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Plan ahead, learn more about the Survivor Benefit Plan

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The Survivor Benefit Plan was created by Congress in 1972 as a nonprofit annuity program to provide income for eligible spouses after a service member passes away. Every Airman is required to meet with the Airman & Family Readiness Center and decide if they want to be part of the SBP before being cleared for retirement status. (Courtesy Photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Every Airman is required to meet with the Airman & Family Readiness Center to decide if they want to be on the Survivor Benefit Plan before they’re cleared for retirement.

The SBP, a nonprofit annuity program that was created by Congress in 1972, provides continuous income protection for a spouse after a service member dies. All Airmen have to decide if they want to be on this plan, said Kimberly Mulig, 21st Force Support Squadron Airman & Family Readiness Center, Survivor Benefit Plan counselor.

“We need to plan for living a long time and most especially for the spouse to live longer than the retiree,” Mulig said. “The retiree has guaranteed income until the last day, but the spouse does not. Even if you pay off your house, you still have utilities, groceries and everything else — there’s always expenses.

“The Survivor Benefit Plan is different from life insurance, but we advise that people have both.”

Though the SBP makes it so part of the service member’s retired pension, which is paid monthly to a service member after they retire, will be protected for their spouse, there is a common misconception that a deceased member’s spouse will continue receiving that pay, Mulig said.

“To this day, we run into active members and their spouses who believe the retired income for the military member is inheritable by the spouse — it’s not,” Mulig said. “Retirement pay stops the day the military retiree dies.

“When the retiree passes away, the spouse is losing that retired pay, any VA benefits that retiree was receiving for disability, and social security. That’s three incomes that stop coming into the home on that day and it’s very devastating.”

By participating in this plan, Mulig said military members can give up to 55 percent of their retired pay to their spouse for life.

“It’s always going to be calculated based on what their retired pay would have been that year,” Mulig said. “It’s not a stagnant amount, it grows with cost of living increases as the years go by.”

Coverage is free while an Airman remains on active duty, but once the service member retires, a monthly premium is held in the Military Retirement System Trust Fund, which is how eligible survivors are paid.

To help Airmen make the best decision for their individual situation, it is required for them to meet with Mulig before they’re cleared to retire.

“Every Airman has to have a one-on-one briefing with me” said Mulig. “It is a mandatory briefing for every retiring member to have the plan explained to them, and they must make a decision about whether they want to participate.”
For transitioning Airmen, Mulig said she provides briefings of the SBP in Transition Assistance Program classes as well.

“That’s just to get them familiar with what the Survivor Benefit Plan is so that, hopefully, when they’re ready to talk about it for their own personal decision they are more familiar with it,” Mulig said.

To schedule an appointment prior to retiring or for more information, contact Mulig at 719-556-4229.

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