A military pension (military retired pay) does not pay a joint and survivor benefit. Military retired pay stops upon the service member’s death. The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) allows a military retiree to ensure, after death, a continuous lifetime annuity for their dependents. The annuity is based on a percentage of retired pay. It pays eligible survivors an inflation-adjusted monthly income.

Election to participate in this program is generally made at the time of retirement. The maximum amount that can be elected under the SBP is 55% of gross retired pay. The premium for the SBP is withheld from military retired pay before taxes. A divorcing retired service member receiving retired pay who also elected SBP coverage when he or she retired can either discontinue the premiums for the SBP or continue paying premiums at the exact same coverage. It is important to have this choice addressed in the divorce decree.

Continuation of a former spouse as the beneficiary under the SBP is not automatic. Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) must be notified of the status from “spouse” to “former Spouse” WITHIN one year of the date of the divorce. To convert the service member’s SBP election from spouse to former-spouse coverage, a DD Form 2656-1, Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) Election Statement for Former Spouse Coverage must be provided to DFAS. If for some reason the service member does not fulfill this obligation within six months (which should be spelled out in the divorce decree) or the former spouse does not have proof of former spouse SBP coverage, the former spouse must, within that first year post-divorce, file a Request for Deemed Election by submitting DD Form 2656-10, SBP Reserve Component (RC) SBP Request for Deemed Election with DFAS. (The six month requirement isn’t mandatory but if it hasn’t been done within six months, the intent is probably not there.)

Former-spouse coverage and premiums are suspended if the former spouse remarries prior to age 55. Former spouses are not eligible for the SBP annuity while remarried if the remarriage occurs prior to age 55. This does not terminate the service member’s obligation to cover the former spouse -- only the obligation to make payments while the former spouse is remarried. Under Federal law, a service member cannot stop former-spouse coverage nor can he or she change the election to a new spouse and/or child coverage based solely on the former spouse’s remarriage prior to age 55.