Survivor Affairs

Consideration for a New Military Widow (Widower)

This information has been collected over several years from various widows and is not intended to replace instructions you may have received from official sources. (The term "widow" is used here for simplicity, but is intended to include widowers.)

An excellent source of information is MOAA. There are two MOAA publications that are extremely helpful. The first is "Help Your Survivors Now – a Guide to Planning Ahead"; the second is titled, "Survivor's Checklist". As a member of MOAA you can obtain these publications at no cost by simply calling MOAA’s toll free telephone number, 1-800-234-6622, and asking for the Benefits Information Department. It is strongly suggested that you get copies and go through them together while both spouses are living. Another MOAA publication that will help at your time of loss is, "Turning the Corner, Surviving the Loss of a Loved One" also free to MOAA members for the asking. (By the way, if the military spouse is a member of MOAA, the survivor inherits the remaining term of the MOAA membership. If it is a "Life Membership", the term continues for the life of the survivor.)

Record Keeping:
Keep all financial records, e.g. Military Statements, Social Security (SS) statements, and Veterans Affairs (VA) statements, for the year of your spouse's death. Make sure you know where the spouse keeps the records. The day of the month your spouse dies is the day your spouse’s retired paid stops and the widow's SBP starts. Keep copies of everything you fill out and send to the various government offices. Records have been known to get lost. If you retain a copy, then all you have to do is make another copy and send it to the agency that has lost it. It will take about three months to get your SBP started (sometimes shorter, sometimes longer). After three months you should start checking into the reason for delay.

Medical History of Spouse:
Make sure the doctor of your spouse puts everything in writing when he/she diagnoses an ailment or disease. Obtain a copy of the Doctor's report and retain in your records. You may need this report for future Veteran Affairs reports or other applications.

If you are thinking about remarriage, check out how that will affect your income and what benefits you will gain or lose. The same applies if you decide to let someone live with you. You are required to sign a statement annually stating that you have not remarried.

Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) Annuity:
Upon the loss of your military spouse, provided your spouse elected to enroll in SBP, you will be entitled to an annuity based on the amount selected. The maximum amount your spouse could select would be his or her total retired pay. If you are 61 years of age or younger you will receive 55% of the amount selected by your spouse. At age 62, the 55% amount will be reduced by a Social Security Offset (SSO) until the year 2008. Current law phases out the SSO as follows: In 2006 the SSO was reduced so the beneficiary receives at least 45% of the SBP selected amount. On April 1, 2007, the SSO will be reduced again so that the percentage received will rise to 50% of the selected amount. On April 1, 2008, the SSO will be eliminated entirely and the amount received will return to 55% of the selected amount. Widows receiving more than the percentages provided by this phasing out of the SSO will not receive increases until the scheduled phase-out provides a more favorable result. If your SBP payments have not increased as shown above, you should contact the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) and inquire about you situation.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Program:
Under current law, the surviving spouse of a retired military member who dies from a service-connected disability is entitled to DIC from the Department of Veterans Affairs. If the military retiree was also enrolled in SBP, the surviving spouse's SBP benefits are offset by the amount of DIC (approximately $1067.00 per month in 2007). A pro-rated share of the SBP premiums paid is refunded to the widow upon a member's death in a lump sum, but with no interest.

While both spouses are still alive try to pay off the home mortgage, if there is one. The widows that have the hardest time financially are those that still have a mortgage.

The VA encourages all widows to apply for VA compensation if the spouse is a veteran. Here is what you need to take with you to apply for DIC (VA):

Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Divorce Decrees, Changes in name, Death Certificates, Separation documentation (DD Form 214), Retirement orders, Funeral Bills for service member

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) strongly supported the elimination of the SBP SSO. MOAA also supports repeal of the DIC offset to SBP because the two benefits are paid for different reasons. We encourage you to maintain your membership in the organization to ensure that MOAA continues to have the strength it needs to correct continuing inequities and protect the benefits which have been gained.