Paycheck Chronicles

From The Mailbag: New Wife SBP Coverage


The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is an excellent tool for providing income to the survivors of military retirees, but there are a lot of details.  One detail that trips people up A LOT is the way you must notify the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) when there is a change in beneficiaries due to divorce or marriage.

Joe has a situation I hear too often:

Dear Kate,

I'm trying to clean up my paperwork, and I don't know how to change my Survivor Benefit Plan to my new wife.  We've been married for five years and I feel like she should have this benefit.  Who do I call?

Thank you,


Oh, Joe.  I wish you had come to me sooner!

Dear Joe,

Unfortunately, I think you are out of luck.  If you are eligible to add a new spouse to your policy, it must be done within one year of your marriage.

Since you have exceeded the window to add your new wife, you will have to consider other ways to provide income to her in retirement.  This might include savings, an insurance policy, or another investment type.

Thanks for writing in,


For those of you who are trying to add a new spouse to your SBP, and haven't exceeded the one year time limit, there are additional rules.

If you were married at the time of your retirement, you must have elected SBP coverage for the spouse you had at that time in order to add a new spouse at a later date.  If you were covering your former spouse under SBP, you must be legally eligible to transfer the coverage to the new spouse, meaning that you aren't under a court order to continue maintaining SBP for your former spouse.

If you were married at the time of your retirement, and you did not elect cover your spouse under SBP, you are ineligible to add a spouse in the future.

If you were not married at the time of retirement, you may elect SBP coverage for your spouse within the first year of marriage.  Coverage will become effective, and premiums will start being withheld, effective one year after marriage, or upon the birth of a child, whichever comes first.

While SBP is an excellent value for the coverage it provides, it might not be the coverage that you need.  A thorough assessment of your entire financial picture will help you create an income plan that fits your exact needs.

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