Here’s Why Your Survivor Benefit Check May Have Changed Unexpectedly

Here’s Why Your Survivor Benefit Check May Have Changed Unexpectedly
smolaw11/Getty Images

Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuitants may have experienced fluctuations in the amount of their monthly survivor benefit check. They have to do with changes in federal withholding regulations that weren’t implemented until April and didn’t appear until your May 1 annuitant deposit (although some annuitants experienced fluctuations earlier).


[RELATED: More Surviving Spouse Resources From MOAA]


Here’s an explanation from the pay centers that annuitants may have received via letter within the last few weeks:


What You Need to Know

“The annual tax table is typically updated at the end of each calendar year with changes in January. In the most recent update, the Internal Revenue Service also directed changes to withholding requirements. As a result, DFAS [Defense Finance and Accounting Service] modified the Annuity Pay System to correctly withhold federal income taxes. However, the additional time required to perform system modifications delayed implementation until your May 1, 2023, payment. This may have resulted in an unexpected change in your tax withholding. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”


What You Need to Do

“No action is required from you at this time. However, you may wish to review your year-to-date withholdings to determine how the delay in updating your federal tax withholdings may impact you, given your individual tax circumstances. If you want to change your federal tax withholding, please log into your myPay account at or and take the following actions:

  1. Click ‘Federal Withholding’ under ‘Pay Changes’ on the menu on the left.
  2. Click the yellow square with the pencil to edit your extra withholding.
  3. Verify your marital status by selecting the appropriate option.
  4. Identify the additional amount you would like withheld from each pay period.
  5. Enter the identified amount in the ‘Extra Withholding’ box.
  6. Click the ‘Continue’ button.
  7. Review your changes, and then click ‘Submit.’


You can also submit a new 2023 IRS Form W-4P by mail, fax, or electronically via askDFAS or Report a Pay Issue via”


DFAS Customer Service can be reached at (800) 321-1080, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time. The Coast Guard Pay and Personnel Center can be reached at (866) 772-8724, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Eastern).


The 2023 IRS tax brackets can be found at this link.


[RELATED: More About the Survivor Benefit Plan]


Reviewing your federal withholding throughout the year is important to avoid incurring a large tax burden in April. The pay centers only know the income they’re sending you. If you have other significant income, consider using the IRS Withholding Estimator to calculate your annual federal taxes.


MOAAs Surviving Spouse Corner

Hear from members of our Surviving Spouse Advisory Council and others on issues that affect you. Updated monthly.

Learn More

About the Author

Capt. Paul J. Frost, AFC®, USN (Ret)
Capt. Paul J. Frost, AFC®, USN (Ret)

Frost co-leads MOAA's Financial and Benefits Education program and is also an accredited Veteran Service Officer (VSO), providing VA disability compensation claim and appeal information and advice to the military community.