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Frequently Asked Questions


Educate Your Beneficiaries

It's important for your survivors to understand how the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) works. Please share this information 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 Suspended

Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuitants need to verify their eligibility regularly to continue to receive SBP annuity payments. The requirements depend on the SBP annuitant’s age and relationship to the military service member. If we don’t receive the completed eligibility verification when due, we will suspend payment until we receive the properly completed document.

Beginning August 2023, we are reducing the requirements for SBP annuitants to one annual eligibility verification. Previously, some SBP annuitants needed to complete multiple forms each year. Now, SBP annuitants will only need to complete and submit one of the annual verifications each year.

If you have not received an eligibility verification document from us within the last year and feel you should have, you can download a blank document from our Forms webpage or you may call us to request one at 800-321-1080.

Please see "Manage Your SBP Annuity" for FAQs and more information.

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 (if they are not in school full-time or incapacitated). The SBP annuity will terminate at any time if the child marries. Payments also stop for spouses (and former 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 (unmarried) attends school in a full-time status at a college, university, junior college, trade school, or comparable recognized educational institution, the payments will continue until they reach age 22. The child annuitant must regularly certify that they are unmarried and attending school full-time. Please see the School Certifications webpage for information on requirements. 

When a child annuitant’s account is suspended, a dependent child’s share will not be reapportioned until evidence is received that the child’s eligibility has ended. Previously, if the child annuitant did not submit proof of eligibility, six months after the account was suspended the funds were reapportioned and paid equally to the eligible siblings of the child annuitant. Now, when a child annuitant’s account is suspended, the funds will be held until the child annuitant is proven eligible or ineligible. 

Note to Child Annuitants: If you have not received a School Certification packet and feel you should have, please call us to request one at 800-321-1080.

Impact of Remarriage on an Annuity

Surviving spouses maintain their eligibility for SBP until death, as long as they do not remarry before the age of 55.

However, if the marriage of an annuitant (who remarried before age 55) later ends for any reason, their eligibility for the annuity is reinstated, effective on the first day of the month the marriage ends. The annuity payments will be restarted, once DFAS has received and processed the notification and documents. See more information at:

Spouse annuitants who remarry after age 55* may receive full SBP and DIC benefits at the same time.

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

SBP and Benefits from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA)

***Please see the SBP-DIC News webpage for information on the elimination of the SBP-DIC Offset***

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monetary benefit offered by the VA to survivors of service members and retirees whose death results from a service-related injury or disease. 

Prior to 2023, Spouse SBP annuitants, except for those who remarried after age 55 (or in other specific circumstances), could not receive full SBP and DIC payments at the same time. Their SBP payment was offset (reduced) by all or part of their DIC payment. This did not affect their DIC payment, only their SBP payment.

Beginning on February 1, 2023, surviving spouses will receive their full Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payment from DFAS and their full Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payment from the VA. This is because February 1, 2023 will be the first SBP annuity payday after the SBP-DIC Offset is fully eliminated, which takes effect January 1, 2023. 

Please note: DIC payments made directly to children, or to a guardian on behalf of children, do not affect SBP child annuity payments.

The change in the law DOES NOT affect DIC payments, it only affects SBP payments when the surviving spouse is also receiving DIC. Please see our SBP-DIC news webpage for details and FAQs.

Prior to 2023, when a spouse was eligible to receive SBP and DIC, and the SBP payment was subject to the SBP-DIC Offset, the spouse also received the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA).

The Special Survivors Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) will no longer be paid after the January 3, 2023 payment, because SSIA is only paid to spouses who have their SBP payment offset by DIC. 

Please see “Understanding SBP, DIC and SSIA” for more information on SBP and DIC. 

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.

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*2009 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in the matter of Sharp, v. the United States

Note: The information on this website page is provided to explain typical situations regarding retiree and annuitant benefits. For details and exceptions, please see applicable laws, financial management regulations, and instructions.

Page updated Aug  22, 2023