Senator Seeks End to SBP Offset – Again

File this one under major league tenacity.

This week, just like he has done for each and every congressional session of the past decade, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced legislation to end the practice of reducing the the Survival Benefit Plan, by the dollar amount of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, a benefit provided by the Veterans Affairs Department. Passage of the bill would mean that widows whose spouses purchased the SBP policy would no longer see their annuities cut because they also qualify for the VA’s DIC benefit.

Like virtually every prior attempt, the Nelson bill (S.270) has early bipartisan support as several Senators joined the longstanding effort. This year’s cosponsors include Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), David Vitter (R-LA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and John Kerry (D-MA).

Sen. Nelson said, “This has always been an issue of the military doing the right thing and living up to its promises. These [SBP] policies were bought by service men and women to make sure their loved ones would be taken care of following their deaths.

This year’s bill’s House version is H.R. 178, the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, introduced by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), chairman of the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. 

Each year, Sen. Nelson seeks to help military widows by asking Congress to repeal the so-called “Military Widow’s Tax.” And each year it dies or goes unfunded.

If you support this bill, you can help push this one through by letting your elected officials know how you feel about repealing the SBP offset.

About the Author

Terry Howell
Before becoming the Managing Editor for, Terry served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate and aircrewman. In his final role in the Coast Guard, Terry served as a Career Development Advisor, where he provided career, finance, education, and benefits counseling to servicemembers and their families. Since retiring from the Coast Guard, Terry has authored the book, The Military Advantage, managed the content for TurboTap, the DoD's online transition program and VAforVets, the VA's transition assistance website. Terry earned both his Bachelor's and MBA at Corban University using Military Tuition Assistance and his GI Bill benefits to help cover the cost.
  • Joel

    When I joined the Air Force in ’79, I was amazed that I was “offered” a chance to buy life insurance/survivor’s benefits. Upon researching the matter, I found that if I did not and I died, my family (I was single at the time) would get only $5000 dollars from the military with no additional payments thereafter, and of course, it was taxable. It is absolutely shameless and horrible the way our Congress treats the survivors of conflict or peacetime accidents. I now know why the military recruiters target high schoolers or resort to the draft-people over 25 have developed critical thought processes and refuse to enlist in such a non-caring, life-threatening profession. I am deeply ashamed by our money-hungry government that refuses to properly console widows, widowers, and the children of our brave men and women who lose their lives in service to this nation. The battleground is truly at home and must take place in the halls of Congress and the Senate with a mighty tide of Americans who demand Justice for our vets and their families.

    • Gloria

      AMEN and AMEN!!!

  • Donald R. Justus

    Repeal the off set

  • William

    well let me see,my exwife Divorced me 1996 .she Remarried in 1998.
    I Remarried also . I didn’t realize the SBP in our Divorce she got the it.
    .in 2006 I was Diagednosed with stage 4B Squmascell carcinoma and am fighting for my life and the co.I was working for went out of Bus.
    I have no Life insurance now .
    I Ret after 20 years I’m a Vet.
    how can I Get MY SBP Back my wife has Been thur thick and Thin and she Derseves to have something to help her.
    can you Please help me out here…..b.f.

    • amy

      just have them change the name on your sbp I husband did that for us we have been married 13 years now but had it changed when we first got married

      • Linda

        I don’t think the sbp can be changed from a former wife to a current wife if it is in the divorce papers. You may want to check into that now rather than later. I agree with William, his current wife deserves to have something to help her.
        I was told my husband’s former wife will get all benefits. The only way I will receive any benefits is if she dies before me. I believe that law needs to be changed but I have no idea how.

        • Avi

          I agree with you and the USFSPA has to be recinded also

        • Paul

          Concur, I had to have my ex wife give the SBP back to me by my lawyer 2 years after my divorce and then I called DFAS and sent them that document and my current wifes information. My retirement account statement now reflects my current wife. So if it is listed in your divorce paperwork your ex wife will get that coverage. Ask her if its possible to give that right back. Otherwise its gone sorry.

    • Wynn

      Your divorced wife has no right to your SBP she remarried. Call your VA rep. My spouse and I were in the same situation. The only reason that I fill I deserve his SBP is that he is very disabled and I can;t work cause I take care of him. Also, when he passes she will get a very large amount of life insurance she kept after the divorce.

    • nicole

      Your xwife remarried. She will not be entitled to the SBP. Please look into your dx–my husband also had stg 4 squamous. It was a result of exposure in the military and we were able to get disability benefits at the time. Now it is a military caused death. Good Luck

  • Cathy

    Hello.. Iam about to marry A Ret. US Army Man.. What am I entilted to as far as medcial? He has Tri Care for life? and Medicare A&B..would that cover me as well? or would I have to pay for secondadry? or what? Does anyone know out there? Thank you Cathy..we live in Cocoa Beach, Fl. near Patrick’s Air Force Base

    • vlewis

      Once you are registered with DOD and you are over the age of 65 and carry medicare A&B you will be entitled to Tricare for Life. If you are under 65 you are automatic registered to Standard Tricare or you can pay for Tricare Prime. Hope this is helpful Also you local VA office hasa benefit guide book and the counselors are willing to talk to you with an appt.

