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Frequently Asked Questions
Spouse and Child SBP Coverage
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).
For most SBP beneficiaries, spouse and child coverage means the spouse receives the SBP annuity unless the spouse loses eligibility. The dependent child or children only receive the SBP annuity payment if the spouse loses eligibility. If there is more than one eligible child, the annuity is split equally among the eligible children.
The “Optional Child Annuity”
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 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.
This option allows the surviving spouse to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the VA without it affecting the SBP payments. This is because SBP paid to a child or children is not offset.
“Optional Child Annuity” Reversion to Surviving Spouse in 2023
SBP annuities that were directed to a child rather than a surviving spouse will revert to the surviving spouse (if she or he is eligible and has applied to receive the benefit) as of January 1, 2023. Please watch for additional information coming in the fall of 2021 about the application process for the reversion of the SBP annuity for surviving spouses who previously chose the optional child annuity.
Keep in mind that 2023 is the third and final phase of the SBP-DIC Offset Phased Elimination. Beginning January 1 of 2023, the offset is eliminated, so spouses receive their full DIC payment from the VA and the full SBP payment issued by DFAS (see The SBP-DIC Offset Phased Elimination: What to Expect in the Upcoming Phases article in this issue).
If your child or children are the designated SBP beneficiaries because you selected the optional child annuity, they will continue to receive the SBP payments (if they are eligible) 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 you are ineligible because you remarried prior to age 55, the annuity will continue to be paid to your eligible children.
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.
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 2021 estimating the changes to your SBP payments because the repeal of the “optional child annuity” and the reversion of the annuity to the surviving spouse will not take place until January of 2023.
Survivor Benefit Plan Annuities Are Based on the Member’s Pay
Survivor Benefit Plan monthly annuity payment amounts vary among recipients, unlike DIC payments, which are 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.
Active/Reserve Military Service Members Do Not Pay SBP Premiums
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.
You do not need to contact DFAS at this time to notify us that you are impacted by the SBP-DIC Offset Phased Elimination or the reversion of the optional child annuity in 2023. DoD, DFAS, and the military services are working together to facilitate a smooth transition.
Watch for Communications Beginning Fall of 2021
In the fall of 2021, DFAS (or your loved one’s military service branch) will begin sending letters via postal mail to the surviving spouses and children who are affected by the repeal of the optional child annuity to explain the transition and to gather the information needed to make the necessary changes in payments.
Please watch for this mailing and respond promptly when you receive it.
Check the Special Webpage for News
We also developed a special focus webpage to provide news and information regarding the repeal of the optional child annuity and the transition. We will post updates on this webpage, so please plan to check it for news and information:
myPay is the online pay management system for Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuitants who are receiving a Survivor Benefit Plan annuity payment or Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) payment from DoD/DFAS.
myPay provides convenient access to a range of information about your payments, and lets you easily update your contact information or your federal tax withholding, submit your annual certification, or download your tax documents.
And when you have an email address in myPay, you can receive important email messages from DFAS about your pay account and information from your loved one’s branch of service.
myPay accounts are only available once an annuity pay account is established. If you are a surviving spouse who is NOT currently receiving an SBP or SSIA payment, you will not be able to access myPay until you begin receiving payment from DFAS.
If you are a surviving spouse who chose the optional child annuity, you will not be able to access myPay for your pay account until the SBP annuity has reverted to you in January 2023.
However, if a child is receiving an SBP annuity payment from DFAS, a myPay account is available for that child. If you are the documented legal guardian and third party payee for a child SBP annuitant under 18, AND the legal documentation is already on file in the annuitant’s SBP payment account, you can set up a login and profile for the child. You will need information on the member’s service and the child’s SSN to request access.
Child annuitants over the age of 18 and attending college full-time who are receiving SBP annuity payments can also access their own myPay account by setting up a login and myPay profile.
To start using myPay, request an initial password on the myPay homepage using the “Forgot or Need a Password” link. A temporary password will be mailed tothe address on file with DFAS, and may take up to 10 business days. Once you receive your temporary password in the mail, you can return to the myPay homepage and login with the password you received in the mail to create a myPay profile.
myPay is available using the internet from your computer or your mobile device browser at: https://mypay.dfas.mil