More than two months into a yearlong open season for the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), the Defense Finance and Accounting Service released instructions and a form for retirees seeking to sign up for the program.
Eligible retirees interested in enrolling during the open season must follow a four-step process, as outlined on the DFAS website:
- Download a Letter of Enrollment, fill out the appropriate section, and submit it to DFAS (submission instructions are included in the download).
- Receive and review an estimate of your monthly premium and your "buy-in premium," which will cover any retroactive costs had you enrolled at retirement. DFAS will send this material along with an enrollment form.
- Complete the enrollment form and return it DFAS. This will include information on how you'll be making premium payments (yearly lump sum, 12 equal monthly installments, or a combination of the two payment plans).
- Receive enrollment confirmation from DFAS, which will include final costs and payment instructions. If you change your mind, you'll have 30 days to cancel enrollment from the date you signed the enrollment form.
SBP enrollees may also discontinue coverage as part of the open season. Details on that process are available from DFAS at this link. The open season does not allow for coverage changes, only for enrollment and discontinuation of coverage -- you cannot disenroll and then re-enroll at a different coverage level.
What Is SBP?
SBP premiums and benefits depend on a "base amount," or the dollar amount of coverage selected. This can range from a minimum of $300 to the member's full retirement pay. Upon the death of the servicemember, the beneficiary receives up to 55% of the selected base amount.
Spouse coverage is the primary SBP option, but coverage is available for children, former spouses, and "insurable interests" (parents or business partners, for example). Get a full breakdown of coverage types, costs, and other details at this DoD website and at MOAA.org.
What Is SBP Open Season?
The open season marks a rare chance for retirees to reconsider their SBP coverage. It's the first such season since 2005 and only the fourth since the program launched in 1972, according to Bill Mayo, survivor casualty program manager for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
This open season comes the same year as the total repeal of the SBP-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP-DIC) offset, better known as the "widows tax." In previous years, surviving spouses lost a dollar of their SBP payment for every dollar of DIC received; MOAA made the elimination of this offset a key legislative priority, and a phased-in repeal took effect with the signing of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in late 2019.
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