Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)
Benefit Fact Sheet
Military pay, including active duty pay and allowances and retired pay, stops upon a Service member’s death. The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is a program through which the Department of Defense provides monthly, cost-of-living-adjusted income to eligible survivors of Service members who die on Active Duty in the line of duty, including Reserve Airmen and National Guard Airmen who die on Federal Active Duty in the line of duty and Retired Service members who choose to continue participating in the program after they retire.
Service members who retire due to a service-connected disability incurred while on active duty, whether Regular or Reserve, may participate in SBP.
Reserve and National Guard Airmen may participate in the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP) when they complete 20 years of qualifying service for non-regular retirement.
The following table illustrates which program applies to whom, depending on one's duty status and retirement eligibility:
Service member Status
Survivor Benefit Plan Eligible For
Regular Air Force and Space Force on active duty
SBP. Benefits calculated as if retired with 100% disability. Death must be in the Line of Duty unless retirement-eligible. If retirement eligible and found not in the Line of Duty, benefits based on years of active service. SBP coverage provided at no cost and beneficiaries determined by law.
Regular Air Force and Space Force retired
SBP, if they enroll upon retirement. Line of Duty determination not applicable. If coverage elected must choose SBP beneficiary category and pay part of the coverage cost.
Reserve and National Guard Airmen in non-drilling status with less than 20 years of service who die in a non-duty status
No SBP or RCSBP
Reserve and National Guard Airmen on Inactive Duty for Training
RCSBP. Benefits calculated as if retired with 100% disability. Death must be in the Line of Duty. If retirement eligible and found not in the Line of Duty, benefits based on what retired pay would have been calculated as a non-regular retirement. Coverage provided at no cost if found in the LOD and beneficiaries determined by law.
Reserve and National Guard Airmen on Federal Active Duty, regardless of years of service
SBP. Benefits calculated as if retired with 100% disability. Death must be in the Line of Duty. If retirement eligible and found not in the Line of Duty, benefits based on years of active service. SBP coverage provided at no cost and beneficiaries determined by law. If retirement eligibility based on 20 creditable years toward non-regular retirement and found not in the LOD, RCSBP coverage applied with beneficiaries determined by law.
Reserve and National Guard Airmen in non-drilling status with at least 20 years of service
RCSBP. Only if they enrolled with Option B or Option C when they received 20-Year Letter; or received the 20 year letter, are within the 90 day period, but have not made an RCSBP election; or should have received a 20 year letter. Death does not need to be in the Line of Duty.
Reserve and National Guard Airmen at age 60 who had enrolled in RCSBP with Options B or C
At age 60 RCSBP for non-regular Retired Airmen becomes SBP. Line of Duty determination not applicable. Must pay RCSBP premiums at non-regular retirement.
Reserve and National Guard Airmen at age 60 who had not enrolled in RCSBP (elected Option A)
SBP. Only if they enroll in SBP upon receipt of retired pay. Line of Duty determination not applicable. Must pay SBP premiums if SBP coverage elected.
Reserve and National Guard Airmen over age 60 who had not enrolled in either RCSBP or SBP
No SBP or RCSBP. Retired pay stops at the death of the Service member.
SBP premiums are deducted from retired pay and since April of 2018, DFAS will deduct SBP premiums from Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) when retired pay is not sufficient to cover the full amount of the premiums. This deduction is due to a change in the law which requires DFAS to deduct SBP premiums from CRSC. Click here for more information.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of FY 2023 authorized a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) Open Season until January 1, 2024. The SBP Open Season allows Retired Soldiers in receipt of retired pay, eligible members or former members awaiting retired pay who were not enrolled in SBP or RCSBP as of December 22, 2022, to enroll. It also allows Retired Soldiers, eligible members or former members awaiting pay who were enrolled in SBP or RCSBP as of December 22, 2022, to permanently discontinue their SBP coverage. For more information please visit: https://soldierforlife.army.mil/Retirement/survivor-benefit-plan
Air Force Reserve Airmen on Inactive Duty for Training are covered under RCSBP. Air Force Reserve Airmen on all types of Active Duty are covered under SBP. SBP benefits are calculated differently depending on a Reserve Airmen's duty status and line of duty determination at time of death. After completing 20 years of creditable service, Air Force Reserve Airmen become eligible to participate in the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP), which provides benefits to their survivors if they die outside of active duty. RCSBP also covers Air Force Reserve Airmen who die on inactive duty for training in the line of duty.
SBP benefits to survivors of Air Force Reserve Airmen who die on active duty are paid to the beneficiary category determined by law. Benefits to survivors of Reserve Airmen who die on inactive duty for training in the line of duty are paid under provisions equal to those applicable to Reserve Airmen who die on active duty.
Eligibility of Survivors of Air Force Reserve Airmen who die on Active Duty and Inactive Duty for Training in the Line of Duty:
Survivors of Air Force Reserve Airmen who die in the line of duty may be eligible to receive SBP benefits and those that die on inactive duty for training in the line of duty receive benefits equal to those paid for active duty death in the line of duty. Beneficiaries are established by law. There are five categories of survivors who may receive benefits:
1. Former Spouse - with court ordered former Spouse SBP
2. Spouse Only (No Child(ren)
3. Child(ren) Only (No Spouse)
4. Insurable Interest
See the “AIR FORCE RESERVE: ACTIVE DUTY” fact sheet for more information.
Non-Drill Status with 20 years or more of service, under age 60:
Survivors of Service members who die in a non-duty status or “Not in the Line of Duty” while on a duty status but had 20 or more creditable years of service may be eligible for RCSBP benefits depending on what the Service member elected upon the receipt of their NOE. The Service member must have elected either Option B (deferred annuity) or Option C (immediate annuity) and elected the applicable category. There are six categories of survivors who may receive benefits:
1. Spouse Only
2. Spouse and Child(ren)
3. Child(ren) Only
4. Former Spouse
5. Former Spouse and Child(ren)
6. Insurable Interest
On Active Duty or Inactive Duty for Training: Death must be found in the line of duty. Benefits are 55% of what the Reserve Airmen's retired pay would have been if they had retired with 100% disability on date of death (i.e. 75% of the average of the highest 36 months of active duty base pay*). For example, if the average of the highest 36 months of base pay for a Service member is $4,150, their retired pay would have been $3,112 if retired with 100% disability ($4,150 x 75% = $3,112). The SBP annuity would be $1,711 ($3,112 x 55% = $1,711).
See the “AIR FORCE RESERVE: ACTIVE DUTY” fact sheet for more information.
Benefit Highlights - Non-Drill Status with 20 years or more of service, under age 60: Benefits depend on which RCSBP option the Air Force Reserve Airmen elected when they completed the RCSBP initial election form upon receipt of their 20-Year Letter (Notice of Eligibility to receive retired pay at age 60). Option A would not pay any benefits because the Air Force Reserve Airmen deferred enrolling until age 60. See the "AIR FORCE RESERVE: RETIRED" fact sheet in this series for more information about SBP.) Option B would pay an RCSBP annuity when the Air Force Reserve Airmen would have reached age 60. Option C would pay an RCSBP annuity immediately upon the Air Force Reserve Airmen’s death. If Service member does not make an election, they automatically receive Option C coverage for dependents at the time of receipt of Notice of Eligibility (NOE) if the NOE was issued on or after 1 January 2001. The RCSBP annuity would be calculated based on points. If the Service member elected a reduced "Base Amount" rather than full-retired pay, the RSBP annuity would be 55% of that reduced "Base Amount". (A "Base Amount" can be any amount between $300 and full-retired pay.) For example, if the average of the highest 36 months of base pay for an Air Force Reserve Airmen is $4150 and they had 2500 retirement points, their retired pay would be $720. ((2500 points/360) x 2.5% = 17.3%; $4150*17.3%=$720)) See table below for comparison of annuity based on full base amount and reduced base amount.
$720 x .55 = $396
$500 x .55 = $275
Spouse: A Spouse married to the Service member at NOE or 20 year letter and who is also named as the beneficiary for RCSBP is an eligible Spouse, regardless of how long they have been married. A Service member who is unmarried on the date of their NOE or 20 year letter and later marries, must elect Spouse coverage for that Spouse within one year of the date of the first marriage following NOE or 20 year letter. That Spouse is not eligible to receive benefits unless they were married to the Service member at least one year or had a child born of that marriage. If no action taken within one year of marriage, RCSBP is closed for that Spouse and any future Spouse.
A Spouse election applies not only to the Spouse a Service member has at time of NOE but also to any future Spouse. If a participating Service member loses their Spouse through death or divorce, the Service member still has Spouse coverage, but it goes into a "suspended" status. If the Service member remarries, the Spouse election reactivates, and the new Spouse automatically becomes an eligible beneficiary after one year of marriage or upon the birth of a child of that marriage, if sooner. During that first year, the Service member has three choices: (1) Allow the previous RCSBP election to resume (which happens automatically if the Service member does nothing); (2) Terminate Spouse participation (which forever prohibits Spouse participation in the future); or (3) Increase coverage if the previous election was for less than maximum benefits. Under the third option, the Service member would be required to pay premiums for the increased coverage retroactively to the date of initial enrollment for all periods of previous Spouse coverage, less any premiums already paid.
A surviving Spouse can receive RCSBP benefits for life, but remarriage before age 55 suspends eligibility to receive benefits. If such marriage later ends by death or divorce, eligibility is restored.
Integration with Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Surviving Spouses and minor children of surviving Spouses and minor children of Service members and retirees whose deaths are determined to be service-connected by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are entitled to tax-free compensation from the VA. This benefit is called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). The Spouse SBP annuity is no longer impacted by DIC. A Spouse eligible for both will receive both in full.
Spouse-and- Child(ren): The Spouse is the primary beneficiary. Benefits pass on to eligible children only if the surviving Spouse dies or remarries before age 55.
Child(ren) Only: Eligible children are the beneficiaries. Benefits are divided equally among all eligible children. If the RCSBP annuity is divided among multiple children, as each child ages beyond the eligibility limit or marry, whichever comes first, the annuity is reapportioned among the remaining eligible children. Ultimately, one child ends up receiving the entire annuity, which then terminates when that child reaches the eligibility limit or marries, whichever comes first. Eligible children include natural children, adopted children, stepchildren, and foster children who lived with the Service member in a normal parent-child relationship. Children may receive RCSBP benefits until age 18, or age 22 if enrolled full-time in high school, college, vocational or technical school, or another recognized educational institution as long as they remain unmarried. An exception is that if a child reaches age 22 while in school, and their birthday is before July 1 or after August 31 of a calendar year, eligibility continues until the earlier of the child's cessation of full-time studies or the 1st day of July following that birthday. A child who becomes incapable of self-support due to a physical or mental disability before age 18, or before age 22 while a full-time student, may receive benefits for life, as long as they remain unmarried. Prior to electing RCSBP coverage for an incapacitated child, the Service member should research the effect of the RCSBP income on other benefits to which the incapacitated child may be eligible under state or local welfare or support programs. An irrevocable election to pay the RCSBP annuity for an incapacitated child to a special needs trust set up for the benefit of the child may be made at any time.
Former Spouse: A Service member may name a former Spouse as beneficiary upon receipt of NOE, which can be done either voluntarily, in compliance with a court order, or written agreement. After NOE, a former Spouse can be named as beneficiary only if the former Spouse had been an eligible Spouse beneficiary. To do so, the Service member must change the Spouse election to a former Spouse election within one year of the date of divorce using the DD Form 2656-6, SBP Election Change Certificate and DD Form 2656-1, SBP Election Statement for former Spouse coverage, with a copy of the divorce decree and any other court order awarding RCSBP/SBP. To ensure that a court-ordered election is carried out, a former Spouse has a one-year period from the date of the first court order awarding RCSBP/SBP to request that a former Spouse election be deemed by submitting DD Form 2656-10, SBP/RCSBP Request for Deemed Election.
If the former Spouse remarries before age 55, the former Spouse becomes ineligible to receive benefits, but the former Spouse election remains in force and reactivates if the former Spouse's marriage ends by death or divorce. When the former Spouse remarries prior to age 55, the Retired Service member does not have to pay RCSBP premiums for the period of that marriage but must provide DFAS a copy of the marriage certificate. A former Spouse election can be changed to a Spouse election if the former Spouse election was made voluntarily, the former Spouse's concurrence is not required, but if the former Spouse election was made pursuant to a court order, a subsequent court order relieving the Service member of the obligation would be necessary to make the change.
If a former Spouse beneficiary dies, a remarried Service member may change their election to Spouse coverage for a subsequent Spouse within one year of the date of the former Spouse's death. If the Service member is unmarried at the time of the former Spouse's death and later remarries, the Service member may change their RCSBP election to Spouse coverage, naming the subsequent Spouse as beneficiary, within one year of the date of remarriage. If the former Spouse died before 25 November 2015, and the Service member had remarried prior to that date, the Retired Service member only had until 24 November 2016 to elect coverage for that subsequent Spouse.
Former Spouse-and-Child(ren): This is identical to the Spouse and children option in costs and benefits, except that only the Service member’s children of the marriage to the former Spouse may be named as beneficiaries. This is true even if the child had been a beneficiary under a previous child(ren) only or Spouse and child(ren) election if the children were not adopted by the former Spouse.
Insurable Interest: A Service member who is unmarried and has no children at time of NOE can elect coverage for a person who has an insurable financial interest in the Service member’s continuing life. An insurable interest is presumed for all Family members related more closely than a cousin (parents, stepparents, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, half-brothers and half-sisters, and non-dependent children). Documentation of a financial interest is required for all other beneficiaries. This option may be cancelled at any time or changed to cover a Spouse or child later within one year of acquiring them. Upon the death of an insurable interest beneficiary, the Service member may elect a new insurable interest beneficiary within 180 days of the previous beneficiary's death. If a new insurable interest beneficiary is elected, premiums will be paid for the entire 180 day period and the difference of additional premiums all the way back to initial election.
Continuing Eligibility: Surviving Spouses and former Spouses are eligible to receive SBP benefits for life. Eligibility is suspended if a surviving Spouse or former Spouse remarries before age 55, but eligibility is restored if that marriage ends by death or divorce.
Surviving children may receive RCSBP benefits until age 18, or age 22 if enrolled full-time in high school, college, vocational or technical school, or another recognized educational institution as long as they remain unmarried. An exception is that if a child reaches age 22 while in school, and their birthday is before July 1 or after August 31 of a calendar year, eligibility continues until the earlier of the child's cessation of full-time studies or the 1st day of July following that birthday. A child who becomes incapable of self-support due to a physical or mental disability before age 18, or before age 22 while a full-time student, may receive benefits for life, as long as they remain unmarried.
Beneficiaries receiving benefits under the "Insurable Interest" beneficiary category remain eligible for life, regardless of age, marital status, or receipt of any other government benefit.
For more information, please contact Air Force Retiree Services at 800-525-0102 or visit the web page at:
To obtain a detailed estimate of your survivor benefits, including SBP payments to eligible dependents, visit the MyAirForceBenefits Survivor Calculator (CAC or DS Logon account needed):
To obtain a detailed estimate of your retired pay and SBP premium costs visit the MyAirForceBenefits Retirement Calculator (CAC or DS Logon account needed:
Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Compensation SBP website:
Air Force Casualty:
DFAS "Manage your SBP Annuity" website:
DFAS "Manage your SBP Annuity" website:
DFAS “SBP-DIC Offset Phased Elimination News”: