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Changing or Stopping Your Coverage
The SBP election you make at the time of your retirement is very difficult to change. There are only a few circumstances in which it is possible to change or alter a previously made election. Please review the list below carefully to learn when you can change an SBP election and when you cannot.
Enrolling after Retirement
Some service members choose not to enroll in the SBP plan because they have no eligible beneficiaries at the time of their retirement. Later, through marriage or the birth or acquisition of a child, they find themselves with eligible beneficiaries and want to change their earlier election.
If this happens to you, you have one year from the date of initial eligibility -- the date of marriage or the birth date of the child -- to declare your wishes to have the beneficiary covered. Please see the additional information below for more details.
To notify DFAS, please mail or fax the following items to DFAS Retired and Annuitant Pay within one year of the date of eligibility:
- Survivor Benefit Plan Election Change Certificate (DD 2656-6)
- a copy of any relevant legal document (e.g., marriage certificate or birth certificate)
If you have eligible beneficiaries at the time of your retirement and elect not to have them covered, you will not be able to change that election in the future. If you are married and decline spouse coverage, you cannot elect coverage for a later spouse. If you have eligible children at retirement and decline coverage, you cannot add coverage for a child born or acquired after retirement.
Ending SBP after Retirement
Cancelling in the Third Year of Retirement
You are free to cancel or terminate your SBP election beginning in the 25th month through the 36th month - or the third year - of your retirement. Please note that this window is an exit only, not an entrance, meaning that it applies only to withdrawing from an unwanted election and does not allow retirees to begin an election that they had earlier declined. As with declining at retirement, spousal concurrence is required.
Cancelling or terminating SBP coverage in the third year of retirement is different than Withdrawal from SBP coverage due to VA disability, sometimes referred to as discontinuation based on disability (see below).
Eligible Retirees can Withdraw from SBP Due to Qualifying VA Disability
A retiree may withdraw from SBP participation if:
1. The retiree has a service connected disability rated by the VA as totally disabling for 10 or more continuous years; or
2. The retiree has had a total disability rating from the VA for at least 5 continuous years immediately following the last date of active duty.
Withdrawal is permitted because the surviving spouse will likely qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits from the VA and the retiree’s death will be presumed to be from service-connected reasons.
A request for withdrawal requires the written consent of the beneficiary.
Upon the death of the retiree, the surviving spouse will be entitled to a refund of the SBP premiums that were paid.
Please see the Withdrawing from SBP Coverage Due to Qualifying VA Disability webpage for more information.
If you believe you are eligible and want to withdraw from SBP due to qualifying VA disability, please download the “SBP Withdrawal Due to VA Disability Packet,” and follow the instructions in the letter and on the form.
Terminating Coverage for a Natural Interest Person with an Insurable Interest after Retirement
A Natural Interest Person (NIP) is a beneficiary other than a spouse or child. As an example, it could be a parent or grandchild, or someone to whom you are not related. NIP coverage can be very expensive. It is at least 10% and can be up to 40% of your retired monthly pay, depending on your age and the age of your beneficiary at the time of election.
If you have elected NIP SBP coverage, you may terminate it at any time by requesting it in writing. There is no requirement for concurrence by the beneficiary. No refund of previous premiums paid will be made.
Upon the finalization of a divorce, please inform us by supplying us with information about the effective date of the divorce and a copy of the divorce and all associated orders. A divorce's impact on SBP election depends not only on your wishes, but also on the requirements imposed by the court-ordered divorce decree.
If your divorce decree contains no language mandating you to elect Former Spouse coverage, then you have complete freedom to either have the former spouse removed from the plan or to voluntarily continue the coverage.
If you remove your former spouse from the plan, any premiums deducted beyond the date of divorce will be refunded. If you choose to voluntarily cover your former spouse under the plan, you have until one year after the date of divorce to do so.
If your divorce decree requires you to cover your former spouse, either you or your former spouse must declare your intentions to claim Former Spouse SBP coverage in writing within one year of the date of divorce. To do this, please complete a SBP Election Statement for Former Spouse Coverage (DD 2656-1) and mail or fax it to DFAS Retired and Annuitant Pay.
Death of a Spouse
Upon the death of a covered spouse, please inform us by supplying us with the date of the death and a copy of the death certificate.
The death of a spouse covered under the plan results in immediate termination of coverage for that spouse. If the spouse alone was covered, cost will terminate and any premiums paid beyond the date of death will be refunded. If the spouse was covered together with children, the election and its costs will change so that only the eligible children are covered.
Changes After Retirement
If you remarry after retirement, please inform us by supplying us with the date of the marriage and a copy of the marriage certificate.
Changes to your SBP coverage because of remarriage will depend on whether you were married at retirement (or after retirement) and whether coverage for a former spouse was established after your first marriage ended.
If you were (a) married at retirement and (b) elected coverage (at any amount) and (c) coverage for a former spouse was not established after your first marriage ended, then the spouse coverage that you elected for your earlier spouse automatically resumes at the same level as originally elected on the first anniversary of the remarriage unless one of the following exceptions apply:
A. If you elected coverage at a reduced base amount for your earlier spouse, you may increase the level of coverage for your newly-acquired spouse up to and including the full base amount. To do so, you must elect the increase in coverage within one year of the marriage to your newly-acquired spouse. In addition, for the coverage to be effective at the increased level, you will be required to pay the difference in premiums between the existing premium level and the premium level that would have been incurred had the higher level of coverage been elected originally for your earlier spouse, plus interest. This option is available upon remarriage, but can be costly.
B. If you were (a) married at retirement and (b) elected coverage (at any base amount level), and (c) coverage for a former spouse was not established after your first marriage ended, then upon remarriage you may elect to not have spouse coverage automatically resumed for your newly acquired spouse. In other words, you may decline to have the coverage (that you elected at retirement for your earlier spouse) automatically resume for your newly acquired spouse. To choose this election, you must notify DFAS of your decision to decline coverage for your newly acquired spouse within one year of the marriage. You do not need your spouse’s consent to decline coverage for your newly acquired spouse, however your spouse must be notified of your decision. If coverage is declined for a newly acquired spouse, no premium deductions will be made from your retired pay.
Please note: Unless you decline the resumption of coverage for your new spouse within 1 year after the marriage, spouse coverage (and associated premium deductions) automatically resume at the first anniversary of the new marriage.
Birth of a Child
Upon the birth of a new child, please inform us by supplying us with a copy of the birth certificate.
If you had no children at retirement, we will add the child to the plan and an additional amount will be added to your monthly premium. If the new child is your only beneficiary, a new monthly premium will be due.
If you did have children at retirement and elected to cover them under the plan, we will add this child and recalculate your premium, if necessary.
If you had children at retirement and elected not to cover them, any new or existing children will not be covered under the plan throughout your retirement.
Only a decision by Congress to initiate a free period of enrollment called an “Open Season” would allow a retiree to begin a new election after retirement. Such periods are rare. The most recent Open Season was in 2005. During this period, everyone who took advantage was required to “buy-in” to the program, meaning they paid an amount equal to the total of all premiums they would have paid if they had enrolled when they first became eligible.
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
- Educate your beneficiaries - What your beneficiary needs to know
- What happens when you die - Next steps for your beneficiary
Read about these topics at SBP overview
Note: The information on this website 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 March 20, 2019