Can you cancel the Survivor Benefit Plan? Not really

Q:  My hus­band is retired. We were mar­ried after he retired from the mil­i­tary. I did sign up to receive sur­vivor ben­e­fits and have been mak­ing the pay­ments for eight years. My hus­band and I have thought of get­ting a larger life Insur­ance pol­icy and can­celling my sur­vivor ben­e­fits.  Can we do that?  How do you can­cel your Sur­vivor Ben­e­fits? I can­not find this infor­ma­tion on any web site.


– Kel­lie, Palm Coast, Fla.

A:  What do you want first, the good news or, well, the bad? Let’s get (what you will con­sider) the bad news out of the way first: You’re prob­a­bly stuck with SBP.  There is a win­dow between the 25–36th month fol­low­ing receipt of retired pay to ter­mi­nate the cov­er­age, oth­er­wise the deci­sion is per­ma­nent (bar­ring a death or divorce).  The gov­ern­ment has rules, you know. Per­son­ally, I really don’t think that’s bad news! I believe SBP is the deal of the cen­tury. And a great ben­e­fit of mil­i­tary ser­vice. It’s a cost effec­tive way to ensure you have a reli­able income stream should some­thing hap­pen to your hus­band. From a cost per­spec­tive, it’s hard to beat. Paid for with pre-tax money, it pro­vides a cost-of-living-adjusted life­time ben­e­fit. It’s hard to dupli­cate – even with life insur­ance. Rather than can­celling SBP, I’d sug­gest that you visit the VA web­site or usaa​.com and use a life insur­ance cal­cu­la­tor to deter­mine if you need to sup­ple­ment your SBP with a com­mer­cial life insur­ance policy.

Share |

22 responses to “Can you cancel the Survivor Benefit Plan? Not really”

  1. My for­mer spouse( Larry Jas­mann, aka Lawrence M. Jas­mann ) did not let the USCG know we were divorced after he retired in 1990. We divorced in 1997. The USCG con­tin­ued to take the allot­ment because he did not let them know. Now I am told that he needed to inform them that he des­ig­nated me as ben­e­fi­ciary still within a one year win­dow. Since he did not and I was not informed of any rules.…what are the options? My agree­ment says I receive 50% of all retired pay after the allot­ment is taken. This means to me that he can still keep the SBP, nam­ing another wife bene­fi­icary and I will pay for that.

    1. I am assum­ing by allot­ment you mean SBP pay­ment? If it wasn’t in your ORIGINAL divorce decree that he is to main­tain SBP specif­i­cally for you then you have NO options. He can name his new wife as ben­e­fi­ciary. It was not up to him to inform you of the rules for SBP, it was up to you and your lawyer to do the research. And YOU aren’t pay­ing for the SBP allot­ment, he is. He is the one that did the time to earn the pen­sion, and if you didn’t request SBP in the divorce decree then he is doing noth­ing wrong.

      1. My agree­ment states after tak­ing out the SBP, I am to receive 1/2 of the retired pay. To me this meant, I had to pay the SBP allot­ment but he had to make the des­ig­na­tion to do so…to con­tinue it.

        What do you think?

        I have to say I have not been for­warded 1/2 of the pay and he did not make the auto direct deposit as named in the agree­ment. Finally in 2001, the USCG allowed me to do so on my own so that I auto­mat­i­cally receive all cost of liv­ing raises in the auto direct pay­ment. In other words Larry Jas­mann aka Lawrence M. Jas­mann was in con­tempt of the court agree­ment. I appealed to him repeat­edly and was told by Pay and Per­son­nel when inquir­ing about cer­tain sta­tus, that because of pri­vacy act…and I think loy­alty is with the mem­ber, that I could not be told what he had done. I was con­cerned also because my for­mer sis­ter in law had the same name.…Susan Jas­mann. I was check­ing to make cer­tain there was not a mix up on that. Because there are trust issues from the mar­riage( not pay­ing taxes and not telling me etc.), I needed to ver­ify from a bonafide source this info.

