Some facts regarding the Department of Defense DOD Survivor Benefit Program
THIS INFORMATION SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD STRONGLY CONSIDER THE BENEFITS OF CONSULTING WITH A TRAINED LEGAL PROFESSIONAL
Changing or Stopping Your Coverage
Survivors Benefit Program has specific rules and electing coverage is mandatory and mistakes may be impossible to repair or correct. Retirement is one such opportunity or an “open enrollment” period but they don’t happen often
Here is what DFAS posted:
The SBP election you make at the time of your retirement is very difficult to change. There are only a few circumstances in which it is possible to change or alter a previously made election. Please review the list below carefully to learn when you can change an SBP election and when you cannot.
Enrolling after Retirement
Some service members choose not to enroll in the SBP plan because they have no eligible beneficiaries at the time of their retirement. Later, through marriage or the birth of a child, they find themselves with eligible beneficiaries and want to change their earlier election.
If this happens to you, you have one year from the date of initial eligibility — the date of marriage or the birth date of the child — to declare your wishes to have the beneficiary covered.
To do so, please mail or fax the following items to DFAS Retired and Annuitant Pay within one year of the date of eligibility:
- Survivor Benefit Plan Election Change Certificate (DD 2656-6)
- a copy of any relevant legal document (e.g., marriage certificate or birth certificate)
If you have eligible beneficiaries at the time of your retirement and elect not to have them covered, you will not be able to change that election in the future.
Ending SBP after Retirement
You are free to cancel or terminate your SBP election from the 25th month through the 36th month – or the third year – of your retirement. Please note that this window is an exit only, not an entrance, meaning that it applies only to withdrawing from an unwanted election and does not allow retirees to begin an election that they had earlier declined. As with declining at retirement, spousal concurrence is required.
A divorce’s impact on SBP election depends not only on your wishes, but also on the requirements imposed by the court-ordered divorce decree.
If your divorce decree contains no language mandating you to elect Former Spouse coverage, then you have complete freedom to either have the former spouse removed from the plan or to voluntarily continue the coverage.
If you remove your former spouse from the plan, any premiums deducted beyond the date of divorce will be refunded. If you choose to voluntarily cover your former spouse under the plan, you have until one year after the date of divorce to do so.
If your divorce decree requires you to cover your former spouse, either you or your former spouse must declare your intentions to claim Former Spouse SBP coverage in writing within one year of the date of divorce. To do this, please complete a SBP Election Statement for Former Spouse Coverage (DD 2656-1) and mail or fax it to DFAS Retired and Annuitant Pay.
Death of a Spouse
The death of a spouse covered under the plan results in immediate termination of coverage for that spouse. If the spouse alone was covered, cost will terminate and any premiums paid beyond the date of death will be refunded. If the spouse was covered with children, the election and its costs will change so that only the eligible children are covered.
Changes to your account upon remarriage will depend upon whether you were married at retirement.
If you were married and elected Full Spouse coverage at retirement, you can notify us at any time of your remarriage and a new Full Spouse election will automatically begin effective one year after that marriage date. Spousal concurrence must be obtained to begin coverage at any level lower than the original Spouse election.
If you were married at retirement and elected not to cover your spouse, you cannot ever cover another spouse throughout retirement.
If you were not married at retirement, you must notify us of your intentions to add your spouse to the plan within one year of your marriage. The election will become effective and premium costs will begin to be deducted upon your first anniversary.
Birth of a Child
Upon the birth of a new child, please inform us by supplying us with a copy of the birth certificate.
If you had no children at retirement, we will add the child to the plan and an additional, nominal amount will be added to your monthly premium.
If you did have children at retirement and elected to cover them under the plan, we will add this youngest child and recalculate your cost based on a factor considering your age and the age of this child.
If you had children at retirement and elected not to cover them, any new or existing children will not be covered under the plan throughout your retirement.
Only a decision by Congress to initiate a free period of enrollment called an “Open Season” would allow a retiree to begin a new election after retirement. Such periods are rare. The most recent Open Season was in 2005. During this period, everyone who took advantage was required to “buy-in” to the program, meaning they paid an amount equal to the total of all premiums they would have paid if they had enrolled when they first became eligible.
Learn more about SBP
- Advantages & disadvantages – Things to consider before enrolling
- Enroll – How to set up your SBP account
- Eligible beneficiaries – Find out who can be covered
- Cost – What SBP costs at the different coverage levels
- Paying for SBP – How you can pay
- Update beneficiary – How to update beneficiaries or update contact information
- Educate your beneficiaries – What your beneficiary needs to know
- What happens when you die – Next steps for your beneficiary
Read about these topics at SBP overview