Military retirees have a rare opportunity to enroll in the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) during the 2023 SBP Open Season with Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), which ends 1 January 2024.
The Open Season was approved in The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023. The last Open Season was in 2005, so this is a rare chance for retirees receiving retired pay — or qualifying reserve component members, who did not elect SBP at their retirement — to enroll in the valuable SBP program.
The Survivor Benefit Plan is a Department of Defense (DOD) subsidized program that provides up to 55 percent of a servicemember's retired pay to an eligible beneficiary, usually a spouse, as an inflation-protected lifetime annuity. Child SBP beneficiaries are bound by age restrictions unless permanently disabled.
This Open Season also gives Veterans with VA disability, who were deterred from choosing to contribute to the SBP or disenrolled from the program because of the SBP/DIC offset, the opportunity to enroll this year.
The Open Season coincides with the elimination of the SBP/DIC offset, also known as the “Widow’s Tax,” which reduced a survivor’s SBP payments by the VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). DIC is a tax-free allowance from the VA for surviving spouses of servicemembers who died on active duty or of Veterans who died from medical conditions connected to their military service ($1562.74 monthly for 2023). As of January 2023, following a two-year phaseout, survivors now receive full SBP and DIC, without any offset.
Those who enroll during the open season, which lasts until 1 January 2024, will have to pay the premiums they missed since retiring, plus interest and "any additional amount" deemed necessary for the "soundness" of the DOD's retirement fund.
The Open Season also allows for retirees who are currently enrolled in either SBP or RCSBP to permanently discontinue their SBP coverage. The covered beneficiary(-ies) will have to concur in writing with that election to discontinue SBP, and members will not receive a refund of premiums already paid.
DFAS is working to prepare the forms, policies and processes required for enrollment during this SBP Open Season. The DOD recommends that retirees update their information in the myPay system.
Please also check out their special focus webpage for the most up to date news and information: https://www.dfas.mil/sbpopenseason23.
If you have any questions, email a Member Benefits representative at [email protected] or call us at 888-862-5932, select option 2, then option two again, and we'll be happy to help.
This article was originally published March 21, 2023.