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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

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. 

If you are over the age of 55, you are no longer required to complete and submit an annual Certificate of Eligibility. 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, you can download a blank COE from our Forms webpage or you may 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 (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 phased elimination of the SBP-DIC Offset***

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

Spouse annuitants (except for those who remarry after age 55, or in other specific circumstances) cannot receive full SBP and DIC at the same time before 2023. Beginning in 2021, there are significant changes to the offset of SBP and DIC.

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

In 2021, when DFAS is informed by the VA that a spouse annuitant is receiving DIC, the law requires that DFAS deduct two-thirds** of the amount of DIC received from the amount of SBP payable and pay the remaining amount of the SBP to the annuitant. This is called the SBP/DIC offset. 
**The reduction of the SBP-DIC offset from the full amount of DIC to two-thirds of DIC is effective January 1, 2021. 

For example, in 2021, if an annuitant receives a monthly SBP annuity of $1200 from DFAS and becomes eligible to receive a monthly DIC payment of $1500 from the VA, DFAS will deduct two-thirds of the amount of DIC ($1000) from the $1200 SBP and pay the remaining $200 to the annuitant. The annuitant will continue receive the full amount of DIC from the VA (in this example $1500). 

On January 1, 2022, the offset will be further reduced to one-third of DIC. 

On January 1, 2023, the offset will be completely eliminated. Eligible surviving spouses will receive their full SBP payments AND their full DIC payments. 

Please note 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.

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

Read about these topics at SBP overview


*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 Dec 17, 2021