        Susan Phillips


  2. To Susan, I am pretty famil­iar with SBP rules and your ques­tion depends quite a bit on your divorce decree. Does your divorce decree state that he would be required to pro­vide SBP to you after the divorce (i.e. elect “for­mer spouse” cov­er­age)? If not, then he paid for sev­eral years that he shouldn’t have. If that’s the case, I hope he gets that money back! If you were sup­posed to get 50% of his retired pay, then I hope he shares 50% of the refund with you! (though usu­ally, a for­mer spouses’ per­cent­age of retired is cal­cu­lated before any deductions!)

    It would be highly unusual for the Pay Cen­ter not to know you were divorced. He should have taken you out of DEERS so that you no longer showed up as a fam­ily mem­ber for him. As soon as the Pay Cen­ter learned of your divorce, they should have can­celled his SBP pre­mi­ums from his retired pay unless his decree forced him to change his cov­er­age from “spouse” to “for­mer spouse” (the cost is the same for “spouse” or “for­mer spouse” cov­er­age.) If he is not required to con­tinue to pro­vide SBP to you, then yes, he could elect to cover a future spouse — but HE pays for that, not you. The cost comes out of his retired pay. Your per­cent­age of his retired pay is typ­i­cally cal­cu­lated from the gross retired pay. I’d be really sur­prised if your por­tion is cal­cu­lated AFTER SBP costs are deducted. Again, this really depends on your divorce decree so I’d review it care­fully. If what you’re after is the SBP, then the only way to get it is to make sure your decree states it (which usu­ally involves going to court.) Good luck!

    1. Kate, Thanks for replying.

      Larry Jas­mann can­not have it both ways…he took more than 50% and he took SBP allot­ment that I was not name to receive.…
      He still owes me unpaid spousal sup­port, full amount of USCG retire­ment share, med­ical out of pocket expenses/ agree­ment, money from our daughter’s post sec­ondary des­ig­nated trust acct that he spent for a ring for Judy Jas­mann, etc. etc.

      He is seen online spend­ing on hob­bies such as radio control.

      And now he spends time mak­ing what is pub­lic hid­den.…
      This man is no gen­tle­man or honorable.

      Susan Phillips

      1. Susan, You do real­ize that by post­ing his name and yours on a pub­lic forum that he can sue you for libel if he ever sees this post right?

        1. LIBEL.…look up libel. I tell the truth.

          Susan Phillips

  3. I was sin­gle when I retired from the army. I got mar­ried in the mid 90’s and have been mar­riad only about 7years. I have three ques­tions.
    !. if we divorce is she enti­tled to any of my mil­i­tary retired pay?
    2. will sh still be enti­tled to the SBP?
    3. we never con­su­mated the mar­riage, nor did we sleep in the same bed except every great once in a while. under these cir­cum­stances can this mar­riage be annulled?

  4. How do I find out if my hus­band signed up for sur­vivors ben­e­fits? He is 91 and does not remem­ber. He was a Cap­tain in the navy and was a doc­tor. He was in the ser­vice from 1941 to about 1966.
    Mary Davis

    1. You should be able to find out by con­tact­ing the Defense Finance and Account­ing Ser­vice (DFAS). 888–332-7411 for cus­tomer service

  5. I mar­ried my wife after I retired. We were mar­ried for 23 years. We are get­ting a divorce and I am mar­ry­ing another lady. Do I have to keep her on my SBP? What % would I have to pay? I would like to leave some­thing for my new wife.

  6. I am a ex spouse, mar­ried to a mil­i­tary mem­ber (Army) for 24 years, he was in 25 years. I am receiv­ing 35% of his retire­ment. At the time of our divorce, My ex said if I wanted to keep the SBP i could keep pay­ing on it. A fter about six months, I couldn’t afford the pay­ments. I just assumed it was void now. A cou­ple of years ago my ex said he was still pay­ing for it and I was the ben­e­fi­ciary. He has a new wife been mar­ried 8 years. Is there any­way I can find out if its still active and I am the ben­e­fi­cialry? Also, some told me that if he passes away before me, I will get some of his social secu­rity, is that true? Thanks, Jackie

  7. I am a for­mer spouse, mar­ried to a mil­i­tary mem­ber (Air Force) for 29 years and I was mar­ried to him when he retired. I was given the SBP and my ques­tion is I am now 72 years old and have never remar­ried but may in the near future. Does remar­riage at this age affect my get­ting the SBP from my ex when he dies? Thanks. Carole

    1. nope, 55 is the cut off age, after that you can re-marry

  8. can it be can­celled if the wife of dead retired ser­vice­man has been liv­ing with new part­ner (not offi­cially mar­ried) since right after the death of the hus­band. rela­tion­ship started even before the death, and now still liv­ing together…
    thanks krunch.

