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The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)

The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) provides financial support to military spouses and/or children when a military member dies while on duty or after retirement.

SBP provides eligible beneficiaries with a monthly payment known as an annuity. The recipient of an SBP annuity is referred to as the annuitant.

The amount of the SBP benefit is a percentage of retired pay. The percentage depends upon whether the member chooses full or reduced coverage at the time of election (generally at retirement or at 20-year qualification). SBP provides up to 55 percent of a service member's retired pay to an eligible beneficiary upon the death of the member.

After the service member passes away, the SBP annuity is paid out monthly to the surviving spouse, or to the child or children of the member.

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Please see our  SBP-DIC News webpage for details and Frequently Asked Questions about the SBP-DIC Offset Phased Elimination

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

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. 

Spouse SBP annuitants, except for those who remarry after age 57 (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 award 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).

The Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA)

The Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) is a benefit for surviving spouses who receive a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity that is offset by a Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payment from the VA.

In 2021, SSIA will be paid at up to $327 per month. Eligible survivors will continue to receive the Special Survivors Indemnity Allowance (SSIA), up to the maximum amount per month, or up to the amount of SBP reduced by DIC (if the amount of the SBP reduction is less than the maximum amount) until December 31, 2022. 

SSIA is not used to repay past due SBP premiums. If the spouse annuitant is entitled to SSIA, we will pay the SSIA, even when there are past due premiums.

DIC payments to children do not affect SBP child annuitant payments, so child annuitants are not eligible to receive SSIA.

How Remarriage May Impact a Spouse SBP Annuity

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

When a surviving spouse remarries after age 55, but prior to age 57, DIC payments stop. If the spouse's SBP payment was previously reduced or eliminated because of DIC, the full SBP payment may resume. 

Spouse annuitants who remarry after age 57 are entitled to receive full SBP and DIC benefits at the same time. This is the result of a 2009 court** decision. According to the ruling, DFAS is not required to offset DIC payments from a monthly SBP annuity if a spouse is entitled to both benefits and has remarried after age 57.

How to Notify DFAS of a Change in Marital Status

Annuitants are responsible for notifying DFAS of any changes to their marital status.

To notify us of a remarriage prior to age 55, please complete the following form and mail or fax it with a copy of your marriage certificate to DFAS U.S. Military Annuitant Pay:

1. COE (Annuitant Certificate of Eligibility)

To notify us of a remarriage after age 55, please complete the following forms and mail or fax to DFAS U.S. Military Annuitant Pay:

1. DD 2656-7 (Verification for Survivor Annuity)

2. IRS W-4P (Withholding for Pension or Annuity Payments) 

3. Direct Deposit start-up form 

To notify us of a marriage termination to restart an SBP annuity, please complete the following forms and mail or fax to DFAS U.S. Military Annuitant Pay:

1. DD 2656-7 (Verification for Survivor Annuity)

2. IRS W-4P (Withholding for Pension or Annuity Payments)

3. Direct Deposit start-up form

Reasons Spouse SBP Payments May Be Temporarily Suspended

Each year, we mail spouse annuitants under age 55 a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). We use the information we request on the COE 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 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 or download a COE from our Forms page.

If you are age 55 or over, 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). You should no longer expect to receive the annual COE once you reach age 55. Your eligibility to receive annuity payments will continue without submitting the COE.

What initiates the SBP benefit and what does a beneficiary have to do?

The designated SBP beneficiary becomes eligible to receive SBP benefits on the day after a service member’s death. The first step a beneficiary must take to initiate SBP benefits is to report the death. Please visit our Reporting a Death page for step-by-step instructions.
 

**2009 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in the matter of Sharp, et.al. v. the United States
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 on Dec 30, 2020