Survivor benefits refer to the benefit that can be paid to the selected beneficiary following the death of the employee. This type of benefit is available in the context of a military pension plan. A survivor benefit is a marital asset that should be addressed in the context of a divorce. It is a separate asset than the pension itself such that a spouse could receive a portion of the actual pension as well as the survivor benefit. The participant spouse must elect a survivor benefit plan at the time of retirement. This is because there is a cost for the survivor benefit plan which is paid through a reduction of the base amount for the benefit. Presently, there is a cost of 6.5% the base pay to elect a survivor benefit plan.
The benefit payable to the survivor is 55% of the base amount of the participant’s retired pay for the lifetime of the survivor. The survivor benefit is non-divisible. This is important to keep in mind if the service member has been married more than once since a former spouse and a current spouse cannot both receive the benefit. If a former spouse is to receive the benefit, they should submit an application within one year of the divorce. If a former spouse dies before the service member, there is an automatic reversion of their survivor benefits to the military member.