Survivors Need Your Support

Jul 05 2013

Published by at 10:39 am under Legislation,Veterans


It has been said a great nation will be judged by how it treats its veterans.

As a military spouse, I would add a great nation will be judged by how it treats the families who survive the loss of a servicemember while on active duty, or even after.

This isn’t about yellow ribbons and platitudes. It’s about the financial realities survivors face when a loved one dies as a result of military service.

There are two benefits designed to provide financial compensation to eligible survivors: The Survivor Benefits Plan (SBP) and Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

The Survivor Benefits Plan (SBP)

Upon retirement, a servicemember can choose to enroll in the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), an annuity designed to provide an eligible survivor with up to 55% of the service member’s retiree pay. SBP is not free and a premium is deducted each month from a servicemember’s retiree pay.

This benefit is elected and paid for by the servicemember to secure a portion of retirement pay for a surviving spouse. Automatic coverage is extended to survivors of servicemembers who die on active duty.

Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

DIC is paid by the Veteran’s Administration (VA) to the surviving spouse or child of an active duty or retired servicemember who dies from a service-caused condition. It provides a modest monthly annuity.

It is paid as compensation by the VA when military service cause a servicemembers death.

But there is a big problem for our survivors

Under current law, survivors that are eligible to receive both benefits (the SBP annuity they paid for with their premiums and government compensation for a service member’s service-connected death) quickly learn they cannot collect both benefits. One benefit (DIC) offsets the other (SBP) – dollar for dollar– leaving many of our survivors stunned, angry, and financially strapped, potentially for a lifetime. (In this case, offset means that one benefit is reduced dollar for dollar for every dollar received in the other benefit.) The total cannot exceed a set amount.

Shock and Anger Across Generations

The reality of the offset is shocking and it is felt across generations of military.

“Just last year, my husband Major (USA) Paul C. Voelke was killed in Afghanistan,” Traci Maultasch Voelke shared with us. “Shortly after his death I was presented with the complicated survivor benefit structure. I was handed a spreadsheet showed the benefits my husband earned through the SBP based on his 14 years of service, and then told I wouldn’t be getting those benefits, they would be reduced dollar for the dollar by the Veteran’s Affairs benefits. Through my network, I learned those most military spouses today are unaware of the survivor benefits and how their families are affected.”

Martha Douthit was raising two teenagers when her husband, an Army officer was killed during the first Gulf War in 1991. “My husband never would have believed his being killed in wartime would cause the military to cut my SBP by over $1200 a month. That happens because the DIC offsets the SBP.”

Tom Synder served in the U.S. Army for 20 years, and took out SBP for his wife, Janet, in 1978 when he retired. During his retirement he became ill due to Agent Orange in Vietnam (1969 – 1970). According to Janet, SBP premiums were subtracted from his military retirement pay for 30 years, “to give me a life insurance annuity guaranteed by the U.S. government. It was a shock to learn that there was an “offset” in benefits.” Jane is left to wonder, “What kind insurance annuity would deny full benefits of the plan, just because the survivor was receiving benefits from another insurance contract?”

The SBP-DIC Offset is Wrong

No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused their sponsor’s death.

Yet, our government makes the very people that have sacrificed the most pay, yet again! The current offset is wrong and should be eliminated for all SBP-DIC Survivors.

Now is the Time for Action

“There but by the grace of God go I.”

We must stand alongside those that have already sacrificed so much and fight to have this offset repealed. Will you join me?

On July 17th, MOAA will Storm the Hill to educate Congress on the SBP/DIC Issue and its impact on surviving spouses and their families.

Not in the Capitol region?

Currently, there are two bills in Congress that would repeal the offset of DIC payments from SBP annuities, in the belief that when service caused the death, the VA indemnity payment should be added to the normal SBP annuity, not subtracted from it.

Add your voice to ours and send a message to your Representative and your Senators. Ask them to support the bills that would repeal the offset of DIC payments from SBP annuities. The best part is you can personalize it! And, be sure to share it with your friends. Every voice counts.

