Survivor Benefit Plan for Reserve Component

grandmother of U.S. Army soldier Aaron Toppen

The Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP) enables people who served in Reserve Components to leave the people they care about with a benefit called an “annuity.”

An annuity is a monthly payment that lasts the lifetime of your beneficiary after you pass away. The amount of the monthly payment is a percentage of your retired pay, and that percentage depends upon the election you make when you sign up for RCSBP.

The RCSBP is quite similar to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) that covers non-reserve components of the armed services. However, there are a number of differences in eligibility, coverage and cost that reflect the unique nature of reserve service.

The RCSBP is available to members of the following Reserve Components:

  • The Army National Guard of the United States
  • The Army Reserve
  • The Navy Reserve
  • The Marine Corps Reserve
  • The Air National Guard of the United States
  • The Air Force Reserve

Eligible Beneficiaries

You can elect coverage for one of the following beneficiary types, just as in the SBP program:

  • spouse
  • spouse and child
  • child only
  • former spouse
  • former spouse and child
  • someone with a financial interest


When to Enroll

When you've completed the years of service required to qualify for retired pay through a non-regular retirement, you will be notified.  At that time, you can choose to participate in the RCSBP. You have 90 days from receipt of the notice of eligibility to retire, to elect in writing, one of the three options available. Elections filed within the 90-day period are irrevocable unless revoked before the expiration of the 90-day period.

If you're married or you have a dependent child when you receive your notice of eligibility for retirement, you will be automatically enrolled in RCSBP -- unless you choose not to participate within 90 days of the date of notification.  Your spouse's signature may be required.

If you choose not to participate in RCSBP, you remain eligible to participate at retirement age.

When you enroll, you must decide when you want your designated beneficiary's benefit payments to begin.  This option is called an immediate or deferred election.

Immediate or Deferred Election

You may choose to have your beneficiary's annuity payments begin at one of the following times:

  • Retirement age: You can defer a survivor annuity election or decline coverage until you reach retirement age. If you die before reaching retirement age, then no survivor annuity is payable. Spousal concurrence is required.
  • Age 60: You can defer the survivor annuity until the date that would have been your 60th birthday or the day after your death, whichever is later. Spousal concurrence is required.
  • Date of death: If you elect an immediate survivor annuity, benefits begin on the day after your death, whether you die before or after retirement age.

How to Enroll

You will receive a letter from your reserve command as you approach retirement age. The letter should contain a Reserve Component SBP Election Certificate (Form DD 2656-5). Complete the form and return it to the appropriate address on the back of the form.

Stopping or Changing Coverage

When You Can Stop or Change Coverage

In most cases, the RCSBP elections you make during the 90-day period after being notified of retirement eligibility are irrevocable.  Only in rare circumstances can you change elections or discontinue coverage. 

While these occasions are very rare, a couple of the more common examples are:

  • The member discontinues participation when they become totally disabled.
  • A mentally incapacitated member is later determined to be mentally competent, and revokes or changes the RCSBP election within 180 days after that determination.
  • The member voluntarily terminates RCSBP coverage for a natural person with an insurable interest who is not a former spouse.
  • A member voluntarily discontinues RCSBP participation on the second anniversary of the date that his or her retired pay starts.

How to Stop or Change Coverage

Please contact the Customer Care Center either in writing or on the phone to determine if you are able to change coverage, and what documentation would be required. Please send correspondence to:

DFAS - Military Retired Pay 
P.O. Box 7130
London, KY 40742-7130
Fax:  800-469-6559

For more information, call 800-321-1080.

RCSBP Benefit Cost

RCSBP members pay the standard SBP cost, plus an additional Reserve Component (RC) cost, through deductions from retired pay.  This RC cost is often referred to as the “RCSBP add-on cost.”

The premium increases with retired pay cost-of-living adjustments.

How add-on cost is calculated

The Office of the Department of Defense Actuary provides the tables used to calculate RCSBP premiums.   The tables reflect military death rates, remarriage and divorce rates, and other estimates.

The add-on premium depends on three things:

  • type of beneficiary you elect
  • annuity type you elect: immediate or deferred
  • age difference between you and your spouse or former spouse

Continued payments after terminating NIP coverage

If you voluntarily terminate coverage for a natural interest person (NIP) with an insurable interest (not a former spouse) you will pay the add-on premium for your lifetime. If you terminate the coverage before age 60, the add-on premium is pro-rated.

When payments begin

If you have eligible beneficiaries, your RCSBP premium begins on the first day of the month after you meet the age and service requirements for non-regular retirement. If you meet the age and service requirements on the first day of the month, then the premium is effective that month.

If you choose to delay your retirement date or if you delay application for retirement, the premium is retroactive to the first day of the month after you meet the age and service requirements for non-regular retirement.

There is an exception for a child beneficiary. If you elected child-only coverage, the add-on portion of the RCSBP premium begins on the first day of the month after you meet the age and service requirements, regardless of whether any child is currently an eligible beneficiary.

Death before age 60

If you die before meeting age and service requirements, the add-on premium for the pre-age 60 coverage begins with the immediate or deferred annuity as a reduction of that annuity.

In some instances, you can change the type of coverage before premiums begin. The initial premium for election changes is effective on the first day of the month after you meet age and service requirements (or, if the member meets age and service requirements on the first day of the month, the premium is effective that month).

RCSBP Benefit Amount

The Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan annuity payment is determined by the base amount you elect. The benefit amount is typically 55% of the base amount, however, if the retiree died before May 1, 2010, the benefit may be reduced by certain costs. 

For More Information

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service website has more details about the RCSBP plan.

Related Topics

Survivor Benefits
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