibility. Only if the spouse loses eligibility will the child or children (if eligible) receive the SBP annuity payment.

However, when a currently-serving member dies in the line of duty on active or inactive duty, the surviving spouse has the option, in consultation with the Secretary of the Military Department, to choose to have the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity paid directly to an eligible dependent child or children instead.

This allows the surviving spouse to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the VA in full without it affecting the SBP payments. SBP paid to a child or children is not offset by DIC. This “optional child annuity” is only allowed when the service member died on active or inactive duty, in the line of duty, after October 7, 2001.

While it remains in effect for now, on January 1, 2023, this “optional child annuity” for deaths in the line of duty will go away, in accordance with Section 622 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. In addition, SBP annuities that were directed to a child rather than a surviving spouse will revert to the surviving spouse (if she or he is still eligible) on January 1, 2023. In 2023, the eligible surviving spouse will receive their full DIC payment from the VA and the full SBP payment issued by DFAS. 

If your child or children are the designated SBP beneficiaries because you selected the optional child annuity, they will continue receiving the SBP payments until the SBP-DIC offset is fully eliminated in January of 2023. As long as you did not remarry prior to age 55, the annuity will revert to you, the surviving spouse, on January 1, 2023. If your child or children lose eligibility because they marry or reach age 18 (or age 22 if a full-time student) prior to January 1, 2023, the annuity will be suspended until January 1, 2023, at which time it will revert to you.  

The repeal of the optional child annuity, and the reversion of the annuity to the surviving spouse is mandated by the law, so it is not voluntary. 

If you are an Active Duty/Line of Duty surviving spouse or child, there is nothing you need to do regarding this change in the law, at this time. In 2022, DoD and DFAS will begin contacting the surviving spouses and children who are affected by this change to explain the transition and to gather the information needed to make the necessary changes in payments. 

Also, if you are an Active Duty/Line of Duty surviving spouse who chose the optional child annuity, you will NOT receive an individual letter in December of 2020 or December of 2021 estimating the changes to your SBP payments because the repeal of the “child option” and the reversion of the annuity to the surviving spouse will not take place until January of 2023.

(2) Unlike military retirees, military service members do not pay premiums for SBP coverage. SBP coverage is automatic and at no cost for members on active duty and for Reserve Component members while performing inactive-duty training. Therefore, the premium refund information only applies to surviving spouses of retired service members. 

(3) Survivor Benefit Plan monthly annuity payment amounts vary for each beneficiary, unlike DIC payments, which is the same amount for most recipients. For Active Duty/Line of Duty survivors, the SBP annuity amount is calculated as if the service member retired with 100% disability. 

Page updated Dec 3, 2020