Karen serves as a Deputy Director, Government Relations (Military Family Issues)

18 responses so far

18 Responses to “Survivors Need Your Support”

  1. Lucy Barwickon 08 Jul 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I to am one of those many survivors that cannot get sbp and dic if have lost a lot of money that my husband paid premiums for me to have . Over 20years worth sure would like to see more than the 90 dollar they send now to try and make up . I have lost minimum 100,000.00 because of this offset

  2. Patricia Bevison 08 Jul 2013 at 4:51 pm

    My husband died in 1981 at the age of 41 due to a service connected illness. I was first informed that I would start receiving SBP and in fact did receive a few checks. However, once his death was established service connected I became eligble for DIC. Then I was told I would no longer be receiving SBP. I was a young widow (37) with a son 11 yrs old and a daugher 9 yrs old. I never questioned why, I had no one to turn to and at that time we didn’t have computers. Now that I know the facts it is so upsetting when I look back at the struggle I had keeping our heads above water. I’m almost 70 now and don’t even want to think of the amount of SBP I should have received on behalf of my husband. So wrong, so very wrong of our government!

  3. Vince Pon 08 Jul 2013 at 5:11 pm

    I am not a retired service member, but an honorably discharged disable Marine Corps veteran. I think this practice is horrible, the “spouse” should be entitled to BOTH BENEFITS, as the SBP is an insurance annuity paid for by the veteran from his/her retirement pay.

    Congress should repeal this law RETROACTIVE to the day the SBP / DIC offset program began and pay all the families back the MONEY THAT THE GOVERNMENT STOLE FROM THE widows/widowers.

    I know some of you will say oh that will create a budget issue, well tough, the federal government used the families monies interest free to spend as they choose.

    That in its self is wrong.

    Go luck

  4. annetteon 08 Jul 2013 at 6:05 pm

    there isn’t enough words to say just how upset this makes us as survivors of our spouse that gave there time and life to fight for this country!!!! the soliders have been lied to so many times or told NO, why are they still taking the money out of there retirement pay if the soldier was granted 100% disability due to service of being in vietamin and desert storm now here i am the wife of sick solider with stage 4 cancer and he has done all chemo and radation he could get, they tell me his hands now every day is in Gods hands!!!!! the sad think is he took out the survivors payment to make sure i would be left with enough to care for ME, now as he knows his days our one by one and worries about leaving me with out the support he paid for all those 20years is even sader!!!!!! what they have done and continue to do is STEAL form our soldiers and thats WRONG!!!! me as a wife of a dying solider can’t support the military anymore if as by anyone im thinking of joing the military what you think would not be in favor for i’d tell them don’t do it they lie and steal from you!!!!

  5. Edward Soriaon 08 Jul 2013 at 8:07 pm

    No insurance corp. would prevent from paying out on an Annuity that has been paid in full through the years. Yet our government is doing that to survivors of Military retired who are paid up and/ or were paying into SBP each month from their military pay. The government claims that you cannot receive both SBP and DIC from the Veterans Administration. Yet Federal employees survivors are allowed to receive both SBP AND DIC…something is wrong with this SBP/ OFFSET.

    A military retired bought and paid for an Annuity SBP for over 20 / 30 years and then becomes disabled because of his military service and receives compensation from the Veterans Administration for his service connected disability. Again, SBP is an Annuity insurance paid by a military member while on active duty… and Compensation from the VA is just that –COMPENSATION two distinct payments. I rest my case!
    Edward Soria E-7 Retired USArmy

  6. melissia k parkson 08 Jul 2013 at 8:28 pm

    If you really want to get the military on your side tell the widows of va you will look into and fix the bill HR2246 sbp And dic offset ,and i consider it discrimination that the widows who do not want to remarry are not eligible for concurrent receipt(sbp&dic ),but the widows who remarry after 57 are entitled to both because lawyers sued on their behalf and won .THIS IS DISCRIMINATION against unmarried widows .wrote to pres Obama about this and they”the government” wrote me back told me to get a job!You probably know which bill I am talking is totally unfair to the widows . I wrote Mr.Obama back and told him that after the widows had expended all their strength & health to look after 100% disabled spouse ,that they were just empty shells ,That there was no more strength to “get a job” Charity begins at home ,then it is spread abroad ‘tell the American people this and it will reverberate all across America .please fix the V A widows death tax ! Thank you melissia k parks .

