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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 Suspended
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 suspend all payments until we receive a properly completed COE (see instructions).
If you are over the age of 55, you are no longer required to complete and submit an annual Certificate of Eligibility (except for those receiving hard copy checks in a foreign country or those who have a permanent disability). Annuitants should no longer expect to receive the annual COE once they reach age 55. Their eligibility to receive annuity payments will continue without submitting the COE.
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.
Please see “Manage Your SBP Annuity” for 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. The SBP annuity will terminate at any time if the child marries. 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 suspend all payments until we receive a properly completed form (see instructions).
Please note that DFAS has implemented a new procedure for reapportioning Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) funds when a child annuitant’s account is suspended. Under the new procedure, 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 for the past semester and feel you should have, please call us to request one at 800-321-1080.
Impact of Remarriage on an Annuity
If the spouse 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.
Spouse annuitants who remarry after age 57* 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)
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monetary award offered by the VA.
Spouse annuitants (except for those who remarry after age 57, or in other specific circumstances) cannot receive full SBP and DIC at the same time.
When DFAS is informed by the VA that a spouse annuitant is receiving DIC, the law requires that DFAS deduct the amount of DIC received from the amount of SBP payable. This is called the SBP/DIC offset.
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 payment is greater than the DIC payment, 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 basic spouse premiums paid into the program during the service member's retirement will be refunded.
When a spouse is eligible to receive SBP and DIC, and those payments are subject to the SBP/DIC offset, the spouse will also receive the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA).
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.
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
*2009 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in the matter of Sharp, et.al. 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 June 25, 2018