Survivor Benefit Plan Now Transferrable to New Spouse after Former Spouse Dies

Until passage of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), any Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) coverage awarded a former spouse in a military divorce vanished when the former spouse died before the retired servicemember.  It was impossible for the retired servicemember to enroll a new spouse.  Fortunately, that inequity is a thing of the past.

In the future, when a former spouse with court-awarded SBP dies, the retired servicemember has one year from the date of the former spouse’s death to apply through DFAS to have his or her current spouse enrolled in SBP.  If the retired servicemember is not married at time of the former spouse’s death, but later remarries, then the retired servicemember has one year from the date of remarriage to apply for SBP enrollment for the new spouse.  Realize that some “make-up” SBP premiums may have to be paid.

The NDAA also provides an “open season” for some retired servicemember’s whose former spouse already died. 
The “open season” applies only if: (1) the covered former spouse died prior to November 25, 2015; (2) former spouse SBP coverage was not canceled for any reason other than that former spouse’s death; and, (3) you are currently remarried and the date of remarriage was on or before November 25, 2015.  If all conditions are met, the retired servicemember can apply to enroll his or her current spouse in SBP.  Application through DFAS must be made prior to November 24, 2016, which is the last day of the “open season.”   Again, realize that some “make-up” premiums may have to be paid.  Contact DFAS for more information on the application/enrollment process.

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC.  The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world.  The firms also provides Wills and Estates and Probate services.