SBP History 1953 to 1979

This fact sheet provides information to help you understand the provisions of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), but is not a contract document. The basic statutory provisions of the SBP law are in Chapter 73, Title 10, United States Code.

History of Public Laws Controlling the Survivor Benefit Plan

Uniformed Services Contingency Option Act (USCOA)
PL 83-239 (8 Aug 53)

-- Election had to be made before end of the 18th year of service
-- Annuity: 1/2, 1/4, or 1/8 of retired pay
-- Plan was self-supporting (no Federal subsidy)
-- Covered only persons dependent on member at retirement
-- 180-day open enrollment for retirees (1 Nov 53-30 Apr 54)

Retired Serviceman's Family Protection Plan (RSFPP)
PL 87-381 (4 Oct 61)


-- Same election options and annuity amounts as USCOA
-- Costs were high and annuity was fixed
-- Less than 15 percent of retirees participated
-- Permitted premiums to stop if participant elected Option 4

PL 90-485 (13 Aug 68)

-- Election must be made before member completes 19 years of service
-- Option 4 automatic if member retired on or after Aug. 13, 1968
-- Children remained eligible until age 23 if unmarried and full-time student

Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) PL 92-425 (21 Sep 72)

-- Repealed the RSFPP and established the SBP
-- Open enrollment for retirees, including Reservists who were age 60 or older (21 Sep 72 - 20 Sep 73)
-- Retiring members and spouses to be informed of SBP options and effects (10 USC 1455(a)(1)(A))
-- Spouse cost: 2.5 percent of first $300 of the base amount, plus 10 percent of remaining base amount
-- Spouse annuity payments:
-- Until age 62, payment is 55 percent of base amount
-- Age 62 or older, payment is reduced, dollar-for-dollar, by Social Security entitlement resulting from member's military service performed after 1956 (Social Security Offset (SSO)
-- Cost-Of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) applied to base amount and annuity
-- Premium deductions continued after loss of spouse
-- Active duty death coverage for surviving spouses, if member had 20 or more years of active service
-- Annuity reduced by Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) awarded by VA if death is service-connected
-- Remarriage of surviving spouse before age 60 suspended payment
-- Two-year waiting period for new spouse eligibility following post-retirement remarriage
-- Election could be made in behalf of a mentally incompetent Air Force retiree by the Secretary of the Air Force
-- If member's competency later restored, member could terminate/change election within 180 days of being found competent
-- Minimum Income Widow's (MIW) benefit: Widow must be receiving VA's non-service connected death benefit; member had to have been retired before 21 Sep 72 and died before 20 Sep 73 (later extended to 20 Mar 74)

PL 93-155 (16 Nov 73)

-- Extended enrollment deadline until 20 Mar 74

PL 93-406 (2 Sep 74)

-- Exempted SBP costs from Federal income taxes

PL 94-496 (14 Oct 76, but effective 1 Oct 76)

-- Spouse costs suspended if marriage ends in death or divorce
-- Waiting period for new spouse's eligibility reduced to 1 year following post-retirement marriage
-- Child only coverage permitted even if member is married (this feature made retroactive to 21 Sep 72, clarifying intent of original SBP legislation)
-- New child cost factors became effective 13 Jul 77

PL 95-397 (30 Sep 78)

-- Eliminated SSO for working widows age 62 or older (SBP will be reduced at age 70, regardless of employment status)
-- Restored SBP for widows who remarry after age 60 and lose DIC
COLA increase applied to RSFPP annuities if member died before 20 Mar 74 and increase mechanism for subsequent COLAs
-- Continuation of RSFPP for widows who remarry after age 60
-- Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP); open enrollment (1 Oct 78 - 30 Sep 79; later extended to 31 Mar 80)
-- Increased MIW annuity and provided adjustment mechanism for additional COLAs