Surviving Spouse Q-and-A: Benefits and Remarriage

Surviving Spouse Q-and-A: Benefits and Remarriage
Van Williams/Air Force

Editor’s Note: This article is part of MOAA’s 2022-23 TRICARE Guide, brought to you by MOAA Insurance Plans, administered by Association Member Benefits Advisors (AMBA). A version of the guide appeared in the November 2022 issue of Military Officer magazine.


A surviving spouse retains his or her health care coverage if the military retiree dies first. That includes TRICARE Prime, Select, Overseas Select, and TRICARE for Life (TFL).


The death of a beneficiary is a “qualifying life event,” which, if desired, enables a surviving beneficiary to change TRICARE plans Prime to Select or Select to Prime (TFL and Overseas Select remain unchanged).


A surviving spouse retains all other relevant benefits and ID card for access to base, commissary, and exchange. If a surviving spouse remarries, their TRICARE benefit is gone forever, unless they marry another military retiree.


[RELATED: More Surviving Spouse Resources From MOAA]


If a couple takes the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) at retirement, and the retiree dies first, the surviving spouse must “apply” for the annuity to begin. Find the required paperwork at this link.

Here are some frequently asked questions:

Q. If we haven’t made all 360 payments, will the remaining premiums be deducted from the annuity?


A. No, premiums stop upon the retiree’s death.


Q. If my spouse dies first, do I get my premiums back?

A. No, this is an insurance policy and there is no refund in this case. If the retiree remarries, on the one-year anniversary the new spouse will be covered (DFAS must be notified soon after you remarry). If you had not made your 360th payment before the first spouse died, your premiums will begin again where they left off until reaching 360. 


Q. What if my ex-spouse receives the benefit?

A. If your ex-spouse dies first, the benefit can be transferred to your current spouse. If you die first, your ex-spouse will begin receiving the benefit, and it cannot be transferred to your surviving spouse upon your ex-spouse’s death.


[RELATED: MOAA's Surviving Spouse Corner]


Q. I’m receiving SBP. What happens if I remarry?


A. If you have reached your 55th birthday before remarrying, you continue receiving the benefit. If you marry before your 55th birthday, the benefit is suspended. If that subsequent marriage ends in death or divorce, SBP can be restarted.


VA Benefit 

VA disability compensation ends upon a veteran’s death. A surviving spouse is eligible for the VA’s version of SBP, called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), if a servicemember died while on active duty, if the veteran died from a service-connected disability, or if the veteran was rated 100% permanently and totally disabled during at least the last 10 years of life. A surviving spouse must apply for DIC. Learn more at this VA website.


Q. Do I receive DIC for the rest of my life?


A. Yes, under one of the following conditions:

  • You remarried on or after Dec. 16, 2003, and had already reached your 57th birthday.
  • You remarried on or after Jan. 5, 2021, and had already reached your 55th birthday.


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About the Author

Capt. Paul J. Frost, AFC®, USN (Ret)
Capt. Paul J. Frost, AFC®, USN (Ret)

Frost co-leads MOAA's Financial and Benefits Education program and is also an accredited Veteran Service Officer (VSO), providing VA disability compensation claim and appeal information and advice to the military community.