    • amy

      i married a retiree and am covered with a small co pay. my children were covered as he was a stepdad to

    • Wynn

      you will get Tricare. your Va Rep can help you… You still have to pay and it can be lotted out of his retirement.

  • SoaringEagle

    You would be covered just like he is.

  • veneta Tindle

    I lost my husband in 2007, a combat related illness.I was approved Dic. and paid back our payments for SBP. This is not fair. A spouse of military service men and women goes through the whole retirement with them. We know we and our children are not first in our marriage, duty calls and we are left alone to face all responsibilites. Why should we get nothing of the retirement pay because we recieve DIC? This freeze on a raise for the past two years stinks.The rich gets richer, the poor gets poorer. Upset widow

    • Naval Spouse

      I have been married to a MMCM for 42 yrs. 26 of the 30 years Active Duty Navy. USS always gone, & I get nothing when he dies. What is wrong with the system, The Master Chief has over 20 plus yrs sea duty, loved the Navy and was dedicated. The 4 daughters & I supported him and his love of the sea. We were always on the home front & would do it all over again and this is how we are treated.

  • veneta Tindle

    I already entered a comment. I lost my husband in 2007,he was a retired E-7. His death was combat related and I was approved DIC. All the SBP premiums that he paid for me to have part of his retirement was eventually paid to me since I recieved DIC. I think it stinks. Anyone knows in military life that the spouse goes through the whole military life right beside the husband or wife as second place, leaving us with all responsibility. WE widows or widowers should be entitled to retirement and DIC if it applies.

  • SS of SFC

    What does it take Who does it take to hear and to listen and Do Something abut the Passing to Repeal The SBP for the Military Survivors? Just what has to be proven besides all your strength and endurance everyday beside the Solider ,and on retirement you get a Certificate telling you how thankful the Miltary is for all you did. Thats IT a piece of paper. Well there has to be more to it then that. Everyone please tell all the Senators andCongressman
    To pass the Repeal of SBP OFF SET or Widow Tax as it is being called.

  • R. T. Hood

    Shame on you Tom, pointing this out without knowing the situation. I can understand what the Chief is talking about and it sad that spouses of military people that gave their lives for their country (I am referring to surviors as well as those who paid the ultimate price , Tom) that their spouses and children that endured with them will not be properly taken care of after the military member has past. Have we forgotten the term “MILITARY FAMILY” I just happen to have one. Thanks Chief respect whererespect is due.

  • GAIL

    get rid of sbp my husband divorced firist wife now he has me and we have been married 20yrs i being the one he is married to now and i cant get it his firist wife gets it that is so WRONG.

    • Linda

      I think we need to CHANGE the laws for sbp. I too am married and my husbands ex will get it. Doesn’t matter that she cheated on him several times which ultimately caused their divorce. and BTW she also will receive 1/2 his retirement pay upon his retirement.

  • Anne Pedersen

    My husband was in the Navy over 30 years (Surface Warfare) and was gone most of the time. He passed in 2009 suddenly. He retired in 1989 and paid into the SPB program for 2o years. We were married for 44 years. I was a good and proud Navy wife and he felt the SPB was the least he could do to help me in case he passed first. Last month the new tax law took $30.00 a month from my SPB. $30 bucks is a lot of money to me. The rich get richer– the poor get poorer. I just don’t get it. Anne Pedersen

  • Dewey Jackson

    I retiresd in Aug. 1979. Ielected the SBP that would give my wife 50% of my rertirement pay when I die.I am 82 years old, been told I must have 30 years paying into the SBP, now am told that I must wait till Oct 2011 befor the SBP reduction from my retirement pay stops????? Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing. I think the SBP reductions should have stoped in 2009

  • vlewis

    It’s just e-mail and mistakes are made, along with abreviations when kids text. what solution did you come up with? If you can’t help then don’t comment.
    OOPs I hope I dont make any mistakes!

    Now CMSgt. Smith have you been to your local VA office to see what additional help you can get? or local VA service organizations? do you have any service connected disabilities you can apply for?

  • DEE

    If my husbanb is the one paying for SBP and not VA or DFAS why should they control it.That money comes out of our pockets not theirs.So please contact your State Reps. and ask them to help pass this BILL

  • Pat

    My x husband just passed away recentley, He has kept paying sbp for me(former spouse coverage). He was 81. I remarried when I was 58 (8 years ago) can I collect the sbp? It was court ordered. I don’t know where to go for help with this. Any help is greatly appreciated. We were divorced in 1997 and I remarried in 2003. We stayed friends until the end.

    • linda

      How do you know he was paying the sbp for you? Did he not remarry?



  • A Fisher

    i too was married for 44+ years to a retired, 100% service connected disabled vet and for 7 years had to quit my job to take care of him but when he died I was denied the Survivors Benefit Plan half of his retirement pay I was entitled to becauSe I qualified for DIC as the wife of a 100% disabled vet. We paid for that insurance on his pay! NOW they STEAL $800 A MONTH from me that I am due and pay me only $70 “special entitlement” INSTEAD of the $875 SBP I should be getting monthly. I should have asked the military to PAY FOR HIS CARE FOR 7 years instead of my quitting my job, doing it for free (and thereby reducing my later social security benefits because they say I “didn’t work” during those years!!

