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SBP officials offer same-sex coverage guidance

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- Survivor Benefit Plan program enrollment is now available for eligible retirees in same-sex marriages.

The program provides a monthly income to survivors of retired Airmen upon the retiree's death when retired pay stops. Survivors of Airmen recalled to active duty from retirement who die while on active duty, may also be protected by the SBP.

Since the recent Supreme Court decision declaring Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, Department of Defense officials have been working to ensure SBP coverage is offered to eligible same-sex married couples.

Eligibility -- The Department of Defense issued guidance stating, effective June 26, 2013, a person who became eligible to participate in the SBP program and is married to a same-sex spouse will have the program applied as with any other retiree married couple, including the requirement for spousal consent for less than full annuity coverage of the spouse.

Enrollment eligibility began June 26, 2013, for same-sex couples who were legally married on or after that date. No SBP premiums for coverage will be charged before June 26, 2013, nor will any annuity payments be paid for deaths before that date.

Enrollment for retired service members married to a same sex partner on or before June 26, 2013 -- Retirees married to a same sex partner on or before June 26, 2013, must apply for SBP coverage by June 25, 2014. To make an election, retirees complete the DD Form 2656, Data for Payment of Retired Personnel. Spousal concurrence is required on the DD Form 2656 if the retiree elects to participate at less than maximum (full) coverage. Failure to make an SBP election by June 25, 2014, will result in the Defense Finance and Accounting Service establishing automatic full SBP coverage.

If a retiree originally elected child coverage at the time of retirement, a same sex spouse may be added at the same level of coverage. To add a spouse, complete a DD Form 2656-6, Survivor Benefit Plan Election Change Certificate, and send it with a copy of the marriage certificate to DFAS before June 25, 2014.

If a retiree originally elected SBP coverage for an insurable interest person at the time of retirement, he or she may terminate this coverage and elect spouse coverage. If the retiree desires full spouse coverage, they complete a DD Form 2656-6, Survivor Benefit Plan Election Change Certificate, and send it with a copy of the marriage certificate to DFAS by June 25, 2014. If the retiree elects a reduced level of coverage, spousal concurrence is required. In these instances, the retiree completes the DD Form 2656, Data for Payment of Retired Personnel, and sends it with a copy of the marriage certificate to DFAS by June 25, 2014.

Enrollment for retired service members married after June 26, 2013 -- Retirees who become married to a same sex partner on any date after June 26, 2013 must apply for SBP coverage before the first anniversary date. To apply for SBP, the retiree completes a DD Form 2656-6, Survivor Benefit Plan Election Change Certificate, and sends it with a copy of the marriage certificate to DFAS. If an election is not made within the first year of marriage, the retiree forfeits their opportunity to participate in the plan.

Terminate suspended spouse coverage upon remarriage -- Generally, a retiree who participated in the plan and has suspended spouse coverage may elect not to provide coverage for a new spouse in the event of a remarriage.

If the remarriage occurred before June 26, 2013, the participant has one year from June 26, 2013, to elect out of SBP. If an election is not made, spouse coverage will resume effective June 25, 2014.

Retirees who enter into a same-sex marriage after June 26, 2013, must submit a DD Form 2656-6, Survivor Benefit Election Change Certificate, within one year of the remarriage. If the retiree does not notify DFAS of the remarriage, spouse coverage will resume effective the first anniversary of the marriage.

Assistance is available and encouraged -- Retirees should seek the assistance of a SBP counselor when making an election. For more information or help with completing SBP application forms, call 877-353-6807 to contact the SBP or casualty assistance representative at the nearest Air Force base.
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