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What is the Survivor Benefit Plan? Thumbnail

What is the Survivor Benefit Plan?

Key Takeaways

  • Survivor Benefit Plan provides up to 55% of your retired income to a beneficiary in the case of your death.  

  • Monthly premiums are withdrawn from your retired pay depending on the amount of benefit beneficiaries will receive.

  • The election is generally irrevocable, except for a year on the 2nd to 3rd Anniversary of your retirement pay.


In the military when the military member dies during retirement the stream of retirement income that military member receives stops.  This sudden stop of income can mean an extreme change of financial living circumstances.   The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is an insurance plan that will pay a surviving spouse and possibly dependents a monthly payment.  This payment is known as an “Annuity” and results in monthly payments to the spouse in most cases until their death.  

How Survivor Benefit plan works.

One of the biggest decisions you make during your retirement from the Military is the Survivor Benefit Plan election.  To decline the Survivor Benefit Plan, you will have to get the notarized signature of your spouse.  You can provide coverage to a former spouse, child or possibly an insurable interest such as a business partner or parent.  The Survivor Benefit Plan is an election you make and depending on the amount of your base retirement pay you wish to replace for your spouse, up to 55%, your premium will adjust based off that amount.  You have several choices of beneficiaries.    You can choose that a surviving spouse is the beneficiary, the spouse and a child or the child only.  

Can you change the Survivor Benefit Plan election?

In general, the Survivor Benefit Plan election is an irrevocable decision.  You do have the ability to cancel the plan.  This is a 1-year window, that occurs upon the second anniversary following the first receipt of retired pay and ends on the third anniversary.   There are some special circumstances where the election is changeable.  The most common situation is in which a divorce occurs after retirement.   Survivor Benefit Plan can be changed to continue covering the former spouse and a potential child and add coverage for the new spouse and potential children.