    WHY DO THEY SAY IT IS “UNFUNDED” and there is “no money” to pay me the $875 a month I am legally entiteled to, benefits WE paid for WHEN THERE WOULD BE NO HESITATION TO PAYING THEM IMMEDIATELY IF I GOT REMARRIED. Why would there suddenly “be money” to pay me IMMEDIATELY if I remarried??

  • Tina

    Married 25 years to Navy man, retired as 06, had 4 children togther, married at 19, spent most time overseas, moved more than 20x. He wanted to retire, moved me & children to a very cold state where he was from. He went back to his station after moving us. Kids: 14 years old, 12, 7, & 2. Faxed me 1 page forms to sign, he said he could not retire w/o them (2006). He had already checked the boxes, had his signature on them with a witness before mine(!) he filled them out and said just F%#@#$ sign them & fax back (I ask too many questions and he would get angry). I did. I trusted him. Then the divorce came. I lost SBP and TSP. I still have the original document. In divorce, judge found him quilty of domestic abuse and alcoholism. I am raising my 4 children alone. He lives many states away w/ another. I didnt even know what a ‘tsp’ was or a ‘sbp’ when we divorced. Was there a school for me to go to before he left the military? Did he need the original documents? Thank you for your help.

    • June Dalton

      Hi Tina,

      Unlike you I went to an end of service meeting with my ex and I was to receive sbp and was told this election was for life. We divorced my ex also thought this was true concerning sbp. The divorce degree must state you are to receive sbp however unknown to me and the ex a genius according to him and I must agree he was intelligent. My ex found out via me that since it was not in the decree he did not have to deliver. Divorced members are not eligible for tricare dental however my husband’s new canadian wife is eligible. I gave up my career and salary from our various moves. This law is unfair and should be changed. June

  • Gloria

    Okay… is my time to vent -I am mad as hell. My husband is a retired vietnam vet who served his country for over 22 yrs. We moved every 2 yrs money was always tight and we could not afford to buy into the SBP. He is 80% service connected disabled. I gave up my career and supported his. I did my part for the country and I am proud that I did, however it was a hardship on me and the family and we have paid a great price . I have a piece of paper (that wouldn’t even buy me a cup of coffee) ; thanking me for supporting my husband. In Canada when a veteran dies his pension automatically goes to his current spouse until her death ( and the veteran did not have to make any SBP payments for this to happen) so If canada can do this why can’t America???? Shame !! Shame!! on you ; I guess Canada has a bigger heart and really does appreciate the sacrifice “ALL” family members make…Please contact your congress rep and demand this discrimination and abuse stop immediately and that they follow Canada’s example….Save our families !!!!!!!They are our future!!!!

  • Gloria

    Sounds to me they found a way to sucker money out of the veteran who put his life on the line for his country and then robbed him plus his family when he died…where did all that money go from all those who bought into SBP ….Maybe invested to pay congress the big fat wages for doing nothing?????HMMMM makes you wonder doesn’t it????

  • Marion

    I ‘m a widow of a veteran that died in 07 and received SBPand his file was looked at for the Nehmer Law and they are giving me DIC. My SBP offset was done and now I’m getting Soc.Sec. and $80. a month for SSIA and I have not recceived any DIC yet. The month of June 2012 I will have only $940 to live on and I don’t know why the DIC wasn’t paid at the same time of the offset. I know there are steps they take to approve a claim but the more questions I ask, the more confusing it is. I am very fortunate to be receving the DIC but I think there could be a better system to stop the backlog.

  • Betty Baker

    MY husband of 36 years died in 1997 of cancer relayed to ageing orange and I get DIC but he paid into the SBP from the time he retired in 1975 and when I got the Dic they stopped the SBP. That is not right because the people that only stayed in service for two years getts the samething I do.

  • Hildegard

    I was Just rewarded DIC payments. The SBP payments were right away offset by the DIC. Haven’t received any DIC payments yet, or heard from the VA. My question: Since the SBP premiums were returned to me, does this mean that I give up any claims of full SBP payments if the concurrent payments law goes into effect?

    • Carolyn

      I am in the same boat you are in. When my husband passed away from service connected disease, I was told I would be getting Dic. Well I knew I was going to be getting survivor’s benefits. I got a couple of checks from Dfas, then they deposited the premiums they said he paid in for almost 20 years they said since I was getting Dic that I couldn’t get both. What does one have to do with the other? They took that payment out of his retirement check every month,like an insurance policy. That’s like two ins. Companies telling you, if one pays off,the other just have to giveback the premiums. That’s not fair. They didn’t give me a choice or ask me anything about what I would like to do.They did everything on their own. When congress overturned the offset, they still did not return my benefits to me. It’s been almost 10 years Someone needs to rectify this.I wonder how many other widows are out there going through this.

  • N. Bell