Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)

Regular Army: Active Duty

Benefit Fact Sheet

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Summary:

Military pay, including active duty pay and allowances and retired pay, stops upon a Soldier's death. The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is a program through which the Department of Defense provides monthly, cost-of-living-adjusted income to eligible survivors of Soldiers who die on Active Duty, including Reserve Soldiers and National Guard Soldiers who die on Federal Active Duty, and of Retirees who choose to continue participating in the program after they retire.

Soldiers who retire due to a service-connected disability incurred while on active duty, whether Regular or Reserve, may participate in SBP.

Reserve and National Guard Soldiers may participate in the Reserve Component-Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP) when they complete 20 years of qualifying service for non-regular retirement.

The following table illustrates which program applies to whom, depending on one's duty status and retirement eligibility:

 

Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) Eligibility

Regular Army on active duty

SBP. Benefits calculated as if retired with 100% disability. Death must be in Line of Duty unless retirement-eligible If retirement eligible and LOD Not In Line of Duty, benefits based on years of active service.

Regular Army retired

SBP, if they enroll upon retirement. Line of Duty determination not applicable.

Reserve and National Guard Soldiers in non-drilling status with less than 20 years of service

No SBP or RCSBP.

Reserve and National Guard Soldiers on Inactive Duty Training

RCSBP. Benefits calculated based on points earned as of date of death. Death must be in Line of Duty. If retirement eligible and LOD Not In Line of Duty, benefits based on years of active service.

Reserve and National Guard Soldiers on Federal Active Duty, regardless of years of service

SBP. Benefits calculated as if retired with 100% disability. Death must be in Line of Duty. If retirement eligible and LOD Not In Line of Duty, benefits based on years of active service.

Reserve and National Guard Soldiers in non-drilling status with at least 20 years of service

RCSBP. Only if they enrolled with Option B or Option C when they received 20-Year Letter; or received the 20 year letter, are within the 90 day period, but have not made an RCSBP election; or should have received a 20 year letter. Death does not need to be in Line of Duty.

Reserve and National Guard Soldiers at age 60 who had enrolled in RCSBP with Options B or C

At age 60 RCSBP for non-regular Reserve Retirees becomes SBP. Line of Duty determination not applicable.

Reserve and National Guard Soldiers at age 60 who had not enrolled in RCSBP (elected Option A)

SBP. Only if they enroll in SBP upon receipt of retired pay. Line of Duty determination not applicable.

Reserve and National Guard Soldiers over age 60 who had not enrolled in either RCSBP or SBP

No SBP or RCSBP.

Eligibility:

Survivors of Soldiers who die in the Line of Duty on Active Duty may be eligible to receive SBP benefits. There are six categories of survivors who may receive benefits:

1.  Spouse
2.  Child(ren) Only
3.  Spouse-and-Child(ren)
4.  Former Spouse
5.  Former Spouse-and-Child(ren)
6.  Insurable Interest

Benefit Highlights:

Spouse-and-Child(ren): For survivors of married Soldiers with Children, benefits (referred to as an "annuity") are paid to the Spouse but by law go to any eligible Children if the Spouse is no longer eligible for the SBP annuity. SBP annuities for survivors of Soldiers who die on active duty are 55 percent of what the Soldier's retired pay would have been if he or she had retired on that date with a 100 percent disability, which is 75 percent of the Soldier's highest 36 months' of base pay (or of final base pay for Soldiers who entered military service before 8 September 1980). Under this category, the Surviving Spouse is the primary beneficiary, and benefits pass on to eligible Children only if the Surviving Spouse dies or remarries before age 55. If the Surviving Spouse remarries before age 55, eligibility is "suspended", which means that eligibility is restored if the Surviving Spouse's marriage ends by death or divorce. Remarriage after age 55 has no effect on a Surviving Spouse's eligibility to receive SBP benefits.

Integration with Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Surviving Spouses and minor Children of Soldiers or Retirees whose deaths are determined to be service-connected by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are entitled to tax-free compensation from the VA. This benefit is called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Under current law, the SBP payment to a Surviving Spouse is offset (reduced) dollar-for-dollar by the amount of spousal DIC compensation.

If the SBP entitlement is $1,500 and the spousal DIC amount is $1,233 (effective December 1, 2013), then the SBP annuity is reduced to $267 ($1,500 - $1,233 = $267). The combined total of SBP and DIC is still $1,500, but $1,233 of it is tax-free. Children are also eligible to receive DIC, but their SBP annuities are not reduced by DIC.  Any premiums paid for SBP coverage by a retiree that is offset by DIC will be refunded to the Surviving Spouse.

If a Surviving Spouse who is receiving both SBP and DIC remarries after age 57, he or she continues to receive SBP without an offset by DIC.

A Surviving Spouse whose SBP annuity is offset by DIC is entitled to a monthly Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) from the Department of Defense. In Fiscal Year 2014, the monthly payment is $150. It will increase to $200 during FY 2015, to $275 during FY 2016, and to $310 during FY 2017. There are no provisions in current law to extend SSIA beyond FY 2017. SSIA is payable only to Surviving Spouses because Children's SBP annuities are not offset by DIC.

