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Understanding the Survivor Benefit Plan and Remarriage


The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is an important military benefit many retirees elect to provide an income for their dependents upon their death. However, it’s important to note that if you have divorced and remarried since you originally enrolled, your new spouse’s eligibility to receive the SBP annuity depends on your marital status and the election made when you first enrolled in the plan.

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 marriage to your new spouse, unless you have a child born the new marriage before that date. The child would then be the beneficiary. If you pass away before the first anniversary of your new marriage, your new spouse will not be covered by SBP and any SBP premiums paid before your new marriage will not be refunded. However, your new spouse may be entitled to Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the Department of Veterans Affairs if they meet all requirements.

Alternatively, if you were already married to your new spouse when you retired but elected not to enroll in SBP, your new spouse will not be covered and you will be unable to change that election.

If you’d like to modify the SBP annuity election you made when you retired based on your new marriage, you must notify DFAS within one year of your new marriage. You can then modify your new spouse’s coverage in the following ways:

  • Decline coverage. This does not require your new spouse’s consent. DFAS notifies your new spouse of the declined coverage and this decision will be irrevocable.
  • Reduce coverage. You will need your new spouse’s consent to elect spouse coverage at a lower level than your original SBP election.
  • Resume the previous spouse coverage that you selected in your previous marriage.
  • Increase coverage for your new spouse. The retiree will be required 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.

If you do not notify DFAS of your new marriage within one year of the marriage date, your new spouse will automatically have the same spouse coverage that you selected in your previous marriage.

To make changes to your SBP election, you should complete a Survivor Benefit Plan Election Change Certificate (DD 2656-6) and mail or fax it to DFAS R&A Pay.

More information about SBP is available at dfas.mil.

Common Questions

Yes, your AAFMAA policy will cover a death related to COVID-19 if you are an existing AAFMAA Member with a policy issued more than two years ago or prior to a COVID-19 diagnosis, even within the first two years the policy is owned. The only exclusion on AAFMAA policies is death by suicide within the first two years.

However it is important to note that death claims made against an underwritten policy issued within the last two years are contestable, regardless of the cause of death. Contestable death claims are reviewed and subject to denial if we find undisclosed material information that would have changed the outcome of the policy issuance decision.

Yes, if you are applying for a policy that requires medical underwriting, you must disclose a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Not doing so would be considered material misrepresentation and could result in your policy being voided.

As mentioned above, death claims made against an underwritten policy issued within the last two years are contestable, regardless of the cause of death. Additionally, you don’t have to die for a material misrepresentation to void your contract. The policy can be voided at any point within the first two years if AAFMAA finds that you provided incorrect information about your health history and that the correct information would have prevented us from issuing the policy.

If you were diagnosed with having contracted COVID-19 prior to applying for life insurance and you failed to disclose that diagnosis on your application, your death claim could be denied. This is because, if you had disclosed your COVID-19 diagnosis, we would have followed current industry guidelines and possibly postponed acceptance of your application. In this case, your policy would be voided and your survivors would only receive a refund of the premiums you had paid.

No, the COVID-19 vaccine is classified as a typical wellness check, for which we do not require disclosures and do not deny death claims. We strongly suggest that our Members follow CDC recommendations and receive the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as they are eligible.

Industry guidelines indicate that a COVID-19 diagnosis may postpone acceptance of your application for a period of three weeks to 1 year following recovery, depending on the severity of symptoms and treatment. This timeline is subject to change as new information becomes available and industry guidelines are adjusted accordingly. Those who experience a full recovery may be considered for issue before 12 months, while serious cases (such as those which required a ventilator) may be postponed for longer.

No. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccination will not affect the acceptance of your application.

No, AAFMAA cannot change your premiums or your health classification on a policy you currently hold. Your premiums and health classification will remain the same, even if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or you are at a higher risk of exposure due to your job, living situation, or recent travel, or if you get one of the COVID-19 vaccinations approved for emergency use by the USFDA.