  7. BILLon 08 Jul 2013 at 8:46 pm

    I would like a REFUND of all my money that was taking out of my retirement check for thinking that SBP was the rigth for my family. Answer this please : Why didn’t you tell us about the offset when we sign up for this plan? I’m 100% disable from the VA and it seems the government is trying to take my money and pocket it for themself . THAT IS SO WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Mikeon 08 Jul 2013 at 11:25 pm

    When you are trying to make a decision to take out SBP or not. This info is not given to you. This is just another way congress rips the military off. If it was a prerequisite to have military service before you can run for a position in congress. This may be different. However, since most people in congress have never served their country. This is what we get. Congress needs to give up some of the benefits they get while in office and truly do not deserve. So the people that are making the real sacrifices for their country get what they deserve and have earned. Since information has been with held on the SBP program and has been taken out by many service members under false info. You should get a refund on your SBP if you want. I am 80% disabled and since my wife has served and sacrificed right along side of me for many years. She deserves the SBP I am paying for and the compensation form the VA as well.

  9. Rufinaon 09 Jul 2013 at 5:09 am

    This issue is not new. Congress is aware of this and for many years. The DIC offset not only affects widows. It is also applied to “surviving spouses whose husbands suffered a “disability” during their service time. Typically upon retirement the service member is medically evaluated and a disability percentage is determined, if applicable. This percentage is then applied to his retirement pay for reduction of the retirement pay. The VA pays that amount to the surviving spouse as a DIC. In an attempt to pacify the surviving spouses (a Generals wife actually took the matter to court and sued the government – military) they now receive a “token” payment which started at $50.00/month, increasing every year for a number of years (3?) then it will disappear – UNLESS SOMETHING IS DONE!. Karen is now bringing the issue back to the front burner. I have been wanting to work on this issue for years, and hope that upon my return to the U.S. in September I will be able to do so. I don’t think the issue has reached the Supreme Court, but that might be a starting point. Maybe a lawsuit needs to be filed, as the geeral Wife did. The lower courts ruled in her (their?) favor with a recommendation for back pay. Congress is not going to do anything – it is not in their interest to do so.
    We need to take it to the Courts. Nonetheless i want to support any effort or initiative on this matter.

  10. Mary Kellyon 09 Jul 2013 at 9:10 am

    The problem is that SBP remains unfunded. This because all the NDAA Act does not include any money for our program. The money is allocated to other programs. Congress allocates the money and president approves it. You look at the history of all bills they are referred to Senate Arm Forces Committee where the bill dies each year for 20 years now. The people has to make Congress allocate this money to help widows and widowers. Since their is cutback in defense due to no money in treasury, this would have to be a special session to get the funding. I think Congress benefits need to be changed where their wives cannot draw double compensation either. Their retirement plan should be changed to social security we spend too much money on their retirement system and federal workers and their dependence. The health insurance should be changed where they pay copays like we do.

  11. Jean Younton 09 Jul 2013 at 9:50 am

    My husband passed away from cancer that he suffered with for several years of his life. In fact he had one testicle removed when he was 35 while he was in service. He actually stayed in for his 30 years. After his death we found out a disturbing fact. While they did grant me DIC due to his in service cancer, they wont pay the SBP. I feel so betrayed. My husband’s long career included being the project manager for the M-16 rifle, time in Korea, Vietnam , Taiwan , Germany, and Guam not to mention several stateside assignments. When we went to Taiwan and Germany I had to travel separately on a large ships which was no pleasure cruise. These ships had no stabilizers so I was very sea sick and traveled with 2 boys while pregnant. In Taiwan there was no hospital and living along the rat infested canal I had the baby in a small doctors office with no hospital. My husband had to bring the bottles for the baby from the house after boiling the water. In Germany after the war we had to always keep bags packed for evacuation due to the threats from Russia. This was a difficult life and not getting SBP now is unjust!!

