More than 2,400 MOAA members registered for a May 8 webinar where MOAA experts provided information for surviving military spouses to navigate benefits.
Financial and benefits experts Capt. Paul Frost, USN (Ret), and Lt. Col. Shane Ostrom, USAF (Ret), who presented the webinar, said families should work together to choose financial plans and understand military benefits.
One of the unique benefits discussed was DoD’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), which is an annuity paid to dependents after a retiree’s death. However, SBP is offset by the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to survivors who die from a service-connected injury or disease.
MOAA has long advocated to repeal the offset, known as the widows tax.
[TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Representative to End the Widows Tax]
MOAA regularly hosts webinars as a way to empower its members, as well as the broader military audience. Premium and Life members can watch the webinar here, or search past webinars here; To become a MOAA member or upgrade your membership, visit here.
MOAA Life and Premium members have access to financial and benefits experts through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the webinar, Frost and Ostrom addressed member questions submitted during the event. Some examples:
Q. How do you check the status of your SBP?
A. The status of your SBP annuities will be on the monthly retiree activity statement on your online Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) myPay account. It’s important to note the status will be listed as “spouse,” and not under a person’s name. If you don’t have access to your online account, you must call DFAS customer service at 888-332-7411 to find the SBP status.
A. Yes, Life member privileges automatically transfer to your spouse after your death at no extra cost. This ensures that your spouse has help sorting through your military survivor benefits. Surviving spouses of Premium members receive one free year of Premium membership starting the day the death is reported. Surviving spouses may renew that membership at a discount or upgrade to become Life members.
Q. Is a spouse who marries a servicemember after he or she retires from service eligible to receive benefits?
A. Yes, spouses who are married after a servicemember retires are still eligible to receive benefits. Eligibility is limited for spouses who are married for less than one year and for divorced spouses.
[RELATED: MOAA Answers Your Health Care Transition Questions]
Q. JAG seems to take a cookie-cutter approach to creating a will, but the civilian services are more expensive. How can I get a more personalized will?
A. Although writing a will is not required, it is recommended to ensure your wishes are carried out after your death. Legal assistance staff are located on almost every military installation. However, if you want a more personalized approach, you’ll need to contact a specialized lawyer, which will come at a cost.
Q. Does the Coast Guard use the same pay agency as the other armed services?
A. No. The Coast Guard, NOAA and U.S. Public Health Service all use the Coast Guard Pay and Personnel Center, which is based in Topeka, Kansas. The phone number is 800-772-8724. MOAA can help members navigate obtaining documents through that center; email email@example.com.
[DOWNLOAD: Browse MOAA Publications, Including Survivor Benefit Details]
Q. Is a will good from state to state?
A. Our benefits experts are not lawyers. As with any legal document, it’s best to have the will reviewed by a lawyer who understands the estate planning laws of the state you will reside in. This is especially important for people who may spend different parts of the year in different states.
Amanda Dolasinski is MOAA’s staff writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMOAA.