If you’re a military member now or a disabled retiree you have probably been watching the recent headlines about spouses of now deceased veterans having to remarry to collect benefits.
First, let’s think about the Government’s intent. The intent is to provide every surviving spouse a stipend in the event of a military member on active duty or suffering a duty related disability.
The minimum benefit from the VA is the Disability and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC.
For those military members who elected to pay premiums for the Survivor Benefit Program and retired due to a duty related disability, their SBP is offset by the DIC dollar for dollar. If the DIC payment exceeds the SBP benefit, then they receive only the DIC and the SBP premiums are refunded.
There is a loophole, however, that allows surviving spouses aged 57 and older who remarry to collect both benefits concurrently. The Military Officers’ Association of America did the best job of explaining this situation.
There are a number of Veterans Associations who are lobbying Congress to eliminate the offset and allow surviving spouses to receive both the DIC and the SBP benefits. This will be a challenge in a shrinking budgetary environment, however noble the cause might seem.
The important thing for military members to consider is to protect their spouses from the worst possible situation. Plan on SBP or offset it with life insurance and the DIC if you have a service related disability. Don’t count on any change to the current policy (except the possible end of the dual payment option for remarried spouses!)