Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)

Army National Guard: Drilling

Benefit Fact Sheet

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 in the line of duty, including Reserve Soldiers and National Guard Soldiers who die on Federal Active Duty in the line of duty and Retired Soldiers 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 found not In Line of Duty, benefits based on years of active service. SBP coverage provided at no cost and beneficiaries determined by law.

Regular Army retired

SBP, if they enroll upon retirement. Line of Duty determination not applicable. If coverage elected must choose SBP beneficiary category and pay part of the coverage cost.

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

No SBP or RCSBP.

Reserve and National Guard Soldiers on Inactive Duty Training

RCSBP. Benefits calculated as if retired with 100% disability. Death must be in Line of Duty. If retirement eligible and found not In Line of Duty, benefits based on what retired pay would have been calculated as a non-regular retirement. Coverage provided at no cost if found in the LOD and beneficiaries determined by law.

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 found not In Line of Duty, benefits based on years of active service. SBP coverage provided at no cost and beneficiaries determined by law. If retirement eligibility based on 20 creditable years toward non-regular retirement and found not in LOD, RCSBP coverage applied with beneficiaries determined by law.

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 Retired Soldiers becomes SBP. Line of Duty determination not applicable. Must pay RCSBP premiums at non-regular retirement.

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. Must pay SBP premiums if SBP coverage elected.

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

No SBP or RCSBP. Retired pay stops at the death of the Soldier.

SBP premiums are deducted from retired pay and since April of 2018, DFAS will deduct SBP premiums from Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) when retired pay is not sufficient to cover the full amount of the premiums. This deduction is due to a change in the law which requires DFAS to deduct SBP premiums from CRSC. Click here for more information.

Phase-Out of the SBP-DIC Offset:
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 modified the law that requires an offset of Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments for Surviving Spouses who are also entitled to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Under the previous law, a Surviving Spouse who receives DIC is subject to a dollar-for-dollar reduction of SBP payments, which can result in SBP being either partially or fully offset. The repeal will phase-in the reduction of this offset beginning on January 1, 2021 and culminating with elimination of the offset in its entirety on January 1, 2023. For the remainder of calendar year 2020, Surviving Spouses remain subject to the existing dollar-for-dollar offset of SBP payments by the amount of DIC paid by VA. Starting February 1, 2021, survivors subject to the “ SBP-DIC Offset ” will potentially see a change in their SBP payments.

For more information on the Phase-Out of the SBP-DIC Offset, please visit: https://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/survivors/SBP-DIC-News

Eligibility

National Guard Soldiers on Inactive Duty Training in the line of duty are covered under RCSBP. RCSBP benefits are calculated differently depending on a Guardsman's duty status and line of duty determination at time of death. After completing 20 years of creditable service, National Guard Soldiers become eligible to participate in the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP), which provides benefits to their survivors if they die outside of active duty.

SBP/RCSBP Beneficiaries:

Benefits to survivors of Guardsmen who die on Active Duty and Inactive Duty Training and found in the line of duty are paid under SBP's Active Duty Death SBP beneficiary categories.

Eligibility of Survivors of Guardsmen who die on Active Duty, Active Duty Training, and Inactive Duty Training :

Survivors of Soldiers who die in the Line of Duty on Active Duty may be eligible to receive SBP benefits. Survivors of Soldiers who die in the Line of Duty on Inactive Duty Training may be eligible to receive RCSBP benefits. Beneficiaries are established by law. There are five categories of survivors who may receive benefits:

1. Former Spouse with court ordered SBP

2. Spouse

3. Children, Spouse Excluded

4. Child(ren) Only (No Spouse)

5. Insurable Interest

Benefit Highlights

On Federal Active Duty, Active Duty Training, and Inactive Duty Training: Benefits are 55 percent of what the Guard Soldier's retired pay would have been if they had retired with 100 percent disability on date of deathtwo people hugging (i.e. 75 percent of the average of the highest 36 months of active duty base pay). For example, if the average of the highest 36 months of base pay for a Guardsmen is $4,150, their retired pay would have been $3,112 if retired with 100 percent disability ($4,150 x 75% = $3,112). The SBP annuity would be $1,711 ($3,112 x 55% = $1,711).

Non-Drill Status with 20 years or more of service, under age 60: Benefits would be dependent upon which RCSBP option the Guardsman elected when they signed up for RCSBP upon receipt of their 20-Year Letter (Notice of Eligibility to receive retired pay at age 60). Option A would not pay any benefits because the Guardsmen deferred enrolling until age 60. See the "ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: RETIRED" fact sheet in this series for more information about SBP.) Option B would pay an RCSBP annuity when the Guardsmen would have reached age 60. Option C would pay an RCSBP annuity immediately upon the Guardsmen's death. If Soldier does not make an election, they automatically receive Option C coverage for dependents at the time of receipt of Notice of Eligibility (NOE) if the NOE was issued on or after 1 January 2001. The RCSBP annuity would be calculated the same way as the SBP annuity described above for a Guardsman on Inactive Duty Training (based on points). However, if the Soldier elected a reduced "Base Amount" rather than full-retired pay, the SBP annuity would be 55 percent of that reduced "Base Amount". (A "Base Amount" can be any amount between $300 and full-retired pay.) For example, if the average of the highest 36 months of base pay for a Guardsmen is $4150 and they had 2500 retirement points, their retired pay would be $720. ((2500 points/360) x 2.5% = 17.3%; $4150*17.3%=$720)) See table below for comparison of annuity based on full base amount and reduced base amount.

Base Amount

Annuity

Full ($720)

$720 x .55 = $396

Reduced ($500)

$500 x .55 = $275

Integration with Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Surviving Spouses and minor Children of Surviving Spouses and minor Children of Soldiers and 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 spouse DIC compensation.

If the SBP entitlement is $1,500 and the spouse DIC amount is $1,340.14 (effective December 1, 2019), then the SBP annuity is reduced to $159.86 ($1,500 - $1,1340.14 = $159.86). The combined total of SBP and DIC is still $1,500, but $1,340.14 of it is tax-free. Children are also eligible to receive DIC, but their SBP annuities are not reduced by DIC.

If a Surviving Spouse who is receiving both SBP and DIC remarries after age 57, they continue 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 calendar year 2020, the monthly payment is $323 and will increase with COLA raises. SSIA is not payable to Children because Children's SBP annuities are not offset by DIC.

Spouse-and- Child(ren) : The Spouse is the primary beneficiary. Benefits pass on to eligible Children only if the Surviving Spouse dies or remarries before age 55.

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.

Spouse : If no Former Spouse awarded SBP, the Spouse is the beneficiary. For Surviving Spouses 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 they 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 Retired Soldiers 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.

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 their 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 they remain 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.

Child(ren), Spouse Excluded, 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 Young boy holding an american flag 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).

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 modified the law so that effective 1 January 2023, a Spouse will no longer have the option to forego the SBP benefit and request it to be paid to surviving Children.

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