Retiring Airmen can provide for families with Survivor Benefit Plan Published April 2, 2013 By Kim Geffre 28th Force Support Squadron ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- We buy insurance to protect what is dear to us from unpredictable disasters. Your retirement pay is a precious resource - but it is only paid out for the life of a servicemember. Since you can't predict when the end of that will be, it is important to insure your retirement pay, using the Survivor Benefit Plan. Your spouse and/or dependent children are automatically covered by the highest level of SBP at no cost to you while you are on active duty. However, if on the date of your death you are not yet eligible for retirement, your death must be classified as in the line of duty for an annuity to be payable. Prior to your retirement date, you must decide whether or not to continue SBP coverage into your retirement. If you elect to continue coverage, you must pay premiums that are collected by reducing your retired pay. Premiums are not counted in your taxable income, and the program is subsidized by the government so the average premiums are significantly lower than the cost. The cost of your premiums will be determined by the category covered (spouse or child only, spouse and child, former spouse, former spouse and child, or insurable interest person) and the base amount you elect. This cannot be arbitrarily changed after your retirement. Retirees may elect the full amount of retirement pay as the base amount and the spouse's annuity will be 55 percent of the elected base amount. Premiums for spouse coverage are calculated using one of two formulas, depending on the date the retiring member entered active duty. Child-only premiums are calculated based on the age of the retiring member and the age of the youngest child. Premiums can be suspended if there are no longer any eligible beneficiaries for your plan. For example, if you have elected child coverage and all your children become too old for benefits and have no incapacity, or if you have elected spouse coverage and your spouse is lost through death or divorce. Airmen are required to attend a one-on-one briefing with an SBP counselor prior to their retirement date. If you're married, it's a good idea to bring your spouse, since the law requires both you and your spouse to be fully informed of the options and effects of the plan in order to make an informed decision. If you do not complete a Department of Defense Form 2656, "Data for Payment of Retired Personnel," prior to your retirement date, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will automatically establish full coverage for your spouse and children. To arrange an individual SBP briefing, call the Ellsworth SBP counselor at (605) 385-4663. For more information, visit http://militarypay.defense.gov and select "Benefits," then click "Survivor Benefit Plan."