Survivor Benefit Plan Open Season

U.S. Coast Guard Veteran Bryan and his wife Bridget

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service has announced a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) open season for some retirees.

The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act corrected an oversight in the SBP rules. The new rule now allows retirees to add a new spouse as a beneficiary if their previously covered ex-spouse dies. The change was inserted into the SBP regulations as a result of DFAS's 2013 interpretation of the law that effectively prevented retirees from covering their new spouse upon the death of their covered ex-spouse. Veterans groups estimate that thousand of retirees may be affected by the new law.

Who is Eligible for the Open Season?

Military retirees who once elected former spouse coverage and who discontinued it due to the death of the former spouse have been contacted via direct mail and told of the change to the law.

If you were married on November 25, 2015 and had previously elected SBP coverage for a previous spouse who died you may be eligible to add SBP coverage for your new spouse. This open season does not apply if you are not currently married or if your former spouse SBP coverage was discontinued for any reason other than the death of your covered former spouse.

How to Make an Election Under the Open Season

If you have not already been contacted, but believe the open season may apply to you, and have an interest in making the election, you should contact DFAS at the address found at http://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/about/aboutus/customer-service.html.

You will need to provide DFAS with copies of:

  • Your former spouse's death certificate
  • Your current marriage certificate
  • Your current spouse's birth certificate
  • A written notification to DFAS that you want to cover your current spouse under SBP

Once DFAS receives your request, they will prepare an estimate of the costs associated with the coverage, and any retroactive premiums due from the effective date of the coverage. They will then send you the estimate along with a blank “Final Election” form. After you have reviewed the figures, if you decide to elect the coverage, you will need to complete and sign the “Final Election” form and return it to DFAS. The election must be made with the form provided or in writing. It must be received by the DDFAS-Cleveland with a postmark on or before November 24, 2016.

Please be advised that once made, this election is irrevocable.  Coverage may only be established at the level of coverage previously elected for your former spouse.  The member is responsible for all premiums due from the effective date of the election.  The option to cover a current spouse during this open season will run through November 24, 2016.

When Will the Election be Effective?

Married ON the Date of the Death of the Former Spouse – If you had been married for at least 1 year on the former spouse’s date of death, the effective date is the 1st day of the 1st month after the date of death of the former spouse.

Married AFTER Death of the Former Spouse - If you married after the former spouse’s date of death (or in the 1 year period preceding the date of death of the former spouse), the effective date is the 1st day of the 1st month after the 1st anniversary of the marriage.

Retroactive premiums will be effective on the date of the election.  You will be responsible for all premiums for this time period.  An estimate of premiums and payment options will be provided after receipt of your expression of interest form.  You will be required to pay the premiums in either a lump-sum amount or over a period of months, but all premiums must be paid within 24 months of the date of your final election.

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