  12. Marci Hylaon 09 Jul 2013 at 10:37 am

    I am a little confused. I had heard about the dollar-for-dollar offset of DIC and SBP. But if you are being paid DIC, does that mean that they will refuse to pay ANY SBP, or will you get the SBP that is over the DIC amount? Also, if DIC is being paid to you and the children, the amount drops when the children age out, correct? Would the SBP payment then revert to the higher amount when there would be less DIC being paid? Thanks!!

  13. JoEtta Engleon 10 Jul 2013 at 9:51 am

    I agree with all of the above comments. My husband died in Nov 2012. He also paid in to the SBP for thirty years to help support me upon his death. I am also receiving the DIC which off sets the SBP as all you know. If we had been smart we would have invested into an insurance policy that would have given us more money on his death. This money could have been reinvested into a month annuity.
    MOAA has done a great job in supporting the military families. Keep up the good work.

  14. Nicoleon 11 Jul 2013 at 3:50 am

    No one in my family has served but 2 me if u paid forbenifits you should get what u paid for no matter what this is wrong u should get what is already coming to you plus anything u paid one should not effect the other period.otherwise what’s the point of buying extra coverage.

  15. Phyllison 11 Jul 2013 at 5:05 pm

    The Survivors Benefit Program should be self explanatory And where is the funding well there was a pay check every month was there not? and the Survivor would only get 55% of that pay check which was in the budget while the soldier was receiving the pay check every month. So Where is the money from the Budget. I is so wrong to withhold money because of the DIC Dependent Indemnity Compensation which is earned with the Pain every day of the Soldiers Life with 100% Disability caused by injuries and disease and side effects while serving Our Country to keep every US Citizen Safe . Where is this Right to put the Surviving Spouse and Families in such a Hardship when their Spouse was told they would be taken care of in the event the Soldier would die
    No Repeal the the SBP/DIC or better known as the Widows Tax.

  16. Patricia Epperlyon 16 Sep 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Oh, my gosh.
    An AF buddy of my husbands sent this to me. My husband died 11/28/11 from combat related 100% disabled. He battled Prostate Cancer for 16 years, one of the biggest of his life and I was his caregiver.
    When the local VA told me I could not draw my Annuity that we paid into for 30 years and DIC together I was shocked. Yes, they send me $90 a month, does that make congress feel good. My husband served 23 years, 18 as a tail gunner on B36 & B52’s. The last 5 he was in Precision Photo Processing . One of those years in Thailand, where they sprayed Agent Orange constantly.
    Since Harry’s death I have had to take money from our savings. My income SS & DIC is a little over $2,000. He would have made other plans had we known that the government sold us out. I am 78.
    I am thankful to God, who provides for me, I wonder when the Manna will come.
    Sincerely, Patricia A Epperly, widow of SrMSgt, Harry R Epperly

  17. Timothy Wilson Sron 16 Jul 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Why is there no mention to military retiring that when social security kicks in that it offsets SBP to where a soldiers spouse could receive very little compensation and at times no compensation from SBP if the social security is more than the SBP paid? Also if your spouse terminates first the soldier gets nothing after paying for years. And if they remarry the next wife automatically gets the SBP. These are all things that should be made clear to soldiers and their spouses prior to signing up

  18. Mary Kellyon 17 Mar 2015 at 11:43 pm

    The issues I see about the SBP DIC offset is the Senate and House passes it. It goes Senate Arm Forces Committee and it is Dead on Arrival because there is no funding in the NDAA for it. Also a bill needs to be introduced for the funding and earmarked only for SBP DIC offset and needs to do away with that pay as you go rule. That is the big excuse. Social security does not offset SBP anymore Senator Webb had that law changed in 2008. It passed in April and went into effect. There was acturally money for the SBP DIC offset and Senate armed Forces Committee used it for something else. I believe it should go to President and be signed into law. I would like to see our dental and vision care returned to our health care package. It was apart our health care when we was in the army. Now they want you pay premiums for policy. Not many widows can afford any premiums off what we get.