Do Retired Military Wives Get Their Deceased Husband's Retirement Pay?

The Survivor Benefits Plan is an insurance plan that allows retired military wives to receive their deceased husband’s pay. At retirement, the husband's automatic enrollment in the Survivor Benefits Plan continues, but he must make monthly premium payments to the plan for continued coverage.

Survivor Benefits Plan Enrollment

Active-duty military personnel eligible for retirement have automatic Survivor Benefit Plan coverage if they are married, have children or both. Active-duty personnel do not have to pay a monthly premium. Automatic enrollment continues after retirement and retired military personnel must begin making premium payments to the plan. Retired military personnel cannot reduce or stop his spouse’s plan coverage unless the spouse agrees to the reduction or cancellation in writing.

Payment Elections

When enrolling in the Survivor Benefits Plan, your spouse could have elected for you to receive 55 percent of your total retirement pay or 55 percent of a base amount your spouse selects. The base amount begins at a minimum of $300. So, for example, if your spouse’s full military retirement pay is $4,000 per month and he elects to use his full retirement pay in the Survivor Benefits Plan, you receive 55 percent, or $2,200 per month, upon his death. However, if he selected a base amount for the Survivor Benefits Plan of $300, you would only receive $165 per month upon his death.


As a retired military spouse you are eligible to receive 55 percent of your spouse’s military retirement pay under the Survivor Benefits Plan. The payment amounts are adjusted yearly for a cost-of-living-allowance. To qualify for coverage, you must have been married to your spouse at the time he enrolled in the Survivor Benefits Plan or for at least one year prior to his death. Former spouses qualify for coverage under the Survivor Benefits Plan, however, if the retiree remarried, the plan will not pay both the former and current spouses.

Reductions in Payment

If you are receiving a Dependency and Indemnity Compensation due to an injury your husband sustained or a medical condition, such as a disease, that he acquired while on active duty, this payment reduces your Survivor Benefits Plan payment upon his death. As the surviving spouse, you will receive a refund of the portion of your Survivor Benefits Plan payment you are not being paid due to the DIC payment.