Jun 02 2010
Survivors of military members have an opportunity for two forms of survivors’ benefits. The most common is the purchased benefit called the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) where the military member pays premiums from retired pay. Currently serving members are also covered by SBP automatically. The other is a program ran by Veteran Affairs (VA) called Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC). DIC is paid to survivors whose spouse died of Service-connected causes.
If a survivor qualifies for DIC and is covered by SBP, the DIC amount is subtracted from the SBP amount. This is known as the SBP-DIC Offset. MOAA has fought against this offset for some time and continues to fight against the offset on Capitol Hill. Last August, 3 survivors fought in the courts against the offset for their specific situation and won. They realized the law was worded differently for survivors who remarried after age 57. In this specific case, the law does not stipulate an offset. As a result, all survivors remarried after age 57 now receive full SBP and DIC payments. The DOD is in the process of fixing the offset issue for survivors in this situation.
Here is the status of DOD’s progress in the process of fixing the offset for survivors who fall under the conditions of the lawsuit. The DOD identified 737 survivors remarried after age 57. All of these survivors are now receiving their full monthly SBP and DIC payments. However, the lawsuit also has a retroactive period that requires survivors who qualify to receive back pay. The retroactive period is from the date of remarriage but no earlier than 1 January 2004. To date, 367 have received their back pay. The remaining survivors will get their back pay over the next few months as DOD calculates the amounts due for each individual.
As for the rest of you, MOAA now has a new tool to use in fighting for the elimination of the SBP-DIC offset. In 2008, Congress symbolically admitted the offset was wrong by passing legislation that authorized a supplemental pay to help restore some of the pay denied by the offset. This program is known as Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA). SSIA is administered by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) as is SBP. Here is the payment schedule for the SSIA:
Beginning Monthly Amount
October 2008 $50
October 2009 $60
October 2010 $70
October 2011 $80
October 2012 $90
October 2013 $100
October 2014 $150
Increases thru 2017
October 2017 $310
The SSIA was the first foot in the door for the repeal of the offset. Now the Sharp case is another foot in the door. We have support on the Hill for the repeal of the offset but the impediment has been the last minute consensus on how to pay for the offset elimination. The fight will go on.
AS FOR CURRENT LEGISLATION: the elimination of the SBP-DIC offset is not dead for this year but it is on life support. There is a slight chance something (elimination or increase of supplemental payments) could get passed. We will continue to fight for this issue as one of our top three initiatives. We will update the final result through our Legislative Update and News Exchange electronic newsletters and this blog.