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Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) Annuity

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May 9, 2013

Q. How do I report a death and start my Survivor benefit Program (SBP) payments?
A. Notify your pay agent about the death, a Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) application form will be mailed to the surviving spouse.

For military members contact:

Defense Finance and Accounting Service
US Military Retirement Pay
P.O. Box 7130
London, KY 40742-7130
(800) 321-1080
Fax: (800) 469-6559
Web: SBP or Report a Death 

For USCG and NOAA members:

Commanding Officer (RAS)
U.S. Coast Guard
Personnel Service Center
444 SE Quincy Street
Topeka, Kansas 66683-3591
(800) 772 8724
Fax: (785) 339-3770
Web: SBP or Report a Death (scroll down to phone numbers)

For PHS members:

U.S. Public Health Service
Division of Commissioned Personnel
Attn: Survivor Assistance Officer
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 4-50
Rockville, MD 20857-0001
(800) 638-8744

Be sure to have the military member’s social security number, the survivor’s social number, certified copy of the death certificate, the date of death, your address and telephone number, and banking information for direct deposit (bank name, address, account and routing numbers).

Q. When can I count on receiving my monthly SBP annuity?
A. If the administrative aspects are handled properly, the annuity will should begin about 45-60 days after the death of the retired member.

Q. How Does SBP Work?
A. The military member’s retired pay stops at your death. SBP is the only way your survivor can receive a share of your retired pay after you die. SBP pays 55 percent of the annuity base amount that you elected upon retirement or when first enrolled in SBP. All servicemembers are enrolled in full SBP upon retirement unless you and your spouse both agree, in writing, to less than full coverage or to opt out of coverage—or if you do not have any eligible beneficiary.

Every active duty military member is automatically enrolled at no cost while they serve on active duty. Should they die on active duty with an eligible beneficiary; the full SBP annuity will be paid.

In conjunction with their retirement, active duty military members must elect to receive reduced retired pay as premiums are deducted from retired pay. Premiums are 6.5% of your base amount (see Q&As below about the base amount). The SBP is considered paid-up when members turn 70 years old and have made 360 monthly premium payments. To help military members and spouses make informed decisions on SBP participation, in-depth SBP counseling is provided by installation Retirement Services or Activities Officers (RSO/RAO).

For Guard and Reserve members eligible for retirement, a SBP election must be selected upon receipt of your letter of Notice of Eligibility (NOE) for retirement and retired pay. Premiums are deducted from retired pay when you turn 60 years old. Your options are, (A) postpone decision until age 60, (B) a death annuity starting when the military member would have turned 60 or at death if after age 60, (C) a death annuity that starts immediately at death regardless of the military member’s age. If you choose option B or C, your premium at age 60 will consist of both the premium that starts at age 60 for future coverage and the coverage you didn’t pay for while in the “gray zone.” If you don’t make a choice, you are automatically enrolled in option C.

Q. I'm on active duty. If I die before retirement, is my spouse covered under SBP?
A. Yes. SBP coverage is automatic for all active duty members who have an eligible beneficiary. While there are no SBP premium costs for active duty members, the member's death must be classified in line-of-duty (LOD) in order for an annuity to be payable if the member is not yet retirement eligible (has not accrued 20 years of service) on the date of death.

Q. How much SBP will my spouse receive if I'm killed on active duty?
A. The annuity for active duty deaths is calculated as if the member had been retired with a 100% total disability on the date of death. Total disability means the service members retired pay is 75% of basic pay (or High-3 as applicable). The surviving spouse's SBP annuity is 55% of this amount.

Q. What is the minimum amount of retired pay I can choose to have my spouse's annuity based on? And along the same lines…Q. What is the “Base Amount” I hear about?
A. The amount of retired pay you choose to have covered by SBP is called the “base amount.” The base amount can be any amount between $300 a month and full retired pay. Your base amount is noted on your Retiree Account Statement in the bottom part of the front page.

Q. How much of my military spouse's retired pay will I receive at his or her death if we participate in SBP at the maximum level?
A. The SBP annuity will always pay 55% of the base amount. The old Social Security offset was eliminated in April 2008.

Q. If I'm receiving an SBP annuity and I remarry, is the SBP annuity lost forever?
A. No. If remarriage occurs before age 55, the annuity is suspended and can be reinstated if the remarriage ends in death or divorce of the second spouse. If remarriage occurs at age 55 or later, the annuity continues uninterrupted for the duration of the spouse's life.

Q. Can a surviving spouse receive both the uniformed service SBP annuity and a civil service/FERS SBP annuity?
A. Yes provided the uniformed services member did not waive military retried pay for a combined civil service annuity.

Q. My military spouse died several weeks ago. As a retired officer since 1973, my spouse had been receiving a monthly retirement check. Will I continue to receive this, will it be totally discontinued or what?
A. Your spouse's military retired pay stops as of the date of death. You will receive monthly survivor payments from your military pay agent if your spouse elected an annuity for you under the SBP. The pay agents are listed above.

Q. I do not have a spouse and will elect child-only coverage. If I die while the children are still eligible for the annuity, how long will they receive the annuity?
A. Children are paid the annuity in equal shares until they reach age 18 or 22 if full-time students. The annuity amount is always the same. As each child reaches the age when entitlements no longer exist, the annuity is divided equally between the remaining eligible children. An incapacitated child will receive the annuity for life, provided the child never marries.

Q. What is the new program to reimburse SBP payment amounts to survivors that are being offset by VA Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC)?
A. Survivors receiving both SBP and DIC payments receive Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance. The program is to help partially compensate survivors for the effect of the SBP-DIC offset. The SBP-DIC offset reduces a survivor’s SBP payment dollar-for-dollar by the amount of DIC received. The program pays a $50 per month reimbursement in your SBP payments beginning Oct 2008. The amount will increase by $10 each year over the next 5 years. On Oct 2012, survivors will receive the maximum special payment of $100 per month. MOAA continues to fight for the complete elimination of the SBP-DIC offset.