The Basics of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)

I originally wrote this article as part of a script for my YouTube and podcast episodes on this topic. The total length ended up being over 3000 words. For ease of reading, I am going to break up the script into a series of shorter articles. There will be links to other parts of the total article at the end of each section.

Basic Description
Today I am going to talk about the Survivor Benefit Plan. Like its reserve component version, this is one of the most important decisions a service member must make. Also, just like the talk about the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan, this episode will probably be longer than usual. This is a vital decision for every retiree so I want to be sure everything is understandable. The terms I may use are typically those used by the Army, but the information itself is the same for all branches of service. Enough prologue, I’d say; let’s dive right into today’s subject.

What is the Survivor Benefit Plan?
As I said in my articles about the reserve component version of the Survivor Benefit Plan, retired pay stops with the death of the retiree. There is no method by which a retiree may pass on his retired pay to another person in a will or other legal instrument. The Survivor Benefit Plan – or SBP – is the only way a person receiving retired pay can pass on a survivor annuity to a family member. Notice that I said, “annuity,” rather than retired pay or pension. This is not your retirement. It is something you are purchasing separately to leave some form of survivor income for your family.

So, when do I have to make this critical decision?
Very simple. You make this election when you apply for retired pay.

What happens I don’t make an election?
If the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has no evidence that you are single and have no dependents, they will automatically set your SBP election to spouse and compute a generic premium for you to pay. If you do in fact have no eligible beneficiaries and this default election occurs, you will need to contact a retirement services officer or DFAS directly to get the election changed.


10 USC Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 73, Subchapter II: Survivor Benefit Plan
Survivor Benefit Plan (Defense Finance and Accounting Service)
Advantages and Disadvantages of RCSBP / SBP
RCSBP Fact Sheet
$550 per month from SBP Compared to $100,000 Life Insurance: How Long Will It Last?
$2200 per month from SBP Compared to $100,000 Life Insurance: How Long Will It Last?
DD Form 2656 – Data for Payment of Retired Personnel
CG Form 4700 – Coast Guard, PHS, & NOAA Retired Pay Account Worksheet and Survivor Benefit Plan Election


Related YouTube Episodes:
The Basics of Reserve Retirement
The Notice of Basic Eligibility for Retired Pay (Twenty-Year Letter)
The Basics of the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan


Related Articles on This Topic:
The Basics of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)
How Much Will The SBP Pay My Beneficiaries and How Much Will It Cost?
Should I Buy a Life Insurance Policy Instead of Choosing the Survivor Benefit Plan?
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of the Survivor Benefit Plan?
What Are the Coverage Options and Who Can Be Beneficiaries of the SBP?
How Do I Enroll in the Survivor Benefit Plan?

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