A Survivor Benefit-Arming Your Spouse with Knowledge

A Survivor Benefit-Arming Your Spouse with Knowledge


From your days in uniform, when the boss gave you a task, any reason the task wasn’t accomplished as expected was met by the rebuke, “No excuses!” There’s no excuse for leaving a spouse unprepared to cope with life after the death of the military spouse.

I’m sure I’m speaking to a limited audience when I state there are military members leaving behind helpless survivors. We hear from only a sampling of the survivors left in the dark. But from the stories we hear, some are surprising to say the least. I wonder, and worry about, the ones we don’t hear from.

How will your spouse survive when you are gone? What programs do they need to know about? What agencies do they need to deal with? And most importantly, what will be their sources of income?

I find it hard to believe but survivors have called MOAA trying to find sources of income. The survivor goes from plenty of income when the military member is alive to a single Social Security check after the member’s death. Please discuss how your spouse will pay the bills, buy food, and have a life after you’re gone.

There are also survivors who find out after the member’s death, the SBP won’t be 55% of full retired pay. Many find the SBP will be 55% of a fraction of the military pay because the member covered only a small portion of the military retirement check.

Here are some suggestions…

First off, your survivor will need several months’ worth of cash to pay the bills and live on after your death. It will be months before other sources of income start—the government runs on its own schedule.

Second, have your retirement orders or DD 214 readily available.


  • Go over the accounts you own. Banks, investment firms, insurance companies…
  • What programs you have with the VA. Disability compensation, life insurance, your spouse’s potential eligibility for survivor’s benefits, transferred education benefits.
  • Issues with your military retiree pay agent, like DFAS. Pay in Arrears, Survivor Benefit Plan.
  • Bills you owe, credit cards, outstanding loans, when things are due. Companies involved.
  • Contact info for lawyers, financial and insurance advisers, the VA, your military pay agent.
  • Explain Social Security and medical plans with contact information.
  • Property tax, motor vehicle issues at the local, county and state levels.
  • Military ID card office and update requirements.
  • If you worked as a federal civilian, contacts to the civilian personnel office and programs you are enrolled in.
  • Do you have a Thrift Savings Account or another pension?
  • Wills, powers of attorney, medical directives, burial details.

You get the picture. MOAA has publications to help you bring the issues together, develop a game plan and provide a written record of your situation. You can download our publications on-line from http://www.moaa.org/infoexchange/ (must be logged-in to the MOAA as a member to access the pubs) or call our Member Service Center to order at (800) 234-6622.

Key publications include our Survivor’s Checklist, Burial Guide, our Personal Affairs and Estate Planning workbooks, and our ‘Help Your Survivors Now’ handbook.

You can call MOAA for guidance and appropriate contacts. If you associate with a MOAA local chapter, your spouse might even get help with some paperwork. But we don’t provide a source of income for survivors.

If it were you, wouldn’t you prefer to be armed with a plan before the grief of your spouse’s death? With information, you wouldn’t feel so helpless because you would have a handle on the situation.

No excuses.