    1. Nope, in mil­i­tary you are mar­ried or you aren’t there is no in between

  9. As a spouse of a for­mer mil­i­tary mem­ber (20 years in the Air Force) I signed a waiver and opted out of SBP in exchange for more life insur­ance. Is there any way we can buy back in so I will receive the Sur­vivor Ben­e­fits? By sign­ing the waiver did I also sign away my mil­i­tary med­ical insur­ance, base priv­i­leges and mil­i­tary ID card if my hus­band dies? Patty

    1. you can’t buy back in once you sign the waiver unless they have an qual­i­fy­ing event (which they haven’t in eons) like a mas­sive change to the pro­gram. You didn’t sign it away for more life insur­ance (because that’s pretty much what SBP is) you signed it away for a higher monthly retire­ment check. If your hus­band dies every­thing else is safe, you just lose his entire pen­sion check. Unless you remarry after his death, in which case you lose the health insur­ance ben­e­fits forever.

  10. My friend has been pay­ing into SBP since 1997, but as of April 30, 2013 his spouse passed awayed. To be able to ter­mi­nate the SBP is the DD form 2656–2 with copy of death cert will be needed ???

  11. We divorced 16 months ago, no men­tion of SBP in the divorce decree. I was told I could elect SBP and then can­cel once divorce is final and then I read about a small win­dow to can­cel SBP pay­ment but would have to get the con­sent of the ex spouse.
    What are my options; if any at this point to have it can­celled and pos­si­bly receive a refund.

  12. I hope you can help on this one. In Feb 2010 I divorced and through divorce decree was oblig­ated to main­tain my ex-wife on the SBP until my youngest grad­u­ated High School. I am plan­ning to re-marry in June 2014 and although I can’t change the SBP now, what hap­pens if I were to die before my youngest grad­u­ated from high school? Since I couldn’t be there to change the ben­e­fi­ciary, does my ex con­tinue to get ben­e­fits forever?

  13. Is there a cer­tain amount of time that a wife has to be mar­ried to her spouse when her hus­band died to recieve his benefits,

USAA or its affiliates do not provide tax advice. Taxpayers should seek advice based upon their own particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. The information is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining professional financial advice. Please thoroughly research and seek professional representation before acting on any information you may have found in this article. This article is in no way attempts to provide advice that relates all personal circumstances.

Examples given are hypothetical illustrations and not an indication of the benefits or features of any USAA product. You should seek policies and advice based upon your own particular circumstances. Sample loans are for illustration purposes only and are not a rate quote, pre-approval, or commitment to lend.

Scott Halliwell and JJ Montanaro are CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioners with USAA Financial Planning Services, one of the USAA family of companies. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and Certified Financial Planner™ in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

USAA Financial Planning Services® refers financial planning services and financial advice provided by USAA Financial Planning Services Insurance Agency, Inc. USAA Financial Planning Services Insurance Agency, Inc. (known as USAA Financial Insurance Company in California, Lic. #0E36312), a registered investment adviser and insurance agency and its wholly owned subsidiary, USAA Financial Advisors, Inc., a registered broker dealer. (known as USAA Financial Insurance Agency in California), a registered investment adviser and insurance agency and its wholly owned subsidiary, USAA Financial Advisors, Inc., a registered broker dealer.

USAA means United Services Automobile Association and its affiliates. Investments provided by USAA Investment Management Company and USAA Financial Advisors Inc., both registered broker dealers. Banking products provided by USAA Federal Savings Bank. Credit cards provided by USAA Savings Bank. Both Banks Member FDIC.