Child(ren) Only: If a Soldier has Children but is not married, benefits are paid under the "Child(ren) Only" category, and all eligible Children divide the SBP annuity equally. If the SBP annuity is divided among multiple Children, as each Child ages beyond the eligibility limit, the annuity is reapportioned among the remaining Children. Ultimately, the youngest Child ends up receiving the entire annuity, which then terminates when the youngest Child reaches the eligibility limit. Eligible Children include natural Children, adopted Children, stepchildren, and foster Children who lived with the Soldier in a normal parent-Child relationship. Children may receive SBP benefits until age 18, or age 22 if enrolled full-time in high school, college, vocational or technical school, or another recognized educational institution. An exception is that if a Child reaches age 22 while in school, and his or her birthday is before 1 July or after 31 August, eligibility continues until the earlier of the Child's cessation of full-time studies or the 1st day of July following that birthday. A Child who becomes incapable of self-support due to a physical or mental disability before age 18, or before age 22 while a full-time student, may receive benefits for life, as long as he or she remains unmarried. Prior to electing SBP coverage for an incapacitated Child, the retired or retiring Soldier should research the effect of the SBP income on other benefits to which the incapacitated Child may be eligible under state or local welfare or support programs.

Important Decision for Surviving Spouses: Because of the integration of SBP and DIC for a Surviving Spouse, Surviving Spouses may choose to forego receiving SBP benefits themselves and, instead, have benefits paid to surviving Children, whose benefits are not integrated with DIC. This permanent election cannot be reversed. When the last Child is no longer eligible for SBP, the SBP annuity stops and will not revert to the Surviving Spouse. Surviving Spouses, therefore, should give careful consideration before relinquishing this important benefit. Children's ages and health, and even the Surviving Spouse's likelihood of remarrying while the Children are young, should be considered (since benefits would pass on to eligible Children anyway if the Surviving Spouse remarries before age 55). When Surviving Spouses forego SBP benefits for themselves and, instead, have benefits paid to surviving Children, they will not receive Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA).

Former Spouse: SBP benefits may be payable to the former Spouse of a Soldier who dies on active duty only if a court order ordering the Former Spouse election was issued before the date of the Soldier's death or at the Soldier's death a pending court case involving SBP subsequently awards the former Spouse the SBP. In this situation, the assignment of SBP benefits to the former Spouse would preclude payment of benefits to a Soldier's Surviving Spouse or Children. Remarriage of the former Spouse before age 55 suspends the former Spouse's eligibility to receive SBP benefits. The SBP Former Spouse election remains in force in a suspended status, and eligibility is restored if that marriage ends by death or divorce. Former Spouses are not eligible to receive DIC from the VA, so they are, therefore, not eligible for SSIA. Likewise, since there is no DIC offset to their annuities, they do not have the option to forego SBP benefits for themselves and have them paid to the Soldier's Children.

Former Spouse-and-Child(ren): If a former Spouse is awarded SBP benefits as described above, only eligible Children acquired by the Soldier during his or her marriage to the former Spouse may be named as successor beneficiaries. The same eligibility criteria for Children described above under the "Child(ren) Only" paragraph apply.

Insurable Interest: If, upon the active duty death of a Soldier, there is no eligible former Spouse, Spouse, or Children, benefits may be paid to a natural person who was either at the Soldier's death a dependent with a military Dependent ID card or would have been authorized a dependent ID card. Benefits are payable for life. The SBP annuity is calculated at 55 percent of what the Soldier's retired pay would have been if the Soldier had retired with a 100 percent disability on his or her date of death after first subtracting from the retired pay base the premium the Soldier would have paid for coverage if the Soldier had retired and elected such coverage. That premium is 10 percent of retired pay, plus an additional 5 percent for each full 5 years the beneficiary is younger than the Soldier, up to a maximum of 40%. The annuity for qualifying parents is, effectively, 49.5 percent of what the Soldier's retired pay would have been.

Continuing Eligibility: Surviving Spouses and former Spouses are eligible to receive SBP benefits for life. Eligibility is suspended if a Surviving Spouse or former Spouse remarries before age 55, but eligibility is restored if that marriage ends by death or divorce. Remarriage after age 57 allows a Surviving Spouse authorized both SBP and DIC to receive SBP without an offset by DIC.

Surviving Children may receive SBP benefits until age 18, or age 22 if enrolled full-time in high school, college, vocational or technical school, or another recognized educational institution. An exception is that if a Child reaches age 22 while in school, and his or her birthday is before 1 July or after 31 August, eligibility continues until the earlier of the Child's cessation of full-time studies or the 1st day of July following that birthday. A Child who becomes incapable of self-support due to a physical or mental disability before age 18, or before age 22 while a full-time student, may receive benefits for life, as long as he or she remains unmarried.

Surviving parents receiving benefits under the "Insurable Interest" beneficiary category remain eligible for life, regardless of age, marital status, or receipt of any other government benefit.

Additional Information:

For more information, please contact your nearest installation RSO and or visit the SBP web page maintained by the Army Retirement Services Office (Army RSO), Army G-1: (A listing of installation RSOs is available on the Army RSO web page.)
http://soldierforlife.army.mil/retirement/sbp.html

To obtain a detailed estimate of your survivor benefits, including SBP payments to eligible dependents, visit the MyArmyBenefits Survivor Calculator (AKO account needed):
http://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil/Home/Benefit_Calculators/Survivor_Benefits.html

Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Compensation SBP website:
http://militarypay.defense.gov/survivor/sbp/01_overview.html

Army Casualty:
https://www.hrc.army.mil/TAGD/CMAOC

DFAS "Manage your SBP Annuity" website:
http://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/survivors/manage.html

Document Review Date: 27 February 2014