Posted on May 23, 2024
PO2 Mary Walkup
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My spouse passed away unexpectedly last year. He did not sign up for Survivor Benefits when he retired and noone told us he could have done that later. His death and loss of benefits has put me as the surviving veteran spouse in a severe financial bind.
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Responses: 8
COL Randall C.
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Edited 2 mo ago
Mary, if you're referring to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), the hard truth nobody is saying is that you can't ("How can I receive Survivor Benefits if my military spouse did not sign-up upon retirement").

If your husband retired prior to March 1, 1986 (38 years ago), then he could have declined SBP coverage without your consent (assuming you were currently married than). After that date, then your written consent was required to reduce it below full coverage (55% of retirement pay).

Once a SBP declaration is made at retirement, it can't be changed except in certain limited windows (usually based on changes in law that occured). The last open window recently closed (it ran from December 23, 2022 to January 1, 2024) and was opened due to a change to how SBP and DIC payments from the VA are handled that was made in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023.

However, if you can prove that the election was changed due to fraud (hypothetical - he retired after March 1, 1986 and he forged your written consent on the election) or error (he didn't refuse the election and it was processed incorrectly) through the courts, then you may be able to have the SBP restored (all previous unpaid premiums would be a debt to the future SBP payments though).

Having said all that, there are "survivor benefits" that others have mentioned that you might be eligible for. I would take MAJ (Join to see)'s advice and contact a Retirement Service Officer and/or Sgt (Join to see)'s suggestion to work with a VSO to determine if there are any benefits you are eligible for.
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* SBP https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/documents/fmr/archive/07barch/07b_43.pdf
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MAJ Ken Landgren
MAJ Ken Landgren
2 mo
Your response is really good and detailed. Qualifying for SBP is contingent upon the payment of monthly premiums which I assume is based on actuarial tables. Receiving SBP without paying the premiums makes no sense and infeasible. I am no expert, and this is my opinion.
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COL Randall C.
COL Randall C.
2 mo
MAJ Ken Landgren - Ken, it sounds like you're describing life insurance ('based on actuarial tables'). SBP costs* are not based on your age*, your health, or on economic forecasts.

SPB* is very straightforward (for spousal coverage that is) - Monthly cost for spouse is 6.5%* of the base annuity amount SPB payments are based on (which maxes out at your full base pay for retirement. So if you have full coverage and you recieve $6,000 a month in retirement pay, then your SBP premium would be $390 a month and your SBP costs won't change unless your base annuity amount changes (which for most retirees who have it as 100% of their base retirement pay, usually means annually when there is a COLA increase).
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* Survivor Benefit Program costs - https://militarypay.defense.gov/Benefits/Survivor-Benefit-Program/Costs-and-Benefits/
* SBP costs for children and an 'insurable interest' do have a component that is calculated based on your age
* There is one caveate to the 6.5% - if you entered the service prior to March 1, 1990, then you pay the lower of either 6.5% or if your base annuity amount or a 'low-cost premium threshold (skipping the calculations, for 2024 the breakeven is if your base amount is $2,166.43)
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MAJ Ken Landgren
MAJ Ken Landgren
2 mo
COL Randall C. - Thanks for the correction.
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AB Bonnie Carroll
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Thank you for your question, PO2 Walkup. We are so very sorry for your loss and extend our condolences to you. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a number of benefits to eligible surviving spouses and children. Additionally, there are a number of state benefits and private programs that may be available to you. Please contact the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) at 800-959-TAPS (8277) or send a detailed message to [login to see] and our Casework Advocates will do all they can to support you through identifying benefits and programs that may be available to you. We are here to help. With care and condolences.
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A1C Medrick "Rick" DeVaney
A1C Medrick "Rick" DeVaney
30 d
And If You're Having Issues, Which Cannot Be Solved Locally, Contact These People, Out Of WASHINGTON DC ~ I've Found Them VERY Helpful ~ And They Take Action NOW.
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A1C Medrick "Rick" DeVaney
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Edited 2 mo ago
When All Else Fails, These Folks Give'm A Jump Start And Get'm Moving Again:
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I hope this helps
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