SBP Open Season FAQs

Congress has set a one-year open enrollment period (October 2005 to September 30, 2006) to allow retirees to enroll in the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) or increase their participation. Congress set the open season after eliminating the SBP social security offset that reduced SBP coverage from 55% of the base amount elected to 35% of the base amount at age 62. The new plan provides 55% benefit regardless of the age of the annuitant. If you considering making an SBP open season election you will want to read the following FAQs. These FAQs are based on what Retirement Services Officers (RSOs) have been hearing from retired servicemembers.

Who is eligible to enroll during the Open Season?

The law specifies that to be eligible, a person must have been entitled to retired pay on Sep. 30, 2005, or would be entitled (if a "gray area" Reservist) except for not having reached age 60.

Who is not eligible to make an open season election?

A retired servicemember who terminated coverage during the 1998-1999 SBP disenrollment period or who terminated coverage between the 25th and 36th month following the start of receipt of retired pay is not eligible. Because they signed a statement on the SBP Termination Request, DD Form 2656-2. The statement read: "I further understand that once I discontinue SBP, I cannot reenter the Plan." Congress did not authorize exceptions when they set the rules for this open enrollment period.

Servicemembers who retired after the open season startedand declined coverage are also ineligible.

If I enrolled in SBP and later divorced after retirement can I make an open season election if I want to cover my former spouse?

Yes. Since the law gave you only one year to make the switch of categories and you didn't, the open season is your only chance to make this election.

Do I have to make an open season election if I don't want to cover my former spouse?

No. Open season elections are voluntary. Keep in mind that if former spouse coverage was part of your original divorce decree, your decision to not take former spouse coverage may put you in contempt of court.

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Can I reduce or cancel the coverage I have now?

No. The open season is an opportunity to elect or increase coverage, not to reduce or cancel it.

What elections can I make during open season?

You can elect to enroll in any category (spouse, former spouse, spouse and child, former spouse and child, child only, or natural person with insurable interest) for the first time.

You can also increase your existing coverage (increase the base amount of retired pay covered, add spouse coverage to child only coverage or add child coverage to spouse or former spouse coverage).

How do I figure out my cost?

The DoD has created a tool to calculate the cost of an open season election. You can find it at http://www.defenselink.mil/actuary under "SBP Open Season." Using this calculator, you can figure out both your monthly premiums and your one-time, buy-in enrollment premium. Please note that you can calculate the costs for former spouse coverage using the spouse category of the calculator. The costs are identical.

Since the calculator figures out your costs automatically, you won't see what goes into calculating the one-time, buy-in premium. The buy-in premium includes back premiums (the total SBP premiums you would have paid if you had enrolled at the first opportunity); plus interest; plus an amount calculated to protect the actuarial soundness of the DoD Military Retirement Fund. Back premiums are calculated using a "years since event" figure.

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What does "years since event" mean?

The event is the point at which you could have first made an SBP election for the category you want to cover. For example, if you were married when you retired and now wish to cover your spouse or former spouse, then your retirement would have been the event at which you could have first taken spouse coverage. If you're electing child only coverage, then the date at which you first acquired a child would be the point at which you first could have elected child coverage.

Can I change my mind after I make an open season election?

You have a short period in which you can change your mind about your open season election. The 30-day clock starts counting down on the date of the letter that the Defense Finance and Accounting Service sends notifying you of your exact monthly premium and buy-in enrollment premium. (When considering your costs, go to the DoD Actuary site to get the lifetime value of SBP to you and your family.)

When does my open season election take effect?

You must live for two years after making your open season election for it to take effect. If you die before the two years are over, your open season beneficiary will receive a refund of your open season premiums. If your open season election was increasing already existing SBP coverage and you die within two years, your beneficiary will receive a refund of only the open season premiums. The SBP annuity will be paid based on your previous election.

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If your open season beneficiary dies within two years of your open season election, you must continue to pay the open enrollment buy-in premium; however, your monthly premiums for that beneficiary category will be suspended. You will have suspended coverage in the category of your open season election. For example, if you made an open season election for your spouse and your spouse died, you would have suspended spouse coverage and would have the option of resuming spouse coverage if you remarry.

How do I enroll?

To make an open enrollment election, you must complete and submit a DD Form 2656-9, in accordance with the instructions on the form.

Note: Elections will be effective the first calendar day of the month following the date the election is received by DFAS. All open enrollment elections must be received not later than September 30, 2006. We recommend that you send the election form to DFAS by certified mail, return receipt requested, and safeguard the certified mail receipt along with a copy of the election form you submit.

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Survivor Benefits Plan Survivor Benefits
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