The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is an important military benefit many servicemembers elect at retirement to provide an income for their dependents upon their death. However, it’s important to note that there are several options available to a retiree participating in SBP when the spouse is lost through death or divorce and the Member later remarries.
Resume Original SBP Coverage
If you enrolled in the SBP upon retirement and elected full spouse coverage, your new spouse will automatically be an eligible beneficiary on the first anniversary of your new marriage or the birth of a child of the marriage, if earlier. This assumes a former spouse was not awarded former spouse SBP as part of a divorce decree. In that case, your new spouse would not be covered. Only a change to the legal divorce document or the death of the former spouse would allow the retiree to change the SBP beneficiary to the current spouse. Bear in mind that if you pass away before the first anniversary of your new marriage, your new spouse will not be covered by SBP. Any SBP premiums paid before your new marriage will not be refunded.
If the original level of spouse coverage is resumed, costs will be the same as under the original election, increased only by Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA’s) incurred during the time the SBP was suspended. If remarried the spouse for whom you elected coverage at the time of retirement, coverage and costs are effective immediately.
Terminate SBP Spouse Coverage
A retiree who has remarried may also elect not to resume spouse SBP coverage for the new spouse. If coverage is declined, no premium deductions will be made from your retired pay. You do not need your spouse’s consent to decline SBP, but he or she will be notified of your decision. This election is irrevocable, but will not affect existing child coverage, if any.
Increase SBP Spouse Coverage
If the original SBP election was for reduced coverage, the retiree can request increased coverage up to and including full base amount of retired pay. If this option is elected, the retiree will have to pay the difference between the SBP cost previously paid and the costs, with interest, which would have been paid if the higher level of coverage had originally been elected. This additional payment must be completed prior to the first anniversary of the marriage, or the coverage will revert to what was originally chosen.
Please make sure to notify DFAS of your desired election within one year of your new marriage with a properly completed Survivor Benefit Plan Election Change Certificate (DD 2656-6 and a copy of your marriage certificate.
Forms and legal documents can be faxed or mailed to Defense Finance and Accounting Service, U.S. Military Retirement Pay, 8899 E. 56th St., Indianapolis, IN 46249-1200.
More information about SBP is available through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
This article was originally published December 11, 2019.