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Military Benefits

Understanding the Survivor Benefit Plan and Remarriage

2